There was always going to be an ironic twist. Portland’s former coach Jarrod Holt was lining up as Hamilton Kangaroos coach for the first time against his old side, now coached by Hamilton Kangaroos’ first coach Jake Myles.
Holt struck first in yesterday’s clash at Portland’s Hanlon Park with a diving mark and goal at the 17-minute mark of the second term. You sensed it was sweet, partly because he had been overlooked for another year at the Tigers but, more importantly, because it kept his side in the contest going in to half-time.
But his successor at Portland delivered the final act. Myles ran down gallant Kangaroos defender Roger Morris at the 21-minute mark of the final term and from the resultant free kick from 20 metres out sealed the Tigers’ 17-point win with a goal — the last of the match.
It was sweet for Myles, who was controversially sacked as Kangaroos coach without a game being played before the start of last season.
Myles played down the irony after the match, saying he had played against the Kangaroos twice last season after shifting to North Warrnambool Eagles and it hadn’t entered his mind.
But it capped a good day for the coach, who had plenty of possessions in his side’s 9.9 (63) to 6.10 (46) victory in front of a big crowd.
Portland led by two points at three-quarter-time. But just two minutes into the final term, Kangaroos star midfielder Brad Thomas kicked a goal from outside 50m to put his side in front for the first time in the match.
Six minutes later, diminutive Tigers forward Jay Moody marked and goaled to give his side back the lead.
In a decisive 95 seconds, Kangaroos forward Charlie Youngman juggled a mark in front of goal but missed the set shot.
After a frantic defensive battle down the other end of the ground, Portland midfielder Marcus England gave his side breathing space with a long goal from congestion.
Less than two minutes later, teenager Mitch Bunworth delivered a telling blow, kicking a long goal after running forward from half-back.
It capped a great day for the former Heywood flanker.
He provided plenty of run out of defence and was awarded the Ted Kenna VC Medal for best afield.
The award kickstarted today’s 19th birthday celebrations, coming a handful of hours early.
“I was pretty surprised,” Bunworth said.
He seemed an unlikely goal-scoring hero. But he revealed up until this season he had played all his footy in the midfield or up forward.
“Back is going pretty good,” he said.
Bunworth said he just gave the kick everything from 49 metres.
“I was stoked. I was celebrating like hell,” he said.
It was a tough decision to award the medal. The Kangaroos’ Thomas was impressive all day, while the Tigers had several other leading candidates, including midfielder Luke Crane, ruckman Ben Malcolm and key defender Luke Van Heugten.
Both sides were guilty of turning the ball over, but it was Portland’s inability to find a marking target in attack that will cause Myles headaches.
The Kangaroos have plenty to be upbeat about. Their defence conceded just nine goals for the day and their midfield won more centre clearances than their more highly-fancied opponents.