AFTER playing well in recent TAC Cup games, the Gippsland Power faced a strong challenge to their 2013 season prospects when they took on the Sandringham Dragons.
Both sides were affected by the loss of key players due to state commitments and injury but neither was prepared to use this fact as an excuse for a second rate performance in such a critical game.
The Power’s chances were further impacted upon by the late withdrawal of, uniquely talented youngster, Bohdi Walker and Ash di Ciero was called up to face the music against the Dragons.In a match that was highlighted by fiercely contested issues all over the ground, the Power seized the early initiative and never conceded it despite the fact that the Dragons were highly competitive for the entire game.
They applied excellent one on one pressure and forced the Power to go beyond their usually high standards in this vital area. The midfield unit typified the side’s ability to meet such a challenge with six of this group having over sixty tackles between them.After a tight opening to the game, the Power scored first after Alex Carr goaled after some clever ruckwork by Wes Russell. Neither side found scoring easy until the Dragons opened their scoring with a rebound goal after ten minutes of play. As has been a limiting factor in many games this season, the Power were wasting hard-won scoring opportunities and the Dragons again punished them for some “iffy” defence.
It took some more direct, long kicking by di Ciero and Carr to set up Declan Keilty for an important Power goal before excellent forward pressure by Jake Thomas and Aaron Heppell saw Lachie Channing give them a five point lead at the first changeover.Coach Nick Stevens had used the game to set some of the players some new individual challenges as well as asking the whole team to work on different strategies in such a key game. He was pleased with their responses to both challenges and urged them to keep it up in the second term. Some excellent vision and skill by Heppell allowed Channing in for a fine goal and then Carr and Heppell linked up creatively to allow di Ciero to score another good goal.
Both sides were applying excellent pressure in contests all over the field and it was difficult for either side to get any flow into their game.This pressure by the Power forward group resulted in Ed Morris finding Rohan Hildebrand for another goal and then Mitch Mustoe went long and direct into the forward line and Nathan Dennison snapped a great major.
With seconds to go in the quarter some sloppy Power defence “gifted” the Dragons with their only major for the term and the Power went to the long break 25 points up. They had been more efficient converting their forward fifty entries and had worked very hard to ensure that the Dragons had few chances to get their running game going.Stevens was again pleased with their commitment to a different game plan and continued to encourage them to respond positively to the many challenges involved. The boys again used long kicking to advantage when Mustoe and Dennison combined to set up di Ciero, but the Dragons then took advantage of some indecisive Power defence to score two very “soft” goals. Russell then stopped the rot with a long bomb into the forward line which was then well used by Channing to allow Dennison in for his second goal.
Instead of building on this good play, the Power again were indecisive in defence and the Dragons again took advantage of the soft play. The Dragons were now right back in the match and the Power upped the ante with intense pressure, especially up forward.
Alex Saunders led the way by creating a goalscoring chance for di Ciero and then more of this team oriented hardness resulted in a great snap by Nate Paredes. By the last change, the Power led by 31 points but had not taken full advantage of some excellent application of intense pressure in the midfield area.
To take the early initiative in the last quarter, the Power again went long up forward through Morris and Josh Cashman and Saunders snapped a “Poomba” special. Neither side scored for almost ten minutes until the Dragons caught the Power out on the rebound.Once again they took advantage of sloppy Power defence to score consecutive goals and it was again game on with ten minutes to go.With the game in the balance, Morris and Channing combined cleverly and Liam Nash finished the good work off on the run. As if inspired, Carr then went long and Dennison took advantage of it to set up Brenton Rees for a fine running goal off the resultant pack. Late in the term, the Dragons had a gift after an odd umpiring decision but the Power then applied more intense pressure to give Morris the last goal of the match.
The final scores were Power 15.9. 99 to Dragons 10.10.70
The boys now face another important challenge when they take on the eastern Jets at Preston next Sunday. The Jets have been very competitive all season and recorded an important win over the Eastern Ranges last week. State football will again be a factor for the Power selectors this round but, highly-rated bottom-agers, Bohdi Walker and Lukas Webb are both likely to return for the game. The Power again lead the competition in team oriented and “hard” statistics and this will be a critical factor if they are to meet the challenges involved in playing the 2013 version of the Jets.