VISITING to the Calder Cannons’ home ground at Cragieburn usually represent a severe challenge for the Gippsland Power for two important reasons.
The most obvious is the fact that the Cannons have been a TAC Cup powerhouse team and are therefore very competitive for any side facing them. A more subtle factor was that the normal weather conditions are traditionally deplorable due to cold winds and rain.
The Power’s 2013 visit saw it face and almost full strength Cannons side but, for the first time, the weather was ideal and there would be no excuse for poor skills by either side.
The Power went into the game without star big man Jack Leslie, who was rested due to state team needs while midfield dynamo, Lachie Channing, was a late withdrawal because of illness. Adding to the difficulties faced by the Power was the fact that clever forward Ben Kearns is out for several weeks after surgery on a wrist injury.
On the positive note brilliant forward Alex Saunders returned from national duties, while big man Wes Russell came back after injury and Jack Hammond made his TAC Cup debut.
In the opening minutes of the term the Power seized the initiative but, as they have done in several games this season, struggled to convert their hard work on the scoreboard.
It took some good team work by Declan Keilty to set up Josh Scott for the opening goal but they then wasted several opportunities to extend their lead. Some excellent pressure by Nate Paredes set up Alex Carr for one of his long bomb “specials” but the Cannons then punished the Power’s wastefulness by scoring two late goals against the run of play.
By the end of the term the Power led by two points despite having four more forward 50 entries to the Cannons. This has been a concern for the Power coaches in recent games and it meant that the Cannons were right in the game when they should have been facing a much tougher task.
Power coach Nick Stevens pointed this fact out to the boys and challenged them to be more efficient in converting their hard work when taking the ball forward. As if inspired by the coach’s challenge, Keilty and Scott combined brilliantly for the opening goal but the Cannons then seized the lead with two soft majors after some indecisive Power defence.
The Power further upped its intensity in contested issues and Saunders and Scott combined to allow Paul Pattison in for a critical goal. They then scored another from this good forward pressure and it was Brenton Rees who finished it off.
Some more soft Power defence allowed the Cannons to kick another easy goal but, late in the term, Saunders kicked a clever goal after some excellent forward pressure.
Saunders then turned provider after a great mark and kick and Scott took full advantage of his hard work. By the long break the Power led by 15 points but, more importantly, had been far more efficient with their forward fifty entries. The team had applied its normal levels of intense pressure in contests all over the ground but had been particularly good when the ball was up forward.
Stevens continued to challenge the boys to maintain this level of pressure and to be even more effective when using the ball in the forward line.
Early in the term they were playing great pressure football but hadn’t been able to score the goals that they had deserved due to this hard work. They finally broke the drought when Carr set up Scott after a great spoil but the Cannons replied with the next two goals after some more poor defence by the Power.
With the game in the balance, the Power again increased its intensity and some class and vision by Jordon Cunico and Brandon Bailey allowed Scott in for a crucial goal.
As if inspired, Liam Nash then used the ball with penetration and purpose to give Scott his third goal for the quarter.
Late in the term Carr kicked another long bomb, this time from at least 60 metres out, and the Power went to the last change 29 points up.
The Power had responded to every challenge thrown at it by the Cannons and, but for hitting the post several times, would have been even further ahead going into the final quarter.
Once again Stevens asked for a four-quarter effort by the boys and they opened the term with some long and direct use of the ball which resulted in Keilty setting up Paredes for the, all-important, first of the quarter.
Almost against the run of play, the Cannons scored a gift goal after some poor ruckwork by the Power and reminded the boys that they were still able to make a game of it.
The Power replied after some more effective forward pressure allowed Nathan Dennison to set-up Cunico for fine major. It was the Cannons who responded with a textbook goal from the resulting centre bounce but Scott the created a brilliant goal from nothing with exquisite skills under pressure.
The Cannons then scored another major from a snap to reduce the margin, but the Power responded with more long and direct attacking thrusts from Paredes and Ed Morris to allow Russell to kick a good team goal.
In the final minutes of the game the Cannons took advantage of some sloppy Power defence but Carr again kicked a long bomb up forward and Saunders swooped on the ball as it came off hands in a pack.
By the final siren the Power was 37 points up, 16.18 (114) to 11.11 (77), but, more importantly, had played four excellent quarters of team oriented football to achieve the victory.
Stevens was delighted with this aspect of the win as well as the trademark level of pressure that the Power applied all over the ground to stop the Cannons flow and then create opportunities for team mates.
On a day when application of the team plan was all important Alex Carr did all the things required in an excellent team oriented performance. He amassed more than 30 hard-won possessions, used the ball with great precision, depth and purpose and set up goals as well as kicking them himself.
As usual, Josh Scott was the focus of a lot of pressure from opponents, but, again worked hard to overcome this to create many scoring shots for himself and others. Finishing with seven goals, he could easily have kicked 10 goals with a little more accuracy and support from umpires.
Defender Mitch Mustoe again worked hard to do the vital one-per cent things in applying intense pressure in many contests. He then went one step further by accumulating many important possessions and then using them by hand and foot with great vision, accuracy and piercing penetration.
Not to be outdone, Power hard-nut Liam Nash, was again setting the tone with his unique brand of disciplined and ferocious pressure football to initially stop opponents and then win the ball himself. His game was further highlighted by extremely effective use of the ball.
Veteran defender Tom Muir has been outstanding in defence all season and again took on and soundly defeated key forwards for the opposition. Instead of relying on this to his sole impact on the result, he also won many possessions and used his pace and vision to generate many positive passages of play.
On-baller Ed Morris is another whose consistency and leadership has been a critical component of the side’s form and he again worked tirelessly in all aspects of the game. He won many possessions, set up goals with clever ball use and had more than 10 crunching tackles in the thick of the heaviest action.
The Power now moves on to take on the dangerous Sandringham Dragons at Morwell next weekend. Both sides will be without key players due to state commitments, but the Dragons will have the huge advantage of having many of their better players available due to a break in school football.
The Power should have Lachie Channing back, while Lukas Webb could also be available from school commitments.