SAM Dobson wasn’t even named in Koroit’s side on Thursday night, such was his chance of overcoming an ankle injury, yet somehow he managed to play.
Coach Adam Dowie opted to nurse him through the game, sending him to full-forward instead of centre half-forward to ease his workload.
Somehow, Dobson kicked a career-best 10 goals.
So much for going easy. Instead of looking after his right ankle, he had 13 shots at goal (all with his right foot) for a return of 10.3.
The 20-year-old was unstoppable. In slippery, windy and heavy conditions, he marked cleanly and kicked accurately.
It was a performance to remember.
It had Koroit supporters looking for the club’s history books and the highest tally by a Saint after the 17.12 (114) to 5.3 (33) result.
It was the best individual performance from a Saint since Andrew Paton kicked 10, including seven in the final term, against Camperdown in round nine 2007.
Dobson kicked double the number of goals Portland’s 21 players could manage.
He kicked five in the first half — the equivalent of what Portland managed in double the time.
“I have never kicked more than five in a game,” Dobson said as he sat with an ice pack strapped to his ankle.
Dowie might be tempted to use him at full-forward more often, although not if Dobson has his say.
“I prefer centre half-forward for the space,” he said.
“I’m not the fastest player that’s for sure, I’m better up the ground. I’ll leave that spot to Joe (McLaren).”
Dobson said he owed his success to his teammates, particularly captain Ben Goodall, midfielder Isaac Templeton and older brother Ben, who regularly kicked it to his advantage.
The trio were decisive for the Saints. Dobson said he had given himself a fitness test on Friday night and despite there being a little bit of pain, he felt with his ankle strapped up he would be right.
Plus, he wanted to ensure his side locked away a double-chance spot or better.
“We really want to take that top spot,” he said.
“We thought Portland was going to be a real challenging game.
‘‘We thought we had to get the win, just win. We played really well, we got the four points and percentage.”
The percentage kept the Saints on top with one match remaining against eighth-placed Hamilton Kangaroos.
Second-placed Warrnambool is 2.42 percentage points behind and unlikely to close the gap because it hosts fourth-placed North Warrnambool Eagles next week, so the Saints are in prime position to book the first weekend of the finals off.
“We have got to keep going, we have to finish off the season, we can’t drop off,” Dobson said.
“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going into the finals. I’ve never played in a grand final.”
Saturday’s match was decided in the first quarter.
The only thing Portland won for the day, apart from 16 free kicks, was the coin toss and skipper Rhys Egan elected to kick with a strong wind favouring the eastern end of the ground.
But the Tigers struggled to get their hands on the ball as Koroit repeatedly drove forward.
For the first 14 minutes, Portland’s defence held firm but tellingly failed to find enough run, repeatedly bombing the ball into the waiting arms of Koroit defender Chris McLaren.
McLaren not only took Tigers spearhead Jarrod Hayse out of the contest, he set up many attacking moves.
With Goodall and Templeton on top in the middle and Ben Dobson racking up possessions across half-forward, Koroit kicked 5.1 to 2.0 in the opening term. Sam Dobson kicked three.
When the Saints kicked another 3.5 to 1.1 in the second term as rain lashed across the ground, they held a 35-point lead at the main break which extended to 59 at three-quarter-time before blowing out to 81.
The Tigers looked good when teenager Hamish Withers and the Van Heugten brothers ran the ball out of defence and found Hayse, but for the most part it was all Koroit.