Tremendous Titans tough one out

Berwick Springs' Riley Hillman is one of the competition's best swingmen. (Rob Carew: 413413)

By Marcus Uhe

There will no rolling over in the final six weeks and disappearing sullenly into another competition come season’s end, if Berwick Springs’ latest performance is anything to go by in Outer East Football Netball Premier Division football.

The Titans got busy at the selection table during the week and attacked Saturday’s contest with Gembrook Cockatoo with a renewed vigour and intensity, focusing on the little things; tackling, pressure and winning the one-on-ones.

The results bore fruit with their best performance of the year, smashing their average 2024 score in a 14.5 89 to 9.14 68 win.

Among the new faces included debutants Dexter Todd and Noah Young, and Jackson McCallum played his first senior contest since 2021, afforded opportunities through injuries to Luke Morrell, Michael Misso and Josh Mackenzie in the previous week’s clash.

Co-Coach, Chris Johnson said there was no magic formula behind the selections, with his team getting back to the basics of football.

“We made some pretty big changes in terms of our team on the weekend and we just wanted to go out, compete, fight for the contested ball and win our one on ones,” Johnson said.

“I think our depth on the weekend, in terms of the people we brought in and the will to compete, went a long way to getting us over the line, which was awesome.

“We put it on a few blokes to come into the side and work really hard defensively, and hope the ball fell into their hands.

“We felt they did their role and it allowed us as a team to get the ball into our hands a bit more, which was awesome.

“It wasn’t necessarily about game plan, it was about each individual doing their bit for the team.”

Berwick Springs kicked to the scoring end in the first term and flew out of the blocks with five of the first quarter’s six goals, before the home side hit back with four of the next five to cut the margin to just two points at the long break.

The parallels between this and round one’s corresponding clash were evident the longer it played out, when the Brookers stormed home with the final six goals of the contest to snatch victory from an unlikely position at three-quarter-time.

When the Titans turned for home with a 14-point lead, it became an elephant in the room, and Johnson admits the earlier fixture did cross his mind at the final address.

But lightning would not strike twice, and much as the electrical discharge percolated over Gembrook Recreation Reserve.

With the rare taste of victory dancing on the tip of their tongue, the Titans outscored the home side in the fourth quarter, despite kicking to the non-scoring end of the venue.

In the prior three quarters, just three goals were kicked the non-scoring end, but the Titans managed four to seal a second victory of the campaign.

“One of our main key areas to improve on is our scoring, how we score and the amount that we can score,” Johnson said.

“We thought, the harder we defend and get the ball into our hands, the more opportunities we’ll have.

“We welcomed back Riley Hillman after injury who was a huge asset to us up forward and with that defensive pressure and the young kids coming in, the ball in our hands and getting it forward, was huge for us.”

Swingman Hillman and teenage sensation Jake Whittingham did the bulk of the damage on the scoreboard, with five and four goals respectively, helping the Titans to smash their previous-best score of the season by nearly five goals.

Johnson described Hillman as a “special” player that can impact both ends of the ground depending on when he’s most-required, having earned multiple Team of the Year selections as a key defender in previous seasons, while Whittingham is expected to be a key component of the Titans’ future.

“He wants to work, he’s a really exciting young footballer and on the track and game day, he genuinely puts in the effort,” Johnson said of Whittingham.

“His effort, desire, and will to learn, is what makes him such an awesome person to play with.

“When he gets on the end of couple and gets the opportunity to score, he’s a very dangerous forward and we see him as the future of our club moving forward.

“We want him to be dangerous and play his natural game.”

With the confirmation of the club’s desire to move competitions landing last week, the prospect of relegation is off the table for now.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play for in the remaining six weeks, with an eye to making an impression in 2025.

“We’re at a point where, it has been a tough year, but with six weeks left, we really think we can capitalise on what we can get out of the remaining month and a bit.

“It’s not about the final outcome, but what can we get out of each player and as a team.

We’ve set some short term goals and outcomes that we want to achieve that we can refer to throughout training and games.”

Gembrook Cockatoo spread the scoring load better with nine individual goal kickers, but none that registered multiple in disappointing display.

Brodie Walker, Ryan Hillard and Michael Bourne were among their best players.

A win would have lifted the Brookers out of the bottom three, but the loss keeps them in the drop zone due to their percentage.