Power too good for Rebels

IN cold and blustery conditions at Craigieburn, Gippsland Power continued its progress up the TAC Cup football ladder after recording a 26-point victory over the Greater Western Victoria Rebels side.

The Power won 11.13 (79) to 8.5 (53) on Saturday.

Power selectors were forced into making two changes to their strong team as Nick Lowden had been suspended for one week by the tribunal due to a strong tackle and Fraser Phillips had been rested after a strenuous school excursion. Coming into the team were Grady Cocksedge, who had recovered from a nagging wrist injury, and debutant Harrison Pepper, who was finally available after having national basketball championship commitments.

As a consequence of these two new players joining the team, it meant that eight of the 23 in the side were from the Moe football club. When you add the fact that Noah Gown had been a Moe player in 2017, it gives that club a unique level of impact on the Power side.

The obvious impact of such a scenario is that many of the team are well aware of their team mates’ capabilities and specific needs in terms of the team’s best interests.

The Power’s excellent recent form and the “Moe awareness” factor meant it went into the game as favourite and early in the match it looked like they were ready to demonstrate that they deserved this recognition. However, the further the term went, the less likely they looked capable of controlling the match.

While dominating general play, the Power was unable to convert this to scoreboard pressure and, as such, allowed the Rebels to stay within reach after half the quarter had elapsed.

It took a strong mark by and long kick by Rylan Henkel to finally break the run of missed opportunities by the Power. However, instead of being inspired by his finishing prowess, Gippsland then missed another four very gettable chances to establish a big lead at the end of the quarter.

To add insult to injury, the Rebels then exploited two unnecessary turnovers and drew level with the Power as the term ended.

Coach Leigh Brown asked for the sort of commitment his players had demonstrated recently and they used the ball precisely from the centre bounce and Austin Hodge kicked the opening goal.

Once again they wasted more such chances to score and made this inefficiency even more costly when they “gifted” the Rebels with a goal due to a turnover.

To illustrate how costly their ineffectiveness had been, the Rebels’ goal came from their first entry in their forward 50 zone after 12 minutes of play. In comparison, the Power had already had 11 such entries at the same time.        

Some strong pressure by Noah Gown allowed him to kick a vital goal and, from the resultant centre bounce, Harvey Neocleous and Gown combined with skill and pressure to allow am Flanders to take a good contested mark and kick another crucial goal.

The Power continued to apply pressure all over the field but couldn’t convert this on the scoreboard. To further punish them for this wastefulness, the Rebels scored another on the siren to reduce the Power lead to six points at the long break.

Once again the statistics gave the coaches plenty to talk about but, the most telling was still the relative efficiency of the teams when going inside their 50 metre zones.

Both sides had scored four goals but, crucially, the Power had done this after 30 such entries while the Rebels had done so after only 13 ventures forward.

The “déjà vu” feeling for the Power coaches would have been powerful but, Brown focused on the positives and encouraged them to get back to what he believed was their “proper” game.

The Rebels seized the initiative early in the third term with a goal and cores were again level. It needed typically hard work by captain Xavier Duursma to win a free kick and then score a goal to regain the lead for his team.

As if inspired, Gown and Harry Pepper combined on the run to allow Duursma to kick another inspirational major. The Rebels hit back after some rare undisciplined play resulted in a “gift” goal to undo a lot of the Power’s better play.

To make this problem even worse, the Power wasted further chances to make a difference on the scoreboard and it took individual brilliance by Flanders to intercept the Rebels and kick another vital goal.

By the end of the quarter, the Power led by 13 points and had finally got the use of the ball up forward to an acceptable level of efficiency. The Power defence had been under intense pressure during this term but, manfully, it stood firm as a unit and individually.

Yet again, the Power allowed the Rebels to regain the initiative with another gift goal but they quickly hit back by applying their trademark pressure in contested issues.

Such commitment by the captain Duursma and Flanders allowed the skills of Tyrone Hayes to be put to telling effect. The umpires made an odd decision to give the Power a free kick back up field but, it worked hard and created a chance for Flanders to finish it off with his unique flair.

It appeared as if the Power had finally shaken the Rebels challenge off but they reminded it there was still a contest to be won with a relatively simple goal. The Power went forward again and Zac Skinner took full advantage of a free kick to restore a seemingly unreachable lead.

To confirm this, long and direct attacking play by Brock Smith and Hayes was capped off by Flanders and this extended the final margin to 26 points.​

The Power was incredibly wasteful of its hard-won scoring opportunities in the first half, but got it right in the second.

Its more productive approach resulted in seven goals from only 22 entries compared to four from 30 in the first half.

Early in the match, the Power midfield unit was vital in keeping the ball out of the Rebels’ control, and Bailey Beck played an important role with his ability to apply consistently intense pressure in contests. Beck’s 20-plus possessions, nine marks and six tackles reflected his importance all day.

Xavier Duursma led by example, recording 13 tackles.

Defende Kyle Reid not only nullified key forwards, but had the confidence, skill and focus to win many possessions and use them to full effect.

Austin Hodge also worked tirelessly in all aspects of play, providing an active pathway into attack with his aerial skills but, once the ball was at ground level, worked even harder to win contested ball and then use it positively.

Noah Gown was the side’s other avenue to attack which ensured that the ball went forward and, even more importantly, stayed there due to his intense application of pressure in contests in the air and at ground level.

Midfielder Boadie Motton continually puts his body at extreme risk to stop opponents, win the loose ball and then ensure that it’s used by hand or foot, intelligently and quickly.

Bailey Patterson has become one of the vital cogs in the side’s backline. Statistically his 20-plus possessions, five marks and five tackles would be an impressive contribution.

The Power now has another week off because of state squad commitments ahead of the match against the Geelong Falcons at Dandenong on June 3.