There are often mixed feelings when you finish a match with a draw and this match was no different. Our first quarter was fantastic. We were dominant at the stoppages, clean with our hands and skills, and had great forward line movement. Importantly, after last week, we wanted to see more offensive movement from our backs and they responded well to this. In all, we played the style we have been looking for. Tough and hard at the contested ball then strong offensive movement. We spoke at quarter time about the need to maintain momentum and to expect a response from the opposition. The first five minutes of the second term were disappointing. The opposition’s pressure and work rate lifted and we responded poorly.
We were beaten to the contested ball and looked unsettled in tight contests, far too many errant handballs or fumbles. Momentum changes are not uncommon in football, but I felt we gave up our momentum far too easily here. The rest of the second quarter was very even. Both teams produced scoring opportunities, I felt the main difference was our inability to capitilise on the scoreboard (1 goal, 5 points). I thought our skills dropped away early in the third term, some under pressure, some not. To the players credit however, they didn’t drop their heads and continued to play at high intensity.
I was really pleased to have some of our younger players stand up in big moments during the quarter. Pat Fairlie and Sam May both displayed great composure in front of goal and Kyle Kirk took a great contested mark before hitting Tom Keough on a lead. At the 24 minute mark we still held a commanding 30 point lead, however we had a poor five minute period that proved costly. Some loss of concentration around positioning at restarts (we lost four in a row) resulted in quick I50 entries for the opposition. We then failed to get numbers to the next contest. We were outworked and paid the penalty.
Central kicked three late goals and closed the margin to 11 points at the final break. We got the important first goal of the final term and it became a real arm-wrestle for the next 10 minutes. Unfortunately, again some inconsistent effort at contested ball in our back 50m was costly. Central were able to hit the lead and then extend to 8 points. I was pleased the way we responded from here. It would have been easy to drop our heads however we forced the ball into our forward line and kept it there for repeat stoppages. I thought Riley Thilthorpe really stood up in this period, bringing the ball to ground when outnumbered in marking contests and also laying tackles. We had the next four shots on goal however we couldn’t quite finish. Our relentless pressure finally caused the error and Murray Waite finished with a great goal to even the scores.
Whilst we did not win the match, we can take a lot from it. Our early match form showed how we want to play and proved that we can do it. For the most part our work rate over for quarters was sound. The opposition kicked six of their 13 goals in ten minutes of football. Two short periods where we dropped far below our best in pressure, work rate and composure, proved extremely costly. So we continue to work on decreasing the distance between our best and our worst football. Our late match fight back was important. We have been guilt of falling away drastically in last quarters in recent times, I thought we displayed stronger resilience this week. Our contested ball, needs improvement. Whilst our endeavour was sound, our inability to absorb pressure by one taking the ball and then making good decision under pressure is a focus for this week.
I thought we had a handful of strong four quarter contributors. Tom Keough, provided a great focal point and was elite with his finish in front of goal. Isaac Johnson produced perhaps his best game for the Club in just his 10th game. His strength in the contest was a highlight and his tackling across half forward is so important. Andre Parrella continued his great start to the season and dominated the rucks. Andre has also improved his ground balls takes and composure with ball in hand.