GIPPSLAND Power broke through for its first win of the TAC Cup football season on Sunday.
After being competitive for parts of each of its matches, the Power finally played something like four quarters of positive football and was able to minimise the errors that had been so costly.
At Morwell, the Power defeated the Northern Knights 14.16 (100) to 11.6 (72).
Coach Leigh Brown had always shown faith in the players’ ability to do what was necessary to follow his basic game plan and they justified this by working hard to make it finally happen.
Four changes were made to the team with youngster Aidan Quigley the most crucial absentee because of injury. Anthony Young, Kieran Jones and Jai Rout returned, while Koo Wee Rup youngster Travis Bindley made his debut.
It was obvious early in the match the Knights had come to play hard ball as they applied intense pressure in contests, especially on the forward line. As a result of this, Austin Hodge earned a free kick and scored the first goal of the match.
Some more hard work resulted in Callum Porter and Ryan Hearn combining to allow Hodge to kick another.
The Power defence was again playing hard-nosed football, but, due to the work ethic of the midfield, they had a much easier role than in earlier matches.
Another forward foray saw Hodge turn provider with his unique vision and skill as Jai Rout marked and kicked truly. From a kick-in after a Knight’s behind, Tate Marsh and Nick Mulqueen used their pace to find Anthony Young who finished it off with his own speed and evasive skills.
Just when it appeared as if the Knights were going to remain goal less they managed to snap their only major late in the term.
The Power went to the first break leading by 21 points but, far more importantly, with the initiative going its way.
Early in the second quarter, the Power went quick, long and direct through Will Leslie and Marsh and once again Young used amazing pace and ability to be in the right place to kick his second goal.
The Knights were again put under intense pressure and Josh Patullo and Leslie used it well to create an opportunity for Will Stephenson to kick another for the team. To demonstrate this sort of impact the pressure forced the Knights defence to give away a free kick and Nick Mulqueen gratefully accepted and converted the opportunity.
The pattern of the game altered after this situation when two glaring mistakes by the umpires allowed the Knights to put themselves back in the match even though they didn’t deserve to be there.
Fortunately, the Power regained the momentum when Kade Renooy went the right way into the forward line and Nathan Voss kicked a fine goal on the run. This inspired Young to apply more intense forward pressure with Leslie able to exploit the loose ball.
Another faulty umpiring decision gifted the Knights with the final goal of the term and the Power went to the long break 33 points up, despite the fact it deserved to be in total control on the scoreboard as well as in general play.
Coach Brown and his assistants had many positives to focus on, but needed to ensure that the boys were prepared to apply themselves for the remaining quarters. It looked like the message had been received early in the third quarter when Leslie and Callan McKeon took the ball from the opening bounce and Patullo marked strongly and kicked truly.
Just to remind the Power how hard it needed to work, the Knights kicked an easy goal but, seemingly it took notice and applied more forward pressure to allow Mulqueen and Rout to combine for a crucial goal.
Not to be outdone, Campbell McKenzie intercepted the ball in defence and quickly found Young who used his vision to give Voss the opportunity to mark and goal.
Just when the coaches were feeling the boys had finally got the message about constant commitment, they slipped back into their less focused style of play and the Knights kicked two of the soft sort of goals that had been so costly in their other matches.
Despite the fact that the Power still led by 35 points, there were signs that a few reminders were required at the final break.
The most obvious was that any slackness in application was going to be capitalised on by the Knights. The second was less obvious but equally important, they needed to kick accurately up forward either when kicking to those in good position or, more critically, kick straight when near goal.
Concerns were raised early in the final term when an inability to put the ball out of bounds gifted the Knights with the opening goal. The margin was now reachable for the Knights and the pressure was well and truly on the Power.
Some disciplined, long ball use by Leslie created a chance for more Voss magic and he again kicked truly to relive some scoreboard pressure.
Yet another umpiring error gave the Knights an undeserved goal, but this was then added to when the Power’s ball skills created two turnovers.
The Knights capitalised on these and suddenly they were right back in the contest.
Some better ball use and pressure in the contest resulted in a free kick to Leslie and he then found Young with a miss-kick that he still claims was a pass. Young kicked his third for the match to ensure victory.
Almost as if following some perverted script, the Knights were given the final goal by the umpires, but it was too little too late to prevent the Power recording a well deserved 28-point victory.
In a match where the Power defence were well supported by teammates, Keenan Hughes again led the way in a key defensive role. He thoroughly defeated his opponents by applying intense pressure in the air as well as at ground level.
More importantly, Hughes had the confidence, skill and pace to turn defence into highly effective attacking moves throughout the match.
Bottom ager Callan McKeon was the smallest player on the ground but at no time was this a factor in the effectiveness of his performance. He won many contested balls and then used his courage and pace to take opponents on. He really made taller opponents look bad with his willingness and ability to tackle them effectively all over the ground.
State squad member Will Leslie again led by example with his unique combination of aerial skills, pace and ability to win the contested ball. He won, and effectively used, many important possessions as well as being able to ensure that the opposition on-ballers were under consistent pressure all day.
Onballer Will Stephenson is another who is diminutive, but it didn’t stop him making a difference for his team with his ability to be highly competitive in the tightest contests. He applied his usual crunching tackles as well as winning key possessions and working just as hard to use them effectively.
Fellow on-baller Nathan Voss was another who caused the Knights headaches with his ability to take contested marks as well as be a danger when on the forward line. He read the play well and was able to kick critical goals with his pace and aerial skills. Voss is one player capable of even better as he builds on the self-confidence gained from this match.
Anthony Young kicked three very clever goals but, with a little more luck could have had several more. He used his incredible pace to stunning effect and was in the right place all day to win the loose ball. His ability to apply pressure in contests was an added bonus in a fine game.
On a day when team football was the key to the victory, Deven Costigan, Sean Masterton and Josh Patullo each made a significant contribution in this area.
The Power will travel to Port Melbourne this Saturday to take on the North Ballarat Rebels.