GIPPSLAND Power defeated the Greater Western Victoria Rebels in football's TAC Cup.
The Power won at Casey Fields, Cranbourne, on Saturday 15.14 (104) to 12.5 (77).
Injuries to defender Travis Bindley and forward Irving Mosquito made the task of overcoming the Rebels more difficult, while captain Aidan Quigley was rested after state duties.
On a positive note, Austin Hodge, Will Leslie and Liam Carrol were back from injury, while Cody Henness returned from the national championships.
The Power has regularly had more than 10 bottom agers in the side. Three youngsters, Rylan Henkel, Ben McKinnon and James McKenzie, came in to give the team 12 rookies for such an important game.
Conditions at Casey were ideal for good football with a stunning surface and no wind, a rare occurrence at the Cranbourne ground.
In the opening minutes of the first term, the Power was playing its trademark intense football but was going too short by hand and foot when they used the ball. One such error in defence gave the Rebels the opening goal and they quickly added another to add to the pressure the Power was under.
It took a wonderful mark and goal by midfielder Callum Porter to put the side on the scoreboard and then, some wonderful forward pressure by Jack Hudson and Kyle Reid set up Will Broadbent for their second major.
The Rebels hit back after another defensive error gifted them with another goal and they added insult to injury by kicking a fourth on the rebound. From the resultant centre bounce, Will Stephenson went quick, long and direct where Reid contested strongly and Boadie Motton kicked a ripper on the run.
Once again, Stephenson generated excellent team play as he linked with Xavier Duursma and he found Reid who gave the team a two-point led at the first break. It had been a sound start by the Power but there was still scope for improvement with the boys' finishing.
An unlucky bounce allowed the Rebels to kick the opening goal of the second term but, great contested football by Bailey Beck and Stephenson set-up Reid for a long goal.
Stephenson became the finisher with a great goal off the pack but the Rebels replied courtesy of two deplorable umpiring errors. They then gave themselves a four point lead with another goal on the run and the Power found itself regretting the missed scoring opportunities during the quarter.
The Power coaching panel was justifiably pleased with the endeavour of the side in contests all over the ground but, the turnovers were still being costly where it mattered most, the scoreboard.
In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Power set-up several scoring chances but was unable to convert them to goals. In stark contrast, the Rebels scored a vital goal from a rare forward thrust and this exemplified the problems that occurred when hard-won opportunities were squandered.
Once again, excellent pressure by Duursma and Beck was finished off by Stephenson and this seemed to inspire boys up forward.
Tom Murray and Beck then applied the blowtorch so Stephenson was able to kick another courageous and inspirational goal. From the resultant bounce, Julian Patterson and Porter combined and Reid finished it off with an excellent contested mark and goal.
Just when it looked likely that the Power was going to set-up a good lead, the Rebels hit back with two gifts. Their first came after a defensive error by the Power and then an umpiring errors gave them the second.
The Rebels led by one point, with the Power players letting themselves down once again with inefficient conversion of scoring opportunities.
The Power had been far less effective for crucial times in each of its narrow losses and once again could only manage three goals despite going into the danger zone 19 times for the quarter.
It took about 15 seconds into the third quarter for Porter to set the standard for the side when he kicked a stunning long goal from the opening bounce.
Sean Masterson found Beck and he then followed suit so Matt McGannon could kick a fine goal off the resultant pack.
As if inspired, great pressure by Kim Drew put the ball long into attack and a Beck tackle set up Stephenson for his fourth running goal.
The Rebels took advantage of another gift from the umpires but it didn’t deter the Power. Once again, forward pressure, this time a Masterson tackle, put the ball in Motton’s hand and he kicked a fine long goal.
From the centre bounce, pressure by Julian Patterson allowed Motton to go long into attack and, this time it was Duursma who finished it off.
The Power’s superior fitness was obvious as it put even more intense pressure on the Rebels with tackling and their commitment to quick team football. It missed some chances to further extend the lead, but the intensity continued.
In the final minutes, the Rebels scored another, but Reid then took a fine intercept mark and kicked the Power’s sixth for the quarter.
Callum Porter had more than 30 possessions, six marks, 13 tackles and two goals. His clearances based on speed and strength enabled him to generate many of the side's positive passages of play.
Will Stephenson kicked four goals, while his tally of contested possessions, tackles and gutsy marks reflect his critical contribution to the Power's dominance of the on-ball contests.
Kim Drew also amassed a large number of contested possessions as well as more than 10 crunching tackles.
Youngster Boadie Motton rarely wasted possessions by hand or foot.
Another south Gippsland youngster, Kyle Reid, showed his potential to full effect as a key forward with the ability to take strong, contested marks and effectively apply intense pressure at ground level in the tightest packs when tackling or putting pressure on opponents.
Skilled utility Matt McGannon has been invaluable all season with his disciplined and committed play.
Sean Masterson has played a vital leadership in defence with his ability to take on and nullify the opposition’s most dangerous forwards.
Xavier Duursma belied his youth with another clever game in the midfield.
The Power will the Oakleigh Chargers this Sunday in Melbourne.
Because of the under 18 national championships, both sides will be without vital players, but the Power will have a key advantage under the TAC Cups rules.
The teams have to play 12 bottom age players while the championships are on and the Power has been almost doing this all season.
As a result of this, youngsters like Xavier Duursma, Grady Cocksedge, Bailey Patteron, Liam Carroll, Bailey Beck, Nick Lowden, Kyle Reid, Will Broadbent, Brad Daniel and Boadie Motton have already adjusted to the pressure and tempo of the most elite junior competition in the nation. Added to this foresight by the club, Tom Murray, Rylan Henkel and James McKenzie have recently joined the team and are quickly adapting like the other youngsters on their steep progression curves.