Gippsland Power misses by one point

IN ideal conditions at Morwell on Sunday, Gippsland Power went within one kick of recording a much needed and fully deserved victory against Queensland.

The visitors won 9.18 (72) to 10.11 (71).

The Power was still missing injured key players Liam Nash, Ryan Hearn, Chris Bukyx-Smith and Josh Patullo but, on a positive note, Sale youngster Ben Dessent made his TAC Cup debut after a very promising pre-season.

Adding to the positives for the Power, former club doctor Greg Shuttleworth was on duty while Wayne Thompson is overseas. Dr Shuttleworth has stepped up from his time with the Power and was involved with the Brisbane Lions in their three AFL premierships and has also experienced this wonderful opportunity with Collingwood as well.

The first 10 minutes of the match were like a very serious arm wrestle with both teams applying intense pressure in contests all over the ground.

A strong contested mark by Tom Papley allowed him to then deliver a good pass to a strong Ash Di Ciero lead. Di Ciero finished it off well and both sides then continued to apply pressure to each other for another 10 minutes.

The Power defence was playing disciplined team football and the onballers were limiting the Queenslander’s ability to get their running game going.

It took some excellent vision and skill by Declan Keilty, Michael Jacobsen and Connor Ambler to set up Jordie Cunico for a vital late goal and the Power went to the first changeover five points up.

The second quarter opened promisingly for the Power when some more vision and skill by Tate Marsh gave Di Ciero his second for the match.

The Queenslanders then upped the ante and were constantly in attack. Under this intense pressure the Power defence stood firm and restricted their scoring to points.

After 13 minutes Queensland finally forced an error in the Power defence and capitalised effectively on it.

Some good ball use by Marsh and Ben Dessent saw Cunico snap truly but the Maroons kicked a timely goal late in the term to reduce the margin to three points at the long break. It had been a very impressive effort by the Power as they had manfully resited the strong efforts of the Queenslanders to score easily and were more than matching them in the vital contested possession statistics.

With the match well and truly up for grabs, the Power opened the term brilliantly when Alex Carr and Declan Keilty went long and direct to allow Josh Dunkley to set the tempo.

Ominously, the Maroons hit back immediately but Jack Hammond took advantage of a free kick and 50 metre penalty to find Keilty who marked strongly and goaled.

Some more positive attacking play saw Nick Argento find Connor Ambler who scored a fine running major and the Power was looking to have a good lead by the end of the term.

Josh Dunkley kicked long and deep into the danger zone and Keilty took advantage of the following free kick to further extend the Power lead. Just to put thing back into proper perspective, the Maroons scored again midway through the quarter but it inspired Dessent and Nash Holmes to combine with disciplined play to set up Di Ciero for another.

By the final change the Power had extended its lead to 16 points and seemingly had the determination and all-important momentum to keep the Maroons on the back foot.

To remind the boys that they had a match on their hands, the Queenslanders punished the Power for some indecisive defence and had two goals early in the term.

Some outstanding forward pressure by the diminutive Nick Argento gave Di Ciero his fourth goal and seemingly took the pressure off the side with half a quarter to go.

Both sides were applying intense pressure everywhere and the goal scoring dried up. Some more indecision allowed the Maroons to score a vital goal within the final 10 minutes and it was well and truly game on.

Almost against the run of play the Queenslanders hit the lead with another goal and the Power was now facing defeat. The home side lifted its workrate for the remainder of the term but could only manage points when a goal would have sealed a much needed win.

The final margin was one point and it would have left a terrible taste in the boy’s mouths considering how well they had played for the vast majority of the match.

Once again, youngster Sam Skinner was asked to take on serious levels of responsibility as a key forward and ruckman against taller and stronger opponents. He answered the challenges magnificently and dominated both positions as well as amassing many contested possessions and applying intense pressure in the thick of the action.

Declan Keilty shared much of Sam’s workload and applied himself to the task with similar determination and effectiveness. In his best game this season he showed the impressive levels of skill, vision and agility that made him such a key player in 2013 before being stuck down with injury.

Up forward, Ash Di Ciero hit packs hard, led well and marked strongly despite being closely attended by taller opponents. His long and accurate finishing made him a key forward for the team and he made a huge difference in the side’s ability to maximise the return for the forward 50 entries.

Young midfielder Josh Dunkley is recognised as one of the best players in the competition and showed why this reputation is so well deserved. He not only took strong contested marks but also applied intense pressure in the thickest pack and used the ball with precision and great vision.

Once again, Alex Carr led by stellar example with his hard work in contested issues and the ability to win and effectively use his many possessions. His leadership by using his voice so positively all day was equally important.

Debutant Ben Dessent fitted in perfectly to the intensity and tempo of the TAC Cup. He was rarely fazed by the standard of play and continually made effective use of his many possessions. He indicated that he will play an important role for the rest of the season.

The boys now have another competition bye but many will be involved in state team duties.

Chris Buykx-Smith, Jordie Cunico, Josh Dunkley, Ryan Hearn, Declan Keilty, Brad Olsson, Sam Skinner, Bohdi Walker and Lucas Webb are in the current state squad and, although some have injury issues, they will still be in contention for the final team.

Coach Leigh Brown will have gained some pleasure from much of the team’s performance against such a strong team. However, the fact it lost a game which was so winnable based on its level of effort, will give him plenty of ammunition to use as he prepares the side for the Power’s match against the North Ballarat Rebels at Morwell on May 24.

This too looks to be a winnable proposition for the boys but lapses in concentration and application will be exploited by the Rebels if the Power gives them such opportunities.