GIPPSLAND Power remains in seventh position on the TAC Cup football ladder after a 18.11 (119) to 10.8 (68) win over the Sandringham Dragons.
After a stunning victory against the top side, Gippsland Power went into Sunday’s clash with the Sandringham Dragons on a high.
Adding to that confidence was the return of captain Josh Dunkley after a series of games with the Richmond reserves and midfielder Tate Marsh after missing nearly half the season due to a stress fracture to his back. There was also a negative, losing Nash Holmes because of a two-week suspension.
Adding to the Holmes’ loss was Aloysio Ferreira pulling out because of a sudden illness. This meant there wasn’t enough time for him to be replaced.
In ideal conditions at Morwell, the Power opened the game well and were constantly inside their scoring area due to the dominance of their midfield unit and their miserly defence. However, it was unable to take advantage of this on the scoreboard for much of the first ten minutes of the match.
It took a long goal from outside the 50 metre mark by Matt De Bruin to break the run of wasted opportunities but the Dragons hit back far too easily with two goals.
Some outstanding forward pressure by the Power was rewarded with a free kick to Tyler Hillier and he took full advantage of his opportunity.
The Power again went into attack but wasted more scoring possibilities before being punished by two gaols by the Dragon late in the term.
Although it trailed by nine points at the end of the quarter, all the relevant statistical measures indicated how wasteful the Power had been in comparison to the Dragons.
Fifteen forward 50 entries had only resulted in two goals for the Power while the Dragons scored four majors from only eleven entries. Much of this wastefulness was shown by further statistical analysis such as the fact that they had more than 10 more handball to kicks for the term and were overusing the ball instead of getting it forward quickly and directly.
Coach Leigh Brown had plenty of obvious points to make during the break but, as he has done all season, he did so by focussing on the positives and his trust in their ability to respond to what was required.
It was obvious that the “message” had been taken on board when De Bruin went long and direct and Jackson McMahon was able to capitalise effectively. Some more great pressure in contests allowed Darnell Grech to go long and direct and this time Anthony Taylor was in the right spot at the right time.
Just to remind the Power to stay focused the Dragons capitalised on some indecisive defence with a soft goal.
The Power hit back well when Harry McKay and Grech combined to give them the lead again. Another defensive error gave the Dragons an easy goal but Linc Robinson answered brilliantly with a stunning goal form deep on the boundary.
Another good piece of forward play by Kade Renooy put the ball in the “hot spot” for the Power and Hillier again roved the pack cleverly to kick his second goal.
A long clearance from the resulting centre bounce allowed Hillier to become a provider and Taylor was at the base of the pack and kicked his second for the term.
By the long break the Power had a 13-point lead but it was how it secured it that mattered. The Power had turned around both of the statistical anomalies that had been so costly in the first quarter, with six goals from 13 entries and more than 20 more kicks to handballs in general play.
Brown would have been delighted in their ability to back his belief in them and they looked as if they were ready to do the same in the second half.
The Dragons reminded the Power that hard work was needed to achieve this as it kicked a quick goal from the opening bounce. A clever intercept mark was taken by Renooy and he converted it to a goal after he combined brilliantly with Grech.
The Power were playing great team oriented football and Tate Marsh put the ball in a dangerous spot to allow Ben McKay to kick a crucial goal. As if inspired by this positive play, De Bruin, Harry McKay and Ben Ainsworth used the ball astutely to set up Robinson for another goal.
De Bruin then used his amazing individual skills to win a free kick and then went long and direct to find Taylor who took a great mark amongst the giants.
Once again the Dragons reminded the Power it was still in the game but, some unselfish play by Josh Dunkley resulted in a goal to fellow midfielder Connor Ambler.
By the end of the quarter, the Power led by 34 points and had again achieved this by being very efficient with their ball use. It had again been efficient when inside 50 and, more importantly, had used the ball well by foot instead of over using handball.
In the opening minutes of the final term, the Dragons really punished some stunningly indecisive Power defence and Brown quickly sent out the message to go quickly into attack rather than going backwards and sideways.
Josh Patullo had obviously taken heed of the runner’s request and his direct attacking kick allowed Tom Hobbs to win the ball and kick a long goal.
In one of the best pieces of individual skill in the competition for the year, De Bruin took a fine mark, took on opponents with his pace, ran over 100m and kicked a stunning goal from the forward pocket. From the resultant centre bounce a long clearance found Patullo and he kicked truly.
The Dragons went forward and, from a totally mystifying free kick, kicked a goal even though players from both sides had no idea what the kick was awarded for.
As he “rested” up forward after a stunning game in the ruck, Patullo took a fine contested mark and kicked his second for the quarter after a well-placed kick from Hillier.
Not to be outdone, De Bruin and Hobbs used long and accurate kicks to provide a chance for Young to take a contested mark and kick his fourth for the game.
By the final siren the Power’s winning margin was 51 points, but it was how it was achieved that had all at the club delighted at the end of the day.
After an “iffy” first quarter, Gippsland had played three excellent quarters of efficient, team-oriented football that saw then follow the club’s game plan to the letter.
Its use of the ball was the key to this as it made excellent decisions about when to kick or handball and then applied skills accurately and with some exciting poise and purpose.
The hardness in contested issues was again a vital factor with Dunkley laying crunching tackles to set-up team mates with easy possessions.
In a stunning journey up a very steep football learning curve, Matt De Bruin has shown that his amazing athletic ability can be used devastatingly when he backs his coaches’ faith and takes opponents on. He took 10 marks and had more than 25 possessions but his real impact came when he used his blistering pace.
With most of the side’s ruckwork up to him, Josh Patullo was challenge by his coach to take much of the responsibility and he responded brilliantly. He not only won this area of the game but also excelled at ground level and then capped off great game with two goals when up forward.
As has become a regular event for the side, Christian Bukyx-Smith took on the leadership role in defence and set a wonderful example for teammates. He soundly defeated the best the Dragons had by having nine spoils, taking nine marks and winning nearly 20, effectively used possessions himself.
Asked to go forward as he tinkered with his taller players, Darnell Grech responded positively to this challenge by proving a highly effective avenue to attack for his team mates with strong contested marks, hard work in tight contests and long and direct kicks to the “hot spot” for the side.
In his second TAC Cup game, Anthony Young quickly showed that he had overcome his “nerves” from his debut with a very clever combination of pace, skill and reading of the play. He was constantly in the right spot at the right time, seemed to win the ball easily and never wasted any of his possessions.
Midfielder Jackson McMahon was another to provide a consistently effective avenue to attack with his ability to be very competitive in contested issues and then backing himself to be creative with his many hard-won possessions. He used the ball creatively by hand and foot and applied many strong tackles.
In his first TAC Cup game for over a month, Josh Dunkley made a vital contribution to the side’s fine win with his willingness to get into the tightest situations and win many contested possessions. Not content with this crucial role, he also applied 15 heavy tackles.
Two of the side’s regular hard-nuts were at it again with their unique ability to apply intense pressure on opposition players and then make excellent use of their hard won possessions. Ben Dessent was able to quell the influence of dangerous Dragon’s forwards, while Tom Hobbs was thriving in the challenges involved in being in the team’s highly competitive midfield unit.
This Saturday, the Power will take on the Northern Knights at Princes Park in its final match of the home-and-away season.