THE 2017 TAC Cup football season for Gippsland Power came to an abrupt end at Ballarat, after it was outclassed by the Geelong Falcons in an elimination final.
After being in good form in recent weeks, the Power had many positives to build on for such a challenge but couldn't maintain the sort of effective football necessary to defeat a side of the Falcon's quality.
The Falcons won 16.11 (107) to 3.4 (22).
The Power had arguably its best side available for the season with the return of Callan McKeon, Nick Lowden, Cody Henness and Matt McGannon. Unfortunately it lost Sam Flanders and then had to replace Nick Lowden with Tom Murray just before the game after he went down with the flu.
In ideal conditions at the redeveloped stadium, the Power began well when McGannon, Nick Hogan and Will Stephenson applied the side’s traditionally intense pressure and Irving Mosquito took a spectacular ark and then kicked the game’s first goal. Ominously, from the resultant centre bounce, the Falcons scored a simple reply with the Power making little or no impact on that passage of play.
Not to be outdone, the Power hit back with CJ Jiath applying great pressure to create a chance for Stephenson to kick a vital goal. The Falcons then took advantage of a very “iffy” umpiring decision and then extended their lead with another relatively easy goal.
The Falcons had the momentum for much of the rest of the quarter and were able to kick another goal courtesy of an unnecessary turnover by the Power.
It took some strong work in a tight contest by Jack Hudson to set up Xavier Duursma for a free kick which he converted to a vital goal for his team.
By the first break, the Falcons had an 11-point lead but the signs for the Power didn’t look good when an analysis of the ease with which they scored their goals was done.
Coach Leigh Brown and his assistants had the usual strengths of the Power based on determination and hardness to be positive about but the problems were going to be markedly obvious for the rest of the match.
The next three quarters were basically the same, the Power couldn’t score another goal despite many entries into its forward area while the Falcons systematically exploited turnovers to a stunning degree.
The Power continued to apply intense pressure all over the field but, once going up forward, its finishing was ineffective and resulted in the turnovers that the Falcons so well.
This was the pattern of play for the Power early in the season and had cost them at least five wins.
As the year progressed, they worked hard to minimise these errors and began to realise the potential that Brown and his assistants had so much faith in. Unfortunately, the Falcons had taken their game to another level and had a game plan that never allowed the Power a chance to use their work ethic to make an impact on the scoreboard.
In the second and third quarters, the Power worked hard to limit the Falcons to three goals but, because of the inability to kick them themselves, the scoreboard presented a picture that didn’t accurately reflect the quality of their efforts.
In the final term, the errors increased and the Falcons scored six goals with stunningly effective rebound football. By the final siren the margin was 85 points, but few who watched the match would agree that it reflected the way in which the boys maintained their effort and, more importantly, their intent.
Young wingman Bailey Beck made a huge impact on the contests he put himself into. With a combination of his pace, aerial skills and hardness in tight situations he intercepted many of these passages of play and then had the confidence to use the ball with clinical efficiency.
Another who made a huge contribution in these passages of play was defender Will Leslie. His athleticism and ability to kick the ball with penetration enabled him to minimise the impact of dangerous opponents and then use the hard won ball effectively.
Like Bailey, Weslie had 20 possessions and took many strong contested marks with the sort of form that was vital in the latter part of the season when he returned from a nagging injury.
Captain Aidan Quigley's unselfishness and disciplined defensive work was matched by his willingness to use his many possessions to generate positive passages of play for his team.
Xavier Duursma's aerial skills, ability to read the play and hardness in intense contests meant that he rarely conceded an easy possession. As well as being so strong defensively, he generated many attacking passages of play by backing himself to win the ball and then run to have time and space to use it well.
Will Stephenson won his customary number of contested possessions as well as apply his strength to tackle opponents hard and win the ball as a consequence.
Key defender Sean Masterson took many intercept marks and then worked hard to make sure that he used the ball effectively.
After the match, coach Brown spoke positively to the boys and highlighted the fact the scoreboard didn't reflect the effort and determination they demonstrated in this match and throughout the season.