THE depth of the Gippsland Power squad was severely tested in its TAC Cup match against the Murray Bushrangers, and, it was found to be wanting as its lost the game despite dominating most of the important statistical areas.
To rub further salt into the wound, the Bushrangers snatched the victory with a goal after the final siren after the Power had seemingly secured victory.
It was always going to be tough for the Power as they went into the match without nine of its best 18 players. The Power had Alex Saunders, Josh Cashman, Jordie Cunico, Bohdi Walker, Lucas Webb, Jack Leslie and Jake Thomas in Darwin for the opening game of the national under 18 championships, while Aaron Heppell and Ben Kearns missed due to injuries.
With such a huge turnover, coach Nick Stevens was able to bring in Wes Russell, Nick Dinsdale and Ben Northover for the first TAC Cup games, while Troy Toussaint, Brenton Rees, Doug Grining and Ash Di Ciero returned after playing earlier in the season. As a consequence of the loss of such important contributors, the remaining experienced campaigners needed to rise to the occasion and provide leadership for the rest of the team.
Early in the first term the Power was wasting scoring opportunities and it took some skill and vision from Nate Paredes to set-up Josh Scott to stop the rot. More gettable goals were missed and the Bushies punished the Power’s inaccuracy by scoring two easy majors late in the term.
By the end of the quarter, Gippsland trailed by five points but had almost twice as many entries into its forward 50 area as the far more accurate Bushrangers.
It was a more positive Power side early in the second term and Scott set the tone with a clever check-side goal. He then turned provider with a clever handball to Alex Carr who bombed a long major.
Lachie Channing was another to kick long and Scott finished off his good work with another goal.
Just when it appeared it was ready to kick clear, the Power lapsed badly and allowed the Bushies to kick two easy goals after costly turnovers.
Nate Paredes then took advantage of a Scott free kick to score a vital goal for the Power to restore some respectability to a disappointing scoreboard.
By the long break the Power led by 10 points but should have been far further in front based on general play. The most obvious flaw in its play was the fact that it had had 12 more forward 50 entries to the Bushies but had only kicked one more goal.
In the third term, the Bushrangers seized the initiative with two more soft goals on the rebound after the Power had wasted more scoring opportunities.
Some good work by Brandon Bailey set-up Channing for a great snap but the Power then gave away another gift goal with poor decision making. Instead of capitalising on their hard work, the Power were being punished for overuse of the ball by hand instead of following the game plan with long and direct ball use.
The Bushrangers extended their lead to 11 points by the last change and the Power needed be smarter if it was to win.
Instead of taking advantage of some terrific work in the thick of the action, the Power continued to waste many scoring opportunities despite dominating play for the first half of the term.
It took another Carr goal from outside 50, but the Power continued to waste far easier chances form much closer to goal.
Ash Di Ciero found Scott who marked strongly and finally kicked what appeared to be the winning goal. However, the Bushies scored two majors in the final seconds of the game to snatch a surprise win, 10.7 (67) to 8.16 (64).
It was a very harsh result for the boys as they had done everything but kick goals in the last term despite having been so indecisive for the first three quarters. The Power dominated the inside 50 entries 17-10 and held the ball there for much of the quarter but, it was the fact that it had 10 scoring opportunities to the Bushies’ two that really told the story.
To only kick two goals despite dominating play was the crucial factor that really hurt as the players reflected on their performance after the match.
Tom Muir was one veteran player who responded manfully to the challenge of leading the less experienced boys. He not only defeated dangerous key forwards but backed his judgement well to constantly set up play with clever use of the ball on the run as well as after winning aerial contests.
Up forward, Josh Scott again did the tough stuff against several opponents by winning contested marking contests and finishing it off with four vital goals. However, his work rate at ground level was equally impressive and he won many hard-balls and used clever handball to set up his team mates.
Defender Paul Pattison has become a key element of the Power defence with his disciplined, team oriented play and once again was the initiator of many good pieces of play.
In his TAC Cup debut, Wes Russell had the crucial job to fill the gap created by the loss of the team’s two ruckmen to state duties.
Alex Carr has become a key member of the midfield unit and had more than 30 possessions in a stellar performance.
Fellow midfielder, Lachie Channing also lifted when his input was vitally important. He too won many important possessions as well as being equally as hard working in contested issues.
The Power now needs to regroup and focus on minimising indirect play and waste up forward when its takes on the Northern Knights at home this Saturday. Once again there will be several players missing due to state duties but the injury list mightn’t be so long.