The Hampton Rovers Under 19s are the 2019 Division 2 Premiers, after producing a perfect performance to defeat Glen Eira/Old McKinnon by 53 points on Saturday.
The Rovers knew they had to play their best footy to get over the top of Glen Eira, with the opposition finishing the regular season as minor premiers and defeating the Rovers on all three occasions, by an average of 35 points.
Perfect conditions greeted the players with the sun shining and playing surface in great condition, while there was big Rovers support on-hand at Elsternwick Park to cheer the boys on, despite the early 9am start.
The Rovers players were up and about, keen to start the game but with the knowledge of losing several boys in recent weeks through injury and illness including Blake Bergman who was forced to pull out on the eve of the big game, along with several players carrying injuries into this game, they knew they had a big task on their hands.
Coach Sam Care’s words pre-game were that it was going to be back-to-basics football – Defenders tighton their men, strong two way running, ‘first give’ in tight conditions and continue to build on the strong tackling pressure.
From the first bounce, the intensity around the ground from the Rovers players was obvious. Glen Eira did manage entries into their forward line early on, but the pressure from Hampton’s defenders meant no real clear shots at goal. In a very even contest, Liam O’Driscoll drew first blood, followed not long after (the first of many) by Max Coughlin and Lachie Carrigan. In response, Glen Eira hit the board also with three majors of which two were lucky ‘scrub’ kicks off the ground.
The tackling pressure however from the Rovers players, particularly through the centre, was clearly having an impact on Glen Eira’s usual style of play and stymying their run and carry. At the first change, Hampton held a narrow 1-point lead, but there was obvious belief among the boys that they could match Glen Eira today.
As expected, Glen Eira came out hard in the second quarter, but for every move they made, Hampton returned fire. Dropped marks and fumbling hands were beginning to make an appearance in Glen Eira’s game – clearly due to intense pressure being applied by the Rovers – there were very few easy possessions to be had.
A well-deserved goal to Tanner Ellis and a second to Max Coughlin kept the board ticking over and the Rovers ended the term with the same number of scoring shots to Glen Eira, however they’d managed one more late goal from a free kick. Hampton were only 4 points adrift at the main break, however there was certainly a different feeling in the rooms this time.
A reminder from coach Sam not to revert back to ‘kick and hope’ corridor footy if pressured – open up the game by moving across the ground and maintain that body pressure, as clearly Glen Eira weren’t coping with our intensity. A clear message given to stay on top in the third quarter was given.
What had previously been the boys ‘hoodoo’ third quarter arrived, but it was a very different tale this time around. Liam O’Driscoll was amped – leading the charge by kicking two early goals and firing up the boys. Brothers Ben and Tom Marron each chimed in with goals and captain Max Coughlin was on fire – two more goals added to his tally.
Pat Starcevich and Max Van der Sraaten were ‘on’ – chasing everything and playing solid disciplined football.
There was a distinct shift in the game’s direction, and it was being echoed around the ground by the huge Rovers supporter base. The Rovers players clearly getting a boost from the support, lifted yet again with some sensational tackling efforts and running down players who in previous weeks had been too quick. Overlapping handballs to hard-running players and accuracy with our kicking was an obvious difference from previous games.
Hampton’s defenders in (co-captain) Oscar Donald, Tom Goldsmith, Samme Raghdo, Cooper Watson and Duncan MacKenzie were superb – relentless pressure and getting a spoiling fist to the ball time after time – one in particular from Duncan reminded us of the much-loved Spud Frawley – bang!!
As the game wore on though, it was clear that every Rovers player was giving it his all – Dillon Melnjak, Harry de Wolfe, Chris Perkins, Lachie Carrigan were all strong drivers – as were Ben Allen and Joe Wilson sharing Ruck duties – there were nopassengers today and those efforts were showing clearly on the scoreboard. The Rovers had turned that third quarter hoodoo on its head and with 6.5 to just 2.0, they had broken the game wide open.
Tate Gramaconi, Matt Spaziani, Paddy McPhee, Joe Eccles and Pat Starcevich all had their moments – whether it was a spoil, tackle, quick handball or shepherd, everyone was doing their part. Cam Morris was having a quiet game by his standards, but carrying a painful quad injury into the game, he re-injured it after a big tackle and a smother that ended with a boot/ball to the face but no-one heard a complaint – typical of him.
Momentum was building, but unfortunately there was a painful end to the third term for Lachie Fraser, who had been playing so well. Lachie was taken down in a heavy tackle, breaking his collarbone. Coming off the ground and clearly in pain, he bluntly refused to go to Hospital. He bravely sat out the final term and watched his teammates dismantle Glen Eira.
While many were starting to believe it might just be possible, there could be no let-up in effort as Glen Eira were never to be underestimated. The intense pressure the Rovers players had shown throughout the game was certainly reaping dividends now though. Glen Eira were even more fumbly and uncertain with the ball, clearly hearing footsteps and knowing that a hard tackle was never far away. Their ability to score was diminishing and it was becoming obvious they had few answers to Hampton’s intensity around the ball.
As the clock wound toward full time, two more goals to Max Coughlin from Tom Marron spearing passes, brought his tally to six and a stand-out game day performance.
Two late goals to Ben Marron sealed the result for our lads and a brilliant win to the team that went in as clear underdogs. The game had been exciting to watch and a result that so many had hoped for but felt might have been a stretch, had been realised. In the end, a sensational 53-point win to the Rovers! The song was certainly belted-out with feeling in the rooms afterward.
Coach Sam Care, along with his assistant coach Will Walker, support staff Benji Audige, Mitch Bowles and Will Morris have done a fantastic job with the team this year. This effort from a young coaching group hasn’t just been about game-play but instilling in the boys the Rovers approach – hard, disciplined football and to respect but never fear your opponent.
3.3 5.5 11.10 15.15
GLEN EIRA/OLD McKINNON 3.2 6.3 8.3 8.4 (52)
Goal Kickers: M. Coughlin 6, B. Marron 3, L. O’Driscoll 3, T. Marron, T. Ellis, L. Carrigan
Best Players: M. Coughlin, D. McKenzie, L. Carrigan, C. Perkins, L. O’Driscoll, D. Melnjak
Tickets are now on sale for 2019 Presentation Night – Friday 11th October at Sandy by the Bay. Buy now >