GIPPSLAND Power’s sixth game of the TAC Cup football season resulted in another loss but provided plenty of positives for the coaching panel to focus on.
Meeting one of the competition’s top sides, the Sandringham Dragons, the Power was missing suspended captain Ben Ainsworth, while vice-captain Will Leslie was a late withdrawal because of a minor injury.
The Dragons won 16.8 (104) to 7.13 (55) in Morwell on Sunday.
At the end of the match the Dragons had recorded a comprehensive 49-point victory but, a closer look at key statistics showed the Power was far more competitive than the score reflected.
Gippsland had 20 per cent more forward 50 entries than the Dragons, but was unable to convert this significant advantage where it mattered most, the scoreboard.
The Power’s conversion rate of the forward entries was one goal per eight times inside the 50 metre line, but the Dragons were able to score one goal for every three entries. This proved to be a huge handicap for the Power as it applied consistent intense pressure to minimise the Dragons’ chances to score and then worked equally as hard to get the ball into their forward zone.
The Power had almost as many scoring shots as the Dragons, but kicked very inaccurately as well as wasting opportunities to score because of skill errors or poor decision making.
It was such a skill error which allowed the Dragons to score the first goal, but the Power then applied its trademark pressure to stem further scoring.
A rebound goal gave the Dragons another major, but the Power’s intense forward pressure by Austin Hodge and Anthony Young set-up Nick Mulqueen for a fine snap.
The Dragons hit back quickly, but the Power again dug deep to again stem the flow.
A goal on the siren gave the Dragons a 19-point lead, but closer review of important statistics gave coach Leigh Brown good things to highlight at the first break. Obviously the fact the team had more entries up forward than the Dragons was important. but it managed only one goal from 14 entries to the Dragons’ four from their 12 opportunities to score.
Adding to his positive focus was the Power’s 25 tackles, which were making the Dragons work hard all over the field.
In the opening minutes of the second quarter, the Power again put excellent pressure on the Dragons and it took them nearly eight minutes to kick a goal, albeit, from a free kick.
Instead of being affected by the loss of momentum, the Power worked hard and Hodge was able to get a vital goal. A goal from the resultant centre bounce indicated the Dragons were capable of exploiting any lack of application by the Power and they quickly added another after the Power had again wasted several chances to hit the all-important scoreboard.
To add insult to injury, the Dragons got another goal from the centre bounce and went to the long break 37 points up and, seemingly in total control. The key statistics reflected the comparatively inefficient use of the ball up forward by the Power as it managed to kick only two goals from 24 first half entries compared to the Dragons’ eight majors from 23 chances up forward.
The pattern of the first half continued early in the third quarter as the Power held the Dragons goalless because of its hard work, but then undid its excellent application of the key elements of the game plan and allowed a rebound goal due to a poor turnover.
Despite applying excellent pressure and earning many gettable scoring opportunities, the Power continued to miss easy goals. It took a long and direct forward thrust by Callum Porter to set-up a snap by Nathan Voss and then Keenan Hughes kicked another from a free kick.
A freakish goal allowed the Dragons to level the goal scoring for the term, but the Power had dominated much of the quarter with its disciplined focus on the key elements of the game plan. It had restricted the opposition to only six scoring opportunities, while having deservedly set-up more than 20 chances for itself.
The scoreboard indicated a 34-point lead to the Dragons, but this didn’t reflect the competiveness of the Power in general play.
The final term opened with a Dragons scoring a relatively easy goal form a turnover, but the Power hit back after a fine interception by Ethan East to allow Porter to snap a morale boosting goal. Once again the Power was unable to accurately convert hard-won forward entries, but the Dragons rubbed salt into this self-inflicted wound by kicking three easy goals.
Power captain Kade Renooy did some amazing running and creative ball use to get the ball up forward and Kieren Byers finished it off with a fine goal from the 50m line.
Two further goals by the Dragons gave them scoreboard superiority, but Renooy managed a goal on the siren to finally give the Power another major.
Coach Brown had a lot of positives to focus on and a real challenge to throw at the boys at the end of the game. While the Power worked hard to win vital contests and apply intense pressure with crunching tackles, it team missed too many chances to reward that effort.
The crucial difference between the sides was the fact that, after quarter-time, the Power had the same number of scoring shots, but the Dragons kicked 12 goals compared to the Power’s six. To further add to the frustration for the Power was it had 10 more entries than the Dragons during this time.
Josh Patullo minimised the influence of the Dragons’ best key forward, and worked hard when he moved on to the ball. His 20-plus possessions were impressive, but the seven contested marks, seven tackle and six spoils reflected his impact on the match.
Midfielder Tate Marsh used his pace and clever reading of the play to win vital possessions and then created good passages of play with his ball and evasive skills and effective decision making.
In his third TAC Cup game, Ethan East was initially a key forward target who hit packs hard, then moved on to the ball, where he used his body and clever palming to set up on-ballers with clean possessions and vital clearances.
Deven Costigan’s fierce attack on the ball in the tightest of situations meant the ball never got out to the opposition or, more importantly, it was used creatively to get the ball to teammates.
After playing an important defensive role in his earlier games, Keenan Hughes responded well to the challenge of playing the key forward role. He led up strongly for teammates and, if he didn’t take the mark, used his defensive skills to ensure that the ball stayed in a dangerous position or opponents never got easy possessions.
Key forward Sean Masterton was also challenged with a move to another role, responded well when moved into defence.
This Saturday, the Power will go to Box Hill to take on the Eastern Ranges.