Power pounce on Falcons

IN ideal football conditions in Dandenong, Gippsland Power scored an important victory over the Geelong Falcons.

The Power won 10.5 (65) to 3.13 (31).

Both sides went into the vital TAC Cup football match well under full strength because of the national under 18 championships. After a strong start to the season, the Power was without senior players Xavier Duursma, Kyle Reid and Matt McGannon.

While this was a great honour for the club, it meant the team had to manage without key defenders, play making midfielders and the teams’ best forward. Only injury robbed Irving Mosquito from his place in the state team, so it could have been an even bigger challenge for the Power.

This scenario will continue to have an affect on the Power for the next four weeks, so the selectors will have plenty of opportunities to have a look at some of the players who haven’t had the chance to get into the side due to the amazing form that the team has displayed so far this season. They were able to bring back Alex Young and Fraser Phillips who had already been in the team this year while top-ager Will Broadbent made his 2018 debut.

Rounding off the major alteration to the team was the inclusion of debutants, Mason McGarrity (Warragul), Burkeley McFarlane (Morwell) and Zac Hurley (Sale). Despite the unavailability of such important players, the coaches were very confident that the Power had the right combination of players to cope with the pressure of playing the Falcons.

The on-field leadership from key players such as Bailey Beck, Austin Hodge, Rylan Henkel, Noah Gown and Boadie Motton guaranteed excellent support for the new-comers as they quickly adjusted to the intensity of TAC Cup football.

Early in the match, neither coach would have been pleased with the way their side was using the ball and, scoring was almost non-existent for the first half of the term. It took some traditional Power forward pressure from Boadie Motton to set up Harrison Pepper for the opening goal. Things looked even better when some more direct, long use of the ball by Zac Hurley and Alex Young allowed Will Broadbent to give the Power a ten-point lead at the end of the term.

In the opening minutes of the second term, more direct play by Ryan Sparkes and Bailey Beck resulted in a goal to Noah Gown as the result of a free kick. Instead of building on this positive use of the ball, the Power began to be less direct as well as making poor decisions to squander chances to extend its lead.

The Falcons were in attack more as a consequence but the Power defence’s strength and composure under pressure limited them to points rather than goals.

Some quick and precise play by Beck and Austin Hodge set up Gown for his second but, once again, the Power wasted hard-won possessions as they went forward. Towards the end of the quarter, some more positive ball use by Burkeley McFarlane and Josh Smith led to a goal from Rylan Henkel after another free kick.

By the end of the quarter, the Power had extended its lead to 23 points and crucially, had prevented the Falcons from kicking a goal.   

The Power defence was under intense pressure early in the third term but, withstood it manfully. Midway through the quarter, Motton and Hodge set-up some excellent play and it allowed Pepper to kick a crucial goal.

Almost against the run of general play, the Falcons kicked their first goal on the 16-minute mark but the Power hit back after more forward pressure and Beck took a strong mark and goaled late in the term. It meant the Power’s lead was 25 points with one quarter to play.

It was obvious the Power leaders were doing what was needed to secure victory but, even more pleasing, was the fact several of the bottom agers had accepted the challenge to take greater responsibility as well. A strong contested mark by Pepper gave the Power the first of the last term and then Riley Baldi took a cunning intercept mark and kicked truly to further extend the lead for the side.

The Falcons scored their second goal mid-way into the final term, but it seemed to inspire the Power to get back on to its productive track.

Long and direct ball use by Gown and Broadbent allowed defender, Bailey Patterson, to kick a rare goal on the run but the Falcons rallied a scored the final goal of the match.

The final winning margin was 34 points but, for the Power what was really important, was the way in which they got back to some effective ball use up forward in the second half.

Midfielder Bailey Beck was a constant avenue to attack for the Power. His 25 possessions and seven marks indicated how hard he was prepared to work.

In a stunning debut, Zac Hurley slotted in as a key defender and took on, and soundly defeated, the Falcons’ best forwards. He had the confidence, skill and poise to win nearly 20 possessions, take six marks, have five tackles and nine spoils in a wonderful display.

Bottom age defender Tye Hourigan , is another of the youngsters who has quickly adjusted to the physical and mental demands of TAC Cup football. He too has been given the responsibility of the opposition’s better

Fellow young defender Ryan Sparkes recorded 33 possessions, six marks, four tackles and nine spoils.

Bailey Patterson nullified the affect of dangerous opponents, but it was his reading of the play to find the time and space to be a play-maker was even more important.

Austin Hodge has always been a vital cog in attack and the on ball brigade, but seems to have lifted his game to even greater heights in 2018.

The selectors were very pleased by the way that the senior players responded to the challenges that emerged due to the loss of so many vital players. What was even better in terms of the long-term future of the side, was the fact that some of the youngster who had already impressed took their games to even greater levels when under such intense pressure.

The performances of debutants, Burkeley McFarlane and Mason McGarrity was the icing on the cake as they made significant contributions to the team’s response in such an important game.

As the result of the national championships, the side has the first of three byes in the next five weeks. The Power will next play the Calder Cannons on June 17 at Morwell.