FIVE first-quarter goals in wet conditions ensured North Ballarat Rebels’ winning streak stretched to eight yesterday.
Rebels forward Matthew Johnston defied the muddy and slippery surface which for the most part dictated play at Warrnambool’s Reid Oval to kick three goals in an opening term purple patch which effectively sunk Geelong Falcons.
The Rebels kicked three goals in the first 10 minutes and had skipped to a 28-point lead at the first break as heavy rain fell.
They only registered three more majors for the entire match — ironically going goalless in the second term when the rain subsided temporarily — but it was enough to help them to a 8.11 (59) to 6.5 (41) win.
The best of those goals came at the start of the third quarter when Jacob Wheelahan dribbled through a clever goal from the pocket.
It was a rare skill highlight on a day when kicking the ball forward, regularly off the ground, was a tactical must.
Wheelahan’s goal stretched the Rebels’ lead to a healthy 31 points — an almost unassailable advantage in the conditions.
Geelong threatened soon after and booted four of its six goals in the third quarter, but the Rebels had the answers.
North Ballarat coach David Loader said the Rebels’ fast start was the catalyst for their win. “We’d been a bit slack the past couple of games in the first quarter so certainly to kick five goals in pretty tough conditions early on was great for us,” he said.
Loader said the Rebels learnt from their win against Western Jets the previous week, which was played in similar conditions at Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium.
He said his team played “Hollywood football” at times in their 18-point win against the Jets.
“But today we got our hands dirty early and worked hard on the simple stuff and the boys got a really good result early on so I was really pleased with that and really pleased with our last quarter,” Loader said.
“This ground is a lot heavier because of the traffic it’s had over the past couple of days.
“But it’s great for the boys. They have to learn to play in these sort of conditions.
“It made it a bit more contested and the footy, perhaps not as pretty to watch, but gee the effort and closeness of the game was good.”
Loader said the Falcons played smarter football in the third quarter which allowed them to bridge the gap to nine points at the final change.
“We had 13 inside 50s for the quarter so it wasn’t like we weren’t getting our share of the footy,” he said.
“We probably made some poor decisions with our deep entries which gave the ball back and they structured up pretty well behind the footy in defensive mode.
“I think we had our opportunities. We just didn’t finish off.”
Geelong Falcons coach Andy Allthorpe said he was content with his side’s endeavour but lamented its slow start.
“It was extremely muddy so it really threw the talent perspective of the game out the window,” he said.
“I can’t fault my boys’ effort for three-and-a-half quarters but I can certainly be extremely critical of them for the first 10 minutes.
“I don’t think we adapted to the conditions as well as Ballarat did.
“They adapted to the wet a lot better early on, got the ball moving forward, had the space for their forwards to work into and they made the most of their chances.”
The south-west had eight representatives play in the showcase match — seven for the Rebels and one for the Falcons.
Portland ruckman Rowan Marshall was the pick of the Hampden players.
The wet conditions didn’t deter the Vic Country tall who gathered 25 disposals in a best-on-ground performance.
Marshall’s Tigers teammate Tom Templeton (20 touches) and Warrnambool’s Thomas Ludeman (18) benefited from his ruck work, while Blues defender Tom Schnerring was solid in defence.
Warrnambool’s Luke McLeod was serviceable with 18 possessions and South Warrnambool’s Liam Howarth and Koroit’s James Gow made the most of late call-ups.
Of the other Rebels, Johnston gathered 19 disposals to complement his three goals and Sam Bennett (21) and Ben Simpson (17) were tireless contributors.
Terang Mortlake’s Josh Carlin made his TAC Cup debut for the Falcons, who were well served by midfielders Harrison Kol and Max Augerinos.