Power Stay On Top

Loy Yang B Gippsland Power had their integrity and character tested last weekend in their match with the North Ballarat Rebels and responded magnificently to record a significant victory that will resonate for the rest of the 2011 TAC Cup season. They were under extreme pressure for a variety of reasons and demonstrated the sort of resilience that has put them on top of the competition ladder and has them widely respected in the football world.

The first element of the pressure that they were under was the fact that the Rebels were only one game behind them on the ladder and were keen to put their case as the team to beat in 2011. Adding to the need for total focus was that the side was again without their national championship representatives and the side needed positive leadership from the top-agers and competitive input from the youngsters who had been given a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the side.

Based on their response against the Stingrays the week before in similar circumstances, hopes were high that the boys were more than ready for the challenge. However, by half time in the Rebels game they were down by twenty nine points and playing some ordinary football. This provided the third component of the pressure that they were under but, to their credit they stuck to their task, played smarter, more productive football and stormed home to record a morale boosting win against the odds.

The Power welcomed the return of Anthony Tipungwuti who was available after being named best-on-ground after a three goal performance for the Northern Territory against the highly-rated Western Australia side last weekend. Ominously, the Rebels opened the scoring with a long and direct forward thrust but the Power were unable to be as efficient with their attacking forays.

It took some positive play by Danny Butcher, Jack Johnstone and Tipungwuti to allow Tom Muir to reply for the Power but that was the end of the penny section for most of the term for the Power. The Rebels kicked the next four majors with some good play of their own and some really poor decisions by the Power. The Power were attacking the wrong side of the ground and the Rebels were clinically exploiting the turnovers that this indirect play was causing.

It took a “hanger” and goal by Johnstone to get the Power within seventeen points at the end of the quarter but things were still looking grim for the side. It wasn’t as if the Power weren’t having a go, but their ball use was ordinary when compared to the Rebels. The Power had managed six scores from their twelve forward fifty entries where the Rebels had eight from their nine entries.

The alarm bells were ringing in the Power coach’s box when the Rebels kicked the opening three goals of the term as a result of poor ball use by the Power and the Rebels ability to exploit the resultant turnovers. After a circuitous journey through the hands of Shaun Marusic and Johnstone, Shannon Lange was able to stop the rot with a much needed goal. However the Rebels hit back again from the centre bounce and it took a bit of “Tippa” magic from the pocket to reduce the Rebel lead to just under five goals by half time.

Going into the second half the Power faced a severe challenge of their character if they were to play the sort of purposeful football needed to change the momentum of the game and allow them to get a better reward for their hard work in the contests around the ground. Finally they used the correct side of the ground to attack when Josh Scott and Josh Cashman found Tim Membrey for a critical goal.  

Some pressure football saw Luke Thompson find Scott for another goal and it looked like the boys were finally going to be competitive on the scoreboard. Instead of going on with it, the Power let the Rebels off the hook with some poor decisions and they kicked three soft goals to get six majors ahead and seemingly have the Power on the ropes. Membrey took a good mark for a vital goal and then combined with Nick Graham to allow Muir to kick another and reduce the margin to less than four goals by the last change.

It was now time for the boys to see what they were made of, with the pressure well and truly on them after some very unconvincing ball use in the first three quarters. They had demonstrated their trademark intensity in the contested issues but had let themselves down once attempting to consistently use the ball with some degree of purpose.

Sam Docherty set the tone early after some more efficient use of the ball but the Rebels replied and things didn’t look good for the Power. A more precise transition via the right side of the ground saw Membrey kick another and the boys were finally playing smarter football. This was evident as the ball was moved through Matt Willcocks, Marusic, Tipungwuti, and Thompson to Membrey who kicked his fourth for the match.

Membrey then turned provider when he linked up with Daniel Jackson who found Johnstone in for another and suddenly the game was up for grabs. The Power were applying relentless and uncompromising pressure on the Rebels and consequently were giving themselves second and third chances to keep the ball in dangerous positions. Youngsters Tom Fusinato and Graham combined for a goal to give the Power the lead for the first time since the first term. They were irresistible as they threw themselves into every contest and their enthusiasm was almost palpable.

The coup-de-gras came when Graham and Marusic combined to allow Tipungwuti to kick another special goal and, although the Rebels scored a consolation goal after the siren, the Power had scored a remarkable goal when they looked, for most of the game, like being well beaten. The win meant a lot to the boys and the gusto with which they sang the club song showed just how much.

Final scores Loy Yang B Gippsland Power 14 goals 15 behinds 99 points defeated North Ballarat Rebels 14 goals 8 behinds 92 points. Goal kickers Tim Membrey 4, Jack Johnstone, Tom Muir and Anthony Tipungwuti 2, Sam Docherty, Nick Graham, Shannon Lange and Josh Scott 1. When the team needed positive leadership it was Danny Butcher who showed how it should be done. Once again he attacked the ball with a ferocity that is breathtaking and coolly used his many possessions with vision and flair. His ability to run hard for the whole game was pivotal in the sides victory.

By Bryan Mitchell


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