Round 17 found us back at Boss James on a sunny Winter morning for our final Home game of the Season.
Having had a decent result against Old Geelong last time, we were hoping for a similar performance from the boys this week.
As has been happening lately with other teams, Old Geelong came out of the blocks very quickly, banging on 4 goals 1 in the opening term to our (late) 2 goals 1 to Cam Morris and Callum Dodd. Clearly OG had benefited from a few returning APS lads in their side, giving them a much stronger drive out of the middle and their forwards were quick to capitalise on the good delivery.
Yet again, our slow starts were really hurting us and this game was going to be significantly different from earlier encounters. The lads settled a little and a more even contest ensued in the second quarter but squandered opportunities in front of goal left Dillon Melnjak our only major scorer for the term.
Max Coughlin and Lachie Carrigan were giving us good pace out wide but some poor kicking from teammates was making their job harder against some talented opposition. Pressure around the stoppages from Old Geelong was seeing us revert to ‘kick and hope’ football, with a number of our players simply putting boot to ball in the vain hope it might find a teammate – usually however, it went straight to an opponent……
Half time was a fairly quiet affair, with the realisation we had several key players out this week and we were clearly up against a more determined and competent side in Old Geelong.
Pat Starcevich got the board ticking over for us with a goal early in the third, followed-up by Paddy McPhee who was having a good day out and finally a Captain’s goal from Max Coughlin. Whilst a better Quarter that saw us finally hit the lead, we had yet more missed opportunities in front of goal that would ultimately hurt us.
After a slower start than usual, Cam Morris was getting better through the game and clearly putting in the effort for the hard ball gets. He also came in later to give Ben Allen a rest who had been working hard, up against a strong Rucking opponent.
Unfortunately, the work-rate across the board from much of our group simply wasn’t there today. With very little talk out on the ground, saw us three-up at marking contests and no sweepers. This meant Old Geelong were killing us out the back and despite them beginning to tire, better discipline, structure and effort saw OG answer every effort we threw at them. Oscar Donald was the only real voice to be heard but the general lack of communication amongst the lads was telling.
The last quarter was clearly going to be an arm wrestle. Cam Morris chimed in with another goal but for every score we got, Old Geelong responded. Max Van der Sraaten was playing a great game and while not among the goal scorers, his efforts throughout the game were pivotal. Tom Marron bagged a sneaky goal after roving beautifully off a contest and Rakia Schwartz, who’s been a quiet achiever this season chimed in with a much-needed goal as well.
Old Geelong were cleaner with the ball and were running (both ways) far better than we were. This work rate saw them hit the front as the clock was running quickly toward full time – desperately trying to hold us back and hunting for the boundary at every opportunity.
The intensity had certainly lifted but it was all a bit too late for our lads. Liam O’Driscoll who’s been solid all year for us had one last throw at snatching a (now unlikely) win for us with a kick after the siren but it was a distance out and a genuine pressure kick. Clearly upset after the ball dropped short, this certainly wasn’t where the game was won or lost Liam so don’t take it to heart. It was (bluntly) the lack of a two-way work rate and basic discipline from our lads across the game. Allowing opponents to run off far too many times, poor set-ups at stoppages and simply not running hard enough. Our tackling pressure is certainly there but our ground coverage is unfortunately lacking.
Final scores Rovers 9/12/66 to OG 10/11/71.
B.O.G deservedly went to Max van der Straaten with Cam Morris, Lachie Carrigan and Paddy McPhee all in the votes, well done lads! Honourable mentions to Lachie Fraser who always competes hard and Toby Linnegan who put his body on the line with some great tackles.
While still holding second place (by percentage only), let’s regroup at training, sharpen our focus lads and come out hard against Marcellin next week as they will surely be red hot, wanting to overtake us coming into Finals.
It is without doubt, a MUST win game!
Goals: C.Morris 2, C.Dodd, T.Marron, P.McPhee, D.Melnjak,
Best: M.Van der Straaten, C.Morris, L.Carrigan, P.McPhee, L,O’Driscoll, M.Coughlin, L.Fraser