Power’s charge ends

Bryan Mitchell

GIPPSLAND Power’s TAC Cup football season ended in an undignified, and undeserved, manner, when it suffered an absolute thrashing at the hands of the Oakleigh Chargers.

After being highly competitive against the best during the year, the Power was outplayed in Saturday’s preliminary final by the Chargers, who had all of their players available for the first time for the season.

The Chargers won 17.14 (116) to 3.4 (22).

Adding to the difficulties faced by Power because of this scenario, was the absence of important players because of injury.

Key defender Kyle Reid and impressive youngster Jake van der Pilgt had minor injuries after the match with against the Geelong Falcons. However, on a far more serious note, Mitch Benveltzen had suffered two fractured vertebrae and was still in the Monash Hospital as they attempted to address the intense pain that he was suffering.

Coach Leigh Brown and his assistants knew that to remain competitive in such a situation, the Power needed to apply their trademark intense pressure in contests all over the ground. The other vital component of their game plan was the ability to make good decisions when in control of the ball and to do so with precise ball use by hand or foot. When they did these things against the Falcons they had controlled the match and had a well-deserved win.

A strong breeze was blowing down Princes Park and the Chargers had this advantage in the first quarter. It didn’t take long for them to assert their dominance in the game and they showed that they were ready, willing and able to exploit any deficiencies in the way that the Power applied themselves to Leigh’s challenges.

Poor decisions and application of skills by the Power set the Chargers up and they capitalised on these chances with stunning pace skill and precision.

By the end of the term, the Chargers led by 34 points and had kept the Power totally scoreless for the quarter. Not only had the turnovers been so costly, the Chargers had dominated the contests at ground level, a vital component of the Power’s best form.

Like the boy with the wheelbarrow, the Power had a huge job in front of it and seemed to be more effective than in the first term. With the advantage of the wind, the Power went forward but missed gettable opportunities to hit back where it mattered most, on the scoreboard.

Late in the term, the Chargers regained the initiative and kicked four more goals as the Power began to squander the ball and then get clinically punished on the rebound.

By the end of the quarter, the Chargers led by 57 points and had limited the Power to two points from its 24 forward 50 entries during the first half. It was by far the worst performance by a Power side in many seasons and, in no way reflected their qualities individually or as a team.

The third quarter was more of the same with the Chargers scoring two early goals and then the Power upped their work rate to make better use of hard-won possessions. It minimised the Chargers scoring but was unable to open their own.

Once again the Chargers went into overdrive and they scored three more goals with their stunning use of the ball no matter how much pressure the Power applied. With one term to go, they led by 91 points and had set the Power up for a humiliating defeat.

In the opening minutes of the final quarter, the Power responded to coach Brown’s call to get back to the requirements of the game plan and went forward directly and positively. Xavier and Noah Gown combined their endeavour and skill to set up Mason McGannon to score the team’ first goal for the match. As if inspired, the Power started to win vital centre clearances due to Gown’s determination and Caleb Serong scored another after a hard-won free kick.

For the first time all day the Power were playing like Brown knew they could and were winning the ball all over the field as a consequence. A strong tackle by Matt McGannon resulted in free kick and this time Gown was able to finish it off with another goal. They continued to keep the Chargers goal less for much of the term but were unable to maintain their own pressure on the scoreboard.

In the last three minutes of the match the Chargers scored three more goals and were able to extend their winning margin to 94 points. It was a huge margin in a match as important as a preliminary final but in no way reflected the Power’s qualities.

The Chargers made few, if any, mistakes in their performance and will now go into the grand final full of confidence and the all-important self-belief that’s required.

On a day when leadership was at a premium, Xavier Duursma won the majority of his possessions in tight contests and excelled when applying his trademark pressure via his 14 tackles.

Young defender Ryan Sparkes used tackles, spoils and intense body pressure to keep his opponents out of the match, but also had the confidence to win, and effectively use his own possessions.

As he had all year, Bailey Beck was able to be a highly effective midfielder by applying intense pressure in contests as well as providing the team with an avenue to attack.

Bailey Patterson was competitive when in defence and helped the side even more when moved into attack during the second half.

When moved from attack to midfield, Noah Gown had a greater affect by winning key aerial contests and minimising the impact of the opposition.

When moved from defence to the midfield, Brock Smith responded manfully to this new challenge and was vital in many positive passages of play. 

The Power will now focus on its under 15 boys and junior girls in the V-Line Cup, to be held in the Latrobe Valley later this month.