IT took just an hour of football to provide an insight into who North Warrnambool Eagles are turning to for goals this season after losing almost 40 per cent of its scoring power from 2013.
With no David Haynes (48 goals), Robbie Gregg (49 goals) or Jake Myles (32 goals), new coach Bernard Moloney used the round one clash against his former side Camperdown to showcase an unpredictable forward set up.
The Eagles only had six individual goalscorers but they packed a considerable punch on the scoreboard as they claimed a morale-boosting 17.11 (113) to 13.12 (90) victory at Bushfield Recreation Reserve.
Teenagers Sam McLachlan (4.1) and Josh Corbett (3.0 from 15 disposals) staked their claim as genuine goalscorers with impressive performances across half-forward. McLachlan kicked his four goals in a dominant first half while Corbett, playing as a defensive forward on creative Magpie Luke Mahony, kicked one in each of the second, third and final quarters.
Midfielder Dean Gavin (3.2 from a 36-possession game that included 10 tackles) and ruckman Jordan Dillon (one) were two of the other unexpected avenues to goal alongside regular scoreboard contributors Jeremy Parkinson (four) and Mark Murphy (two).
McLachlan, who played 20 of the Eagles’ 21 matches last year after missing out on North Ballarat Rebels selection, is still eligible to play under 18½.
He revealed his career-high four goals on Saturday had eased second-season anxiety. “Having had a year of senior football, I was feeling a bit of pressure to perform and take that next step,” he said.
“But once you get out there, you forget about it.”
He said he enjoyed being part of the midfield rotations as he picked up 16 kicks and nine handballs.
The dairy farm worker said there was a resolve among the Eagles to improve on last year’s preliminary final loss.
“We are all in this one and everyone is hungry for it.”
Camperdown led by two points at quarter-time but the Eagles looked to have broken the game wide open by half-time when they led by 23 points. They kicked the last goal of the first quarter and then six goals to Camperdown’s two in the second as they pressured the Magpies into mistakes.
Camperdown’s kicking, especially from its defensive 50-metre arc, was terrible as the Eagles capitalised. If the skill errors weren’t enough, the reversal of a free-kick to Mahony in the back pocket when a teammate dumped McLachlan, who then converted from a tight angle, left coach Dan Casey seething.
The Magpies responded in the third term, Marcus Powling was on top in the centre bounces and they sharpened their foot skills, moving the ball quickly. With goals to Jacob Mahony, Casey (two) and Bateman, the Magpies were in front after just 11 minutes.
The Eagles through Parkinson and Gavin restored their lead only for the Magpies to kick the next three to open a 10-point buffer deep in time-on. But Corbett marked and goaled from 40 metres out on a tight angle to wrestle back momentum as the Eagles prepared to come home with the wind. Parkinson became the game-breaker with three last-term goals as they kicked 4.3 to 0.4.
The Eagles have a major injury concern with midfielder Jye Bidmade sidelined for most of the second half.