EFFORT, intensity, attack on the ball and players willing to put their bodies on the line are all traits of good football sides.
In those terms, little separated finals aspirants Dennington and Nirranda when they clashed at Dennington Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
Yet the Dogs won by upwards of 10 goals, 15.5 (95) to 4.8 (32). The difference lay in what each side was able to achieve with the ball in hand.
Nirranda, for all its endeavour and ability to get first in at contests, struggled to string together passages of play in the wet.
Dennington could. And made life easy for itself by kicking goals with regularity with the gale at its back, many from within 20 metres.
The efforts of full-forward Chris Keilar summed up the ease at which the Dogs scored. He finished with three goals, all effectively from the goal square.
The pick was a kick out of mid-air with the outside of his boot in the second quarter. He grabbed his second soon after as the hosts led 6.2 to 0.5 at half-time.
Nirranda fought back well after the long break and opened its account when Rick Spokes kicked truly from 40 metres two minutes into the third term.
Dennington grabbed the next two thanks to Josh Lock — after his teammates ran the ball from the wing to within 10 metres — and a scrappy Luke Pearson shot.
But the Blues again pressed. They dominated the back end of the third term and got reward with goals to Aaron Smith, James Dalton and Peter McDowall.
The conditions meant a comeback was unrealistic. The Dogs booted 7.3 to 0.1 to finish the match on the back of a 17-4 inside-50 tally.
The last-term rout typified the Dogs at their best. They were clean, got numbers at stoppages and had players willing to run forward.
The seven goals came from six different avenues, with Kurt Smith booting two in his first match for the season. As was the trend, most came from close range.
Overall, the Dogs’ better players exemplified the conditions. Ben Morris, Jordan Greene, Brandon Everard and Smith, all bigger-bodied onballers, were tireless.
Darcy Lewis was also instrumental at centre half-back, particularly in the first quarter when the Blues, kicking with the wind, could only manage 0.3.
Keilar was also valuable in that he provided a tall option who brought others into the match while Chris Vickery was the pick of the running defenders.
The Dogs’ tactics were also match-defining. They were prepared to turn the match into a slog when kicking against the gale.
“Our instructions for when they had the wind was to play (the bottom) side of the ground. We understand how tricky the wind is,” coach Ben Parkinson said.
“When we had the wind, we wanted to get to the other side of the ground and attack with the wind behind us.
“We were happy to win by five goals in conditions like this. To win by double that was a tremendous effort.”
Nirranda was far from disgraced, just beaten. The Blues only lost the inside-50 tally 50-42 and won overwhelmingly more free kicks, 41-17.
But they couldn’t find enough clean football to hit targets in their forward line. Against the wind, the ball passed half-forward just 12 times for a return of 0.3. Their best players — Jack Spokes, Luke Kensit, Aaron Smith and Peter McDowall — were all midfielders who battled admirably in trying conditions.
“We probably had our chances to kick goals. Unfortunately that’s another thing we’ve got to work on,” coach Aidan Cole said. “We’ve really harped on it the last few weeks, every chance we get we’ve got to kick them, it’s as simple as that.”