Jets Bounce Back
Western Jets have returned to the TAC Cup winners list after grinding out a 22-point win over Dandenong in a scrappy affair at Shepley Oval on Saturday as Anna Harrington reports.
A six goals to one second quarter paved the way to victory for the Jets, before they withstood a late Stingrays surge for a deserved 14.6 (90) to 10.8. (68) victory.
Jack Charleston led the way for the Jets in a dominant 26-possession performance, while Lachlan Fairley gathered 23 possessions and kicked three goals rotating out of the ruck.
For Dandenong, captain Alex Benbow was a clear best on ground, almost-single-handedly taking on the Jets’ midfield, while enigmatic forward Brett O’Hanlon snared five goals.
Jets coach Steve Kretiuk said he was particularly pleased with the mental and physical toughness his team showed when challenged in the second half.
“It was a pretty close game, up until three quarter time there was only a goal in it… [so] it was just about maintaining our pressure and our intensity,” Kretiuk said.
“We really wanted to try and outlast them in the game and I thought we [did].
“We just kept our pressure up, we had guys out on their feet [and] we lost a couple of guys early so… it was a really good team effort.”
Kretiuk praised the efforts of hard-working Melton midfielder Jack Walker and 16-year-old debutant Josh Bench, who earned two goals from his 15 possessions.
The Jets drew first blood when Jordan Mead marked the ball inside 50 and kicked truly from close range in an ideal start for the visitors.
The highlight for the Jets came through Fairley, who in his stint up forward snared a magnificent contested mark and converted, while at the other end, Vic Country midfielder Jason Pongracic sidestepped his opponent and easily slotted a long-range goal for the Stingrays.
Sloppy skills proved costly for both sides, with the quarter largely marred by fumbling and missed opportunities, the home side scrapping their way to a seven-point lead at the first break.
Despite losing full back Nathan Franzi to an ankle injury, the Jets took control in the second quarter as Fairley and fellow ruckman Dylan Jones gave their midfield first use of the ball.
Fairley’s two goals bookended the quarter, with his second effort kicking the Jets out to a 24-point lead at halftime, the biggest lead of the match.
The Shepley Oval wind continued to influence the match in the third term as Dandenong stole the momentum, Benbow leading a midfield resurgence as they kicked five goals to one for the quarter, with O’Hanlon contributing four in a row.
With Pongracic’s second goal, the home side hit the front late in the quarter before tough over-ager Courtney Hylton stole back the lead for the visitors with a dramatic running goal, giving them a five-point lead at the final break.
The Jets eventually kicked away in the final term, with well-timed goals to Matthew Sutherland and Ben Norton ensuring the visitors ran out unlikely winners.
Dandenong assistant coach Craig Black said while his team fought hard in the second half, a wasteful first quarter ultimately proved costly.
“We probably made the right choices going forward, it’s just our skill level [and] our execution wasn’t up to standard,” Black said.
“At the start of the first quarter it was probably a three goal breeze and to go in pretty even at quarter time... [when] in the second quarter they might’ve kicked six goals straight... [we were] really behind the eight-ball from there.
“I think the boys can hold their head[s] up [with] the second half, they really tried hard but the first quarter really hurt us [due to] not capitalising on the scoreboard.”
This week, the Jets head to Shepley Oval for the second game running as they take on the ladder-topping Gippsland Power while Dandenong will travel to Highgate Recreation Reserve for a similarly tough assignment against third-placed Calder.