WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
REVIEW – ROUND 16
By Russell Bennett
Cora Lynn claimed its eighth consecutive victory with an emphatic performance at home against Dalyston on Saturday – sending another chilling reminder through the WGFNC of its premiership credentials.
The Cobras are hitting peak form at exactly the right time of the year, and were simply superb on Saturday – particularly early.
They booted five majors in the first term and opened up a five-goal lead by half-time before controlling the second half to win by 26 points, 15.13(103) to 11.11(77).
The Cobras rarely looked troubled throughout the second half with the likes of Jeremy Monckton out wide, Chris Johnson through the middle, Andrew Green down back, and Nathan Langley (six goals) and Ryan Gillis up forward setting the tone.
The strength of the Cobras over a long period of time now has been the evenness of their contribution from full-back to full-forward, and Saturday against a fellow premiership aspirant was no different.
Though Dalyston was missing some key personnel, coach Paul Brosnan surely must have still been concerned by the way in which the Cobras were able to slice the Magpies up at stages – particularly in transition – from defensive to attacking 50.
Young midfielders Kyle Kirk and Michael Marotta stood tall for the visitors, as did former Carlton utility Brad Fisher, but the Cobras simply had the answers right when they needed them.
“I think the first half, defensively, set us up,” Cobras player-coach David Main told the Gazette in the rooms after the game.
“We were really able to restrict their run from stoppages and that’s where it started.”
Main said the Cobras made a concerted effort to avoid unforced turnovers by foot – particularly into the wind – and to find free targets.
“Last week we bombed away a lot and Phillip Island was able to intercept the footy, but early on today we just didn’t allow that to happen and our confidence grew from there.”
Main said the weekend’s midfield battle was largely even, but praised the efforts of the versatile, strong-bodied Chris Johnson and Jason Toan, with the latter even spending some time intercepting across defensive 50.
At Garfield, meanwhile, the boys from the Goon were able to celebrate Shannon Stocco’s 200th game in style with a commanding 46-point win over the stars, 12.11 (83) to 5.7 (37).
Goon player-coach Kris Fletcher said he was impressed by the young Garfield side, which again showcased its leg-speed across the Beswick Street ground.
“We knew it was a danger game – particularly with Payroli (knee), Fowler (cork), and Armour (Casey duties) out of the side,” he said.
“We wasted possession a little bit early on, but their pressure was really good.
“I just thought as the game wore on, we managed to get it on our terms.”
Fletcher praised the performance of young Garfield skipper Sam Batson and said the Stars are “clearly a side on the improve, with real direction, some good young kids, and a lot of excitement”.
But the evenness of the Goon’s contribution across the board was telling.
Fletcher was full of praise for the likes of Jake Rose, Jackson Fromhold, Nick Henwood and Trent Noy but was particularly glowing about the milestone man, Stocco.
“Everyone has so much respect for what he’s done for our club, and we wanted to give him a 200th game to remember,” Fletcher said.
“Fittingly, he kicked the first goal of the day and the last, and there wasn’t a single player who didn’t get around him.”
Fletcher said Stocco was loved around the club and is a passionate leader, particularly for the younger players.
His senior career spans over 15 seasons, and though he’s spent most of his time down back recently, he’s also kicked over 250 senior goals.
“He just really cares,” Fletcher said simply.
“He’s super passionate, and he’s got a lot of pride in his performance.”
At The Kennel, Bunyip recorded its third win of the season with a 19-point win over the super inconsistent Kilcunda Bass, 13.3(81) to 9.8(62).
Keen observers would know that Bunyip was much better than a two-win side entering the contest, and they showed it over the final three quarters after going scoreless in the first term and at one stage trailing by more than 40 points.
After battling against the breeze early, the Bulldogs recovered to trail by just 20 points at the half – still maintaining plenty of belief.
Crucially, they outscored the Panthers into the breeze in the third and converted a 16-point three-quarter time deficit into a memorable win.
“Midway through the second we were down five or six goals, but we didn’t feel out of it,” player-coach Zac Vansittart said following the game.
“We went into quarter-time not panicking like we had in the past.
“Two months ago a quarter like that would have led to a 100-point loss.”
With the Bulldogs still hampered by player unavailability, they called up favourite son Robbie Hughes from the reserves and he had a real impact – booting two goals.
Jeb McLeod led the way through the midfield in his second game back in the line-up, while Nathan Lieshout was stellar in the ruck against Ben Law and Brad Walker enjoyed the better of his regular matchup with gun Panthers forward Jason Wells (two goals).
Vansittart admitted it was an “interesting” move for Bass player-coach, and former Collingwood premiership player, Brent Macaffer to tag the in-form Joel Gibson given that the Bulldogs had him earmarked as a danger man in his own right.
The Bulldogs coach said the biggest difference from the last time the two sides played (a near 100-point win to the Panthers in Round 7) was the consistent pressure his team applied.
The Panthers headaches were compounded on Saturday by a second quarter shoulder injury to arguably their best player, Chris Endres. It could spell real disaster for a side desperate to reach the finals.
In the other games of the round, Inverloch Kongwak rallied to defeat Phillip Island by just five points – 10.10(70) to 10.5(65) – off the back of star showings from Shem Hawking, Josh Purcell, Corey Casey and Tom Bartholomew (two goals); and Kooweerup proved a class above Korumburra-Bena, 11.13(79) to 6.6(42).