‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Power

YET again, Gippsland Power gave its supporters and staff both sides of its TAC Cup football season in one game.

The Power more than matched it with an amazingly talented Geelong Falcons team for much of the game. However, when the game was within its grasp with minutes to go, the Power was unable to keep the intense pressure on the Falcons and ended up losing the match by 28 points, 12.12 (84) to 8.8 (56).

Both sides went into the game at Visy Park in Melbourne with close to their best possible line-ups and it meant any weaknesses in application were going to be clinically exploited.

The Falcons had several players who have been highly rated as 2014 AFL draft possibilities as well as their other state team representatives. Adding to this plethora of prodigious talent was the fact that all of their players normally unavailable due to school football commitments were also on deck so the challenge for the Power was extremely significant.

A positive note for the Power was the fact that its stocks was also boosted by the return of high quality state players in Jordie Cunico, Josh Dunkley and Lukas Webb.

Renowned hard-nut Jake Smith finally made his debut after a nagging injury, but the real bonus was the fact that the team’s most respected and revered player, Liam Nash, was available after missing the whole season due to a debilitating hip injury. In his previous two TAC Cup seasons he had become the Power’s most important run-with player and had taken on and soundly thrashed the opposition’s best.

Coach Leigh Brown was well aware of the Falcons’ potential to exploit any deficiencies in the Power’s levels of application and had devised a strategy that he felt the boys could apply effectively.

One vital element was the need for key on ballers to do the important work in contested issues and the other players to have roles based on their strengths to use the ball effectively. Midfielders Josh Dunkley, Alex Carr, Nash Holmes, Connor Ambler and Tom Papley did their job magnificently amassing nearly 50 tackles between them but, finally, even this wasn’t enough to keep the Falcons within check for enough time.

For nearly all the match the strategy worked perfectly and the Falcons really struggled to break free and get their renowned running game going. But in brief periods they were able to exploit over eagerness by some of the Power players and therefore find teammates in the clear to use to get the sort of rebound football going that was the difference between the two sides.

Based on this almost prefect application of the game plan, Brown, though disappointed the team lost, was also pleased with the players’ willingness to try so hard to do what he’d asked for.

Conditions at Visy Park were excellent for football and the Falcons opened the scoring with a goal directly from a boundary throw in. the Power replied with their renowned ability to apply intense pressure on opponents and Nash Holmes and Lukas Webb set-up Ash Di Ciero for a vital reply.

Jordie Cunico went long and direct up forward and Declan Keilty took a fine contested mark which he then converted to a goal. For much of the rest of the term the Power kept to the plan and stopped the Falcons scoreless.

Unfortunately for the Power it was unable to exploit several of its own opportunities and wasted several “gettable” chances. The costliness of this fact was then demonstrated by the Falcons when they scored a goal almost against the run pf play.

By the first break, the teams were level on the scoreboard but the Power could and should have been well ahead after playing so well for much of the quarter.

The second term opened with the Falcons again exploiting some minor deficiencies in the Power’s ability to follow the team plan and they had two relatively soft goals as a result. To its credit, the Power got back to basics and controlled play where it mattered.

Once again it was unable to convert this where it was vital, the scoreboard.

The Power finally broke the drought when more excellent forward pressure by Tom Papley allowed Corey Stockdale to kick a crucial goal.

It was the Falcons who regained the initiative by scoring another soft goal on the rebound and they went to the long break 11 points up after the Power had again wasted opportunities to be in front.

In the opening 10 minutes of the third quarter neither side was able to shake off their opponents to score goals and it was the Falcons who were finally able to get their game going.

It took some excellent ruckwork by Keilty to set up Alex Carr for a much needed reply and then Webb and Josh Dunkley combined with vision and skill to switch play and Papley finished it off with a goal.

The Power were now within one kick of the Falcons, but, their lapses in concentration and application of the game plan, allowed the Falcons to score two more rebound goals and go to the last change 17 points up and seemingly with the answers to whatever the Power could throw at them.

This situation was reinforced when the Falcons scored another “gift” goal and they appeared to have the game well and truly within their grasp.

It took a freak snap from the boundary by youngster Todd Beck to inspire the Power to get back to basics. Some excellent forward pressure by Christian Bukyx-Smith gave him a rare goal and then team mates did the same to allow Papley to put them within one kick with plenty of time left in the match.

On the 16-minute mark the Falcons snapped another simple goal to ease the pressure on themselves and then the umpires handed them the match winner with a terrible free kick. It was obvious that the Power had run out of steam after being so highly competitive for vast patches of the game and the Falcons scored the final goal of the game.

The final margin was 24 points but, as has been the situation for the whole season, there were times that the Power were well within reach of a fine victory against a great team.

Against excellent opponents in attack and in rucking contests, Declan Keilty did an amazing job to win many contests and provide a viable and very team-oriented avenue to attack for the side.

The importance of the return of Liam Nash was obvious when he took on and soundly held key on-ballers from the Falcons.

In the ruck, youngster Gavin Low continued his impressive progress up his steep TAC Cup learning curve with another really fine effort against bigger and far more experienced opponents.

Ash Di Ciero once again took on and more than matched it with taller and highly rated opponents.

Young utility player Todd Beck is another who is making stunning progress up a very steep learning curve in such an elite competition.

Tom Papley is now fit enough to back his judgement to the extent where he wins the hard-ball as well as being able to kick long and accurately when scoring goals.

On a day when so many players did their important jobs so well, youngsters Ben Dessent and Nick Argento again answered crucial challenges to the extent that they won their positions.

Matching their self-discipline, defender Ben Timms applied himself to competing with and nullifying the influence of key Falcon forwards.

The Power now has a week off for a competition bye and will then resume its season with a clash against the Northern Knights at Morwell. Lukas Web could be unavailable due to school football but the Power could be close to their best side with talented youngsters Darnell Grech and Dylan Proctor close to being available after missing recent games due to injury.

Adding to the reason for further optimism, under 16 player Ben Ainsworth could also be considered after an outstanding performance in the recent national championship series.