Having watched Central District’s past three matches, I was in no doubt that we needed to be at our best to win this match. Central has also shown an ability to start matches strongly so the players were challenged to be ready for this. It was therefore pleasing to start the match so well. In fact our first quarter was hard to fault. Our mids were dominant at stoppages (13 to 1 for the quarter), our backs produced many offensive opportunities and positioned well in defensive structures, our forwards were moving on all occasion and hunting the ground ball and opposition. Perhaps most importantly, our skills were first class. This lead us to a 29 point lead at the first break.
The second term was a lot tighter. Central improved their stoppage work to break even for the quarter and I felt their backs began to have an impact with their run from behind. Our stats also show that they won contested ball for the quarter. To go from such dominance in the first quarter to being outplayed in key areas in the second quarter was disappointing. Importantly, it shows our players the impact of even just a small drop off in intensity and work rate. Holding a 19 point lead at half-time, we spoke about the importance of slowing the opposition up on turnover and guarding their run from behind the ball.
Whilst I felt this was improved in the third term we began to let ourselves down in other areas of the game, most importantly our skills and decision making. Perhaps best highlighted by the fact that we only had three less inside 50m entries for the quarter however the opposition scored at almost 60% whilst we scored at 30% (3 out of 10). Additionally, our three shots on goal were all missed, ultimately leading to us losing the quarter by 4 goals. So although the quarter was reasonably even in terms of possession, we certainly did not take our chances when presented.
Facing a 5 point deficit at the final break, the players found the spark needed. Our dominance at restarts returned, our backline got on top in the 50/50 contests and they provided amazing spread and run from behind the ball. This enabled the ball to enter forward 50m with speed and gave our forwards significant advantage. Importantly, the forwards worked hard to support each other. Consequently, each time we won a tight contested ball, we had runners to feed the ball to. This is very difficult for the opposition to stop. We finished the quarter with 6 goals to 1, and a 31 point winning margin.
So what do we take away from a game where we were dominant for two quarters but were outscored in the other two? Firstly, it consolidates belief that our game plan works. When executed and matched with good skill and work rate, we can score quickly and for extended periods. Secondly, it shows that good opposition will continue to fight and will always have periods of success. During these times, we need to stick closely to our game plan, keep hitting out targets and make the right decisions. If we do this, we can still score even when we have lost momentum.
We had many good players on the day and few passengers in the first and fourth quarters. Of particular note, I thought John Noble was our most consistent through the midfield with both possessions and defensive pressure. Our backs had a good day. Jake Wilson and Josh Ryan won the key position battles and all our small backs made strong defensive and offensive contribution. Shannon Green was the best of the forward with four goals and importantly, 11 marks. Mason Middleton continued his fine season with three goals and 11 marks.
As a club, we continue to improve and keep the possibility of a return to finals football alive. However, we remain process focussed. Wining is obviously our end goal but playing our type of football is the best way to achieve this. Importantly, our development team continues their terrific form. There is pressure for spots in both grades which ensures players maintain their focus and training standards. Overall, we feel well placed for a strong assault on the remaining five matches.