GIPPSLAND Power went into their clash with the highly-rated Sandringham Dragons having to make several changes because of injury and VFL commitments but was able to adjust and record a solid win in the TAC Cup in Melbourne on Saturday.
Into the side came debutants Doug Grining, Brett Waddell and Ash Di Ciero. Ben Kearns was back at Casey, while Jake Thomas and clever forward Alex Saunders were missing due to minor injury.
After trailing by six points at half-time, a strong third term helped the Power win 9.16 (70) to 7.8 (50).
The Power opened the game with the advantage of the wind and were applying their traditional intense pressure. Consequently, they had the ball in their forward fifty for much of the term. Some of this forward pressure saw key forward Josh Scott take a strong contested mark to open the goal scoring.
First gamer Doug Grining kicked another major as the result of a free kick but the Power were wasting other scoring opportunities with poor finishing and some indirect play. By the end of the term they led by 18 points but had been inside their forward 50 area 18 times to the Dragons four, but their inability to convert this dominance to goals put them under unnecessary pressure going into the second quarter.
The Dragons rely heavily on the ability to get the ball to players forward of the play and, early in the term, they had three goals on the board from the Power’s inability to man up and prevent this part of their game happening. Despite being able to move the ball up forward themselves, the Power continued to waste their opportunities and it took another “gem” of a contested mark by Scott to stop the rot.
By the long break the Dragons led by six points but the Power had had four more scoring opportunities in the process.
A timely reminder of what the side’s game plan entailed by coach Nick Stevens during the break helped the Power to be more effective and they opened the term with a clever forward foray by Liam Nash to see Scott again mark well and kick a crucial goal. Some more forward 50 entries were squandered before Scott converted form a good lead and mark.
Bottom-agers Bohdi Walker and Luke Webb then combined with their unique skills for another and it was obvious that the boy’s had responded positively to Steven’s request for more focussed play.
More long and direct play by Nash and Jordie Cunico allowed Scott to kick his fifth for the game and then Alex Carr followed up further effective forward play with another major.
Some excellent forward pressure allowed Aaron Heppell to kick another important goal and by the end of the term the Power led by 34 points.
What was far more important in terms of the balance of play was the fact that the Power had converted their dominance of forward fifty entries to goals and had totally shut down the Dragons ability to score from their very rare ventures up forward.
The final quarter saw the Power continue to apply their unique levels of intense pressure all over the ground and the Dragons were really made to struggle to get the ball up forward and then convert these opportunities to goals.
Although the Power didn’t kick a goal in the term, they controlled much of the contested situations and were able to emerge with a well deserved 20-point victory.
On a day when he had at least two opponents to beat in most contests, Josh Scott again was outstanding with his contested marking and effective finishing to kick five goals. What made him even more valuable for the team was his willingness to work as hard to set-up others by applying consistent pressure in the thick of the action.
Youngster Lukas Webb was another to combine excellent ball skills with the ability to tackle hard and apply pressure on opponents when it really mattered.
Liam Nash totally blitzed dangerous opponents and then had the confidence and skill to win many important possessions himself.
The hard-nosed midfield unit of the Power is led brilliantly by Nate Paredes and he again combined bone-crunching tackles with great strength and the ability to use the ball with vision and skill.
Aaron Heppell also shut down important opponents as well as being able to win key possessions himself.
Ruckman Jack Leslie is almost back to full fitness and showed why he is so important for the side. He dominated the rucking duels but, more importantly, was able to take many strong marks and then be involved in a lot of contested issues at ground level.
After being asked by coach Nick Stevens to shut down his opponents, Bohdi Walker did so magnificently. He then added to the importance of his contribution by using his amazing skills to full effect to win many possessions and set up others with his stunning pace and great ball use.
The Power will now prepare for another important game against the Western Jets at Morwell this Sunday. It’s likely Saunders and Thomas will be available so the Power will be close to full strength.