By Dave Nagel
Phillip Island has bounced back impressively from a shaky month of football to record an impressive 59-point victory over a disappointing Cora Lynn at the Cowes Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Bulldogs had received two substantial wake-up calls in their previous month of footy, with a 74-point loss to Tooradin-Dalmore and surprise 38-point loss to Warragul Industrials showing a vulnerability rarely seen at the Den in recent years.
The Cobras on the other hand were coming off seven straight victories, but with only one of those against a team in the top six.
It became evident, quite quickly, that the Bulldogs were on a one-way mission to bounce back to the winners’ list.
The Bulldogs wasted several opportunities to bury the Cobras in the first term, kicking 3.10 to 1.1, before both teams kicked four goals in the second term in the most competitive stretch of the match.
The Doggies then ground their way to victory, booting 7.4 to 1.3 after half time to remain in second position on the league ladder.
Cam Brown and Jack Taylor slotted three each for the Doggies; while two each to Jesse and Jordy Patullo ensured the home side held the upper hand.
Nathan Gardiner and Cory Machaya kicked two each for the Cobras, who struggled with the step-up in class.
Bulldogs coach Beau Vernon, who will step down at the end of the season, was thrilled with his team’s performance after the previous shock loss to the Dusties.
“We haven’t been travelling that well, but I thought on the weekend we played a pretty good brand of footy and the boys responded really well to that loss against Warragul,” Vernon said.
“Dusties played really well, but when you lose by 30 points you obviously think you can play much better…but they were just better than us on the day.”
Vernon said that while the two losses weren’t ideal…they could provide the stimulation for future success.
“In a funny way it’s been good to have those losses, it’s motivating us more than harming us and we’re learning a lot from them as well,” he said.
“The want to win is greater after losing, and I suppose when you become accustomed to winning the joy of doing so is potentially that little bit less.
“But after those losses we’ve got that real underdog mentality back and realise we have to improve a lot…we’re all buying in and looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“We loved playing footy on the weekend and loved the brand of footy we played.
“Tooradin is definitely the best side in it and by a fair way at the moment, and then there is a group of us under them vying for that second spot on the ladder.
“We’re excited and up for that challenge.”
Nar Nar Goon has pushed a tough week aside to score a commanding 53-point away victory over Bunyip.
Coach Luke Young was told over the bye that his contract would not be extended beyond this year, with the Goon now on the hunt for a more ‘high-profile’ replacement.
But that set-back, and a boggy Bunyip ground, couldn’t stop the Goon from showcasing its class edge over its opposition.
Bunyip started well enough, but midway through the first quarter momentum changed quickly.
The Goon had 11 scoring shots to four in the opening stanza, and missed some very easy chances to take a bigger lead than 22 points to the first huddle.
The second quarter was highlighted by two terrific goals to Goon maestro Brendan Hermann, whose creativity and opportunism stood out from the mud-splattered pack.
Troy McDermott also put his experience to good use…ducking out the back of a contest to kick another.
The Goon led by 31 points at half time and the game was effectively over.
McDermott finished with three for the winners, who had Matt Homfray, Trent Armour and Brent Hughes play terrific four-quarters of football.
Aaron Paxton booted three of Bunyip’s four goals, while Will Papley and 200-gamer Brent Heus never stopped giving their best until the final siren had sounded.
Kooweerup has enjoyed the rare feeling of cruising home to victory with the Demons making surprisingly light work of Dalyston by 56-points on Saturday.
The Demons usually make hard work of winning, but were in control of this one from the outset.
The Demons are one side that could really do with a strong finish to the season, not so much to play finals but to set a real launching pad for an important 2023 season.
The Demons should win their next two, against Garfield and Korumburra-Bena, and take a three-game winning streak into a huge home-game against Warragul Industrials in round 16.
Koowee has won five games this season, but all against teams lower than them on the ladder and need to claim a scalp to rubber-stamp signs of improvement.
The Dusties game, followed by a visit to Cora Lynn, is where the Demons can make their stand.
Jason Wells kicked five goals for the Demons on the weekend and Luke McMaster three, while Nathan Voss and up-and-comer Ethan McDonald played key roles in the victory.
Warragul Industrials just did what they had to do on the weekend…that was to back up a phenomenal victory over Phillip Island with a solid enough performance against Garfield.
And there was no sign of a two-week hangover, with the Dusties beginning fast on their way to a 62-point victory that consolidates their position in fifth place.
The Dusties have been an interesting watch all season, but that win over the Bulldogs before the bye has elevated the intrigue level somewhat.
The Dusties have a touch of class, and a core-base of experience that won’t be overawed when they return to big stage of finals this year.
The Dusties spread the load beautifully on the weekend with Todd Beck, Matt Herbert, Mason McGarrity, Trav Ogden and big-man Kyle Staples kicking two each, while mids Will Gibson and Kane Oldham churned out their usual honest displays.
Garfield remains winless, but games against Kooweerup, Dalyston and Kilcunda-Bass in the run home give them a carrot to chase over the last five weeks of the season.
Zane Harper slotted two, while Zac Soutar continued his stellar season in the green and gold this year.
Inverloch-Kongwak backed into a harder-than-expected battle against Korumburra-Bena on Saturday with the Sea Eagles requiring an eight-goal final term to run out 52-point victors.
The Eagles looked comfortable early, leading by 20 points at the first change, but were outscored four goals to two in the middle stages of the match.
They led by just 10 points at three-quarter-time before class shined through in the end.
Tristan Van Driel drilled four, and Toby Mahoney three, while Lachie Scott and running-machine Corey Casey were busy combatants around the ground.
The Giants showed real pride and commitment to take this one deep, after scoring just eight points in an embarrassing display against Tooradin before the bye.
Paul Fermanis once again showed his elite skills, booting four goals against high-grade opposition, with Matt Lello, Kodie Walker and Daniel Brown also walking away with their heads held well-and-truly high.
And Tooradin-Dalmore has chalked up a ‘baker’s dozen’ of victories with a 74-point win over a brave Kilcunda-Bass.
The Seagulls certainly weren’t pushed to the wire, but were well held by the Panthers who conceded a maximum of four goals in a quarter.
The Panthers really dug deep in this one, with class commodities Nathan Foote, Chris McKay, Ben Eddy and Taylor Gibson taking things up to the undefeated ladder leaders.
But Tooradin – as it has done all season – packed too many punches, with Julian Suarez booting five and Brady Egan four in a near best-on-ground performance.
Hard nuts Adam Galea and Stevie Robb also played major roles in the Seagulls’ 13th straight victory for the year.