GIPPSLAND Power showed just how much progress it had made this TAC Cup football season when it outplayed the Northern Knights on Saturday.
The Power won the match at Preston 12.13 (85) to 5.8 (38).
The Power went into the match with only one change to the team as Will Stephenson was rested and highly-talented youngster Tyrone Hayes returned from school football commitments.
After recording two impressive wins over top teams Geelong and Calder, the Power had a “downer” against Eastern. Coach Leigh Brown placed his faith in the boys to respond to the need to be totally focussed on the demands of this game and they showed quickly that they were more than ready to respond positively to his confidence in them.
It was obvious in the opening minutes of the match the Power’s renowned hardness in contested issues was back. The players used typically strong play from defence to allow Deven Costigan and Julian Patterson to combine to set up Nathan Voss for the first goal.
Aidan Quigley applied more forward pressure to win a free kick deep in the pocket and he coolly slotted the side’s second. From the resultant centre bounce, the Knights scored a crucial goal to remind the boys that they were ready to exploit opportunities to hit the scoreboard.
Some deft ruckwork by Patterson gave Voss the chance to snap a stunning goal and then great forward pressure, as demonstrated by Will Leslie, set-up Nick Hogan to kick another and give the Power a 20-point lead by quarter-time. It had been a fine term by the Power, typified by its levels of intensity in contests and the fact it had worked hard to have three times the number of forward 50 entries as the Knights.
It didn’t take long for the Knights to remind the Power that it needed to be aware in contests as they opened the scoring at the beginning of the second quarter. The Power responded well with its trademark willingness to hit hard in tight contests, and Voss turned provider for Trent Armour to take full advantage and reply for the side.
Armour then used his uncanny ability to have second and third efforts in contests to combine with Josh Patullo and Ben Ainsworth snapped an impressive goal.
Later in the term, Ainsworth took a good contested mark and then took full advantage of a 50 metre penalty to give the side a 32-point lead at the long break.
Once again the Power had dominated all the critical contested statistics and had used excellent teamwork to use the ball effectively when they won the ball. The real test for the Power was how hard it would be willing to work for the rest of the match and Brown again showed the team had faith in its ability to keep up the intensity for four quarters.
Led by Leslie and Cody Henness, the Power attacked long and direct and once again Voss took full advantage of their unselfish and very purposeful play. Costigan won a tight contest and then used his pace to break clear and go long and direct.
Captain Ainsworth was “Johnny-on-the-spot” yet again and snapped his third for the match. As if on cue, the Knights scored a relatively easy goal after some slackness by the Power.
As the Power upped the intensity in the contest, Patullo belied his 198 centimetre stature, won the ball at ground level and snapped a fine goal to give the side a 46-point lead by the final change. Once again, the Power had dominated the key contested ball statistics and had three times the number of forward 50 entries as well as more than 40 crunching tackles.
Early in the final quarter, Armour again did the “one-per cent” things to telling effect and allowed Kade Renooy to take full advantage of a rare move in to forward line.
In what appeared to be over-confidence, the Power used too many unnecessary handballs and the Knights took full advantage of the obvious turnover which resulted. As if the visitors hadn’t learned the lesson, they allowed the Knights to kick another and doubts about the potential for a four-quarter effort loomed.
To add to this concern, they then began to miss hard-won scoring opportunities and it took some stunning team work to bring the ball from deep in defence and score the goal of the game.
Hard-nosed youngster Callum Porter was heavily involved in two parts of the play which allowed Leslie to kick a goal, enabling the Power to run out a 47-point winner.
Josh Patullo went into the match under deep personal pressure following the passing of his grandfather earlier in the week. Given such challenging circumstances, Patullo stood tall, and dominated the match.
Patullo was the key part of a dominant rucking combination with Julian Patterson, won many possessions at ground level as well as taking seven contested marks.
Ben Ainsworth’s 25 possessions, 10 tackles, six marks and three goals reflected his impressive statistical contribution, but his support and leadership when he didn’t have the ball was equally as important.
Defender Corey Timms has been impressive in the second half of the season and once again had the confidence and skill to beat opponents one-on-one. Crucially he used strong marking and gutsy ground work to win many possessions in contests and generate attacking passages of play.
Will Leslie has also stood tall for much of the season with amazing pace and agility as well as excellent aerial skills in tight contests. He too had impressive tallies in all important statistics but, like fellow leader Ainsworth, was also critical in using his body and voice to show how his team mates needed to play.
Up forward, Trent Armour again was asked to belie his stature and take on taller opponents in key positions. He not only won many of the aerial contests but really stood out when the ball was at ground level with a stunning work rate that was typified by second and even third efforts in the tightest contests.
Defender Sean Masterson was another to excel in a key position as he totally outplayed opponents in the air as well as at ground level. Not content with this contribution, he also was able to set up many highly effective passages of attacking football with his willingness to use his pace and long kicking to telling effect.
After being held back by injury early in the season, Callum Porter has quickly established himself as a key member of the team’s midfield unit. His 20-plus possessions and 10-plus tackles per game reflect the level of his importance and he seems to thrive on the challenges involved in such a contribution.
The Power has one game left in the season against the Bendigo Pioneers, this Saturday at Princes Park in Melbourne.