It was a perfect day for football. After two consecutive practice matches in 30 plus degree heat and difficult windy conditions, the milder, still weather was a welcome change. The coach, Dale Ross, went into this match with a positive address to his players: a simple game plan was deployed, keep to the corridor, long and direct, open forward line, man-up, create a physical presence – the team had permission to play attacking, exciting football in the opening game of the season. And so the boys shuffled from the change room to the ground with the obligatory team cries of ?com? on boys and ?this is our year?.
The first quarter was a display of disciplined football at its best, with many pieces of play made to look like set training drills. The huddle worked well from the kick-in, as did the zoning in defence. Suleyman, out of the middle, to Ross, a quick kick to White, mark and goal – such was the commitment of every player that allowed for ?flashes of mature, professional looking football. Rory White and Tom Fallon were good in the forward line, providing leads and taking contested marks. As always, it was the less-flashy, but no less vital performance of a dogged back-line that created the opportunity for these classy vignettes of football. The physicality of Kettle and O?Brien form the basis of an intimidating back-line, which can dominate an opposition with a fragile forward structure.
The less that is written about the second quarter the better from a Rovers perspective. Mazenod dominated – winning the ball out of the middle and running hard to create options. Mazenod tagged our better players from the first quarter out of the game, resulting in the Rovers back-line being besieged by a procession of six unanswered goals. Rovers forwards and centre players failed to defend and produce the turn-over, players were not prepared to do the percentage plays, the hard stuff and failure to man-up effectively produced a team that looked rattled. They must have thought they had won the game in one quarter of football. The message at half-time: MAN-UP! And to quote the coach, ?its attack or defence – no in between?.
In the third, Rovers fought back, lead by the return of form of the midfield. Zampaglione was good, roving the packs and clearing the ball out of the middle, and Suleyman provided solid, reliable hands dropping into the back-line at crucial moments.
With the game within our reach, Rovers went into the last quarter knowing they could win the game. It could be said, however, that circumstances out of their control contributed to eventual defeat. With Mitchell going down, and time-on failing to be called as play continued around him, and with no time-on in the last – when previous quarters had continued for what seemed like an eternity – it was these official inconsistencies which would culminate as the final siren sounded. And what was the score? Was it a two or one point loss or a draw, as questions where asked as to the accuracy of the scoreboard in accounting for several Rovers points which had ?gone missing?. While Rovers didn?t win the game, they certainly won the quarter, with Mazenod left goalless.
What a difference ten minutes of sloppy football can make to the outcome of a game (and they say a week is a long time?) Rovers went down courageously by one point in confusing and controversial circumstances. They go into next weeks match with confidence.
SCORES: Mazenod def. Hampton Rovers
4. 6. (30) 6. 8. (44)
12. 10. (82) 8. 8. (52)
16. 12. (108) 13. 10. (88)
16. 15. (111) 16. 14. (110)
GOALS: White (6) Mitchell (3), Fallon (2), Rootsey (2), Hille, Smith, Ross.
BEST PLAYERS: White, Fallon, Mitchell, Suleyman, Zampaglione, Ross, Sharpe.