MERRIVALE tuned up for a blockbuster against Dennington by defeating Old Collegians by 53 points in front of a bumper Good Friday crowd.
Hundreds of fans braved the autumn chill to witness the Tigers dismantle the Warriors 17.11 (113) to 8.12 (60) at Davidson Oval yesterday.
Jet Dowie booted eight goals and was a clear best-afield as the visitors ran riot when kicking with the breeze at their backs to the northern end.
Fifteen of their 17 goals came in the second and fourth quarters — the result of a classy onball brigade feeding Dowie and sidekick Brad Kelly (four goals) at will.
But beyond the forwards’ heroics, their defensive efforts when Old Collegians had the breeze were just as central to the result.
Just three of the Warriors’ eight goals came at the scoring end. They worked hard and patiently into the breeze but lacked conviction kicking with it and struggled to handle Manny Sandow playing as a loose man in defence.
“We said that we didn’t want to be known as going one way, downhill skiers,” Merrivale coach Karl Dwyer said.
“We had to push hard and work back the other day. We had come off two easy games. We’d won by 20 goals and 40 goals.
“I knew today they would be good opposition and hopefully blokes wouldn’t just go one way and they didn’t, which was really pleasing.”
The day had started much differently for both sides, with Old Collegians striking first through lively recruit Marcus Shaw, who goaled from range.
Dowie opened Merrivale’s account with a set shot before Jayden Brooks, on permit from South Warrnambool, got a shot to bounce at a right angle and through.
That was it as the quarter deteriorated into an arm wrestle, the Tigers unwilling to lose possession and the Warriors unable to hit targets up forward.
Merrivale started to seize control in the second term and kicked four of the first five goals — including a Rhys Raymond shot that finished in a neighbouring yard.
But Old Collegians had seemingly done enough to be within reach at half-time when Josh Stapleton dribbled through a clever goal to cut the margin to eight points.
The encouraging signs were a false dawn. The floodgates soon opened and the margin was out to 34 by the long break, 8.5 to 2.1 for the term.
An electric Dowie had half of his tally by then. The pick was an agile snap after he outmuscled Stephen Wythe and brought the ball to ground.
Josh Sobey was prolific at stoppages, Scott Kelly resilient in defence, while Seamus Blake proved his strength and nous will be an asset this season.
By contrast, the Warriors had to substitute ruckman Darren Lloyd out with Achilles tightness. Daniel Weel and Matt Lynch were two of their few winners.
What small chance Old Collegians had of mounting a comeback evaporated when they could only manage 1.5 to 1.1 with the breeze in the third term. That goal, a Josh Stapleton set shot, came on the three-quarter-time siren. Shaw kicked his second moments after the restart to cut the deficit to 24.
But that was as close as the hosts got. Seven goals to two thereafter to the Tigers blew out a margin which should have been much closer.
Old Collegians coach Daryl Beechey said the result was a step sideways for his new-look side.
“We weren’t good enough going with the wind. We just blazed away, probably thought the wind was going to do it all,” he said.
“We didn’t look after our forwards enough. We fell down a bit across half-forward. That’s something we need to work on.”