Sandy's AFL-quality opponent in qualifier

Sandy Robinson wheels and deals with Port Melbourne.

Sandy Robinson wheels and deals with Port Melbourne.

A 103-game Hawthorn ruckman with a point to prove before AFL finals.

That’s the opponent confronting Port Melbourne’s Sandy Robinson in today’s VFL qualifying final against Box Hill Hawks.

The former Port Fairy star will line up against Hawthorn-listed tall Ben McEvoy in the ruck at North Port Oval.

Throw fellow AFL-listed tall Luke Lowden in there for good measure and Robinson knows he’ll have to be at his best to give the Borough midfielders an advantage.

But Robinson, whose VFL career is just 16 games old, is ready for the challenge. 

The 2013 Hampden interleague representative started the season playing forward before a mid-year injury to former Collingwood tall David Fanning thrust the number one ruck responsibilities his way.

“Dave did his calf and has been out since and I was lucky enough to take up the ruck role,” Robinson said.

“It was a bit tough early on, especially as a forward.

“You hear a lot of people who are quick to criticise young, tall forwards in the AFL but it’s hard and it takes time.

“You have to keep chipping away and be diligent and keep learning.

“We have old, wise heads playing as well, which helps, and you have to keep teaching yourself and asking questions.

“When I moved into the ruck that was something that came a bit easier.

“I am glad I made the change and had a crack while I could.”

Robinson said there was pressure for spots at Port Melbourne. The Borough won the minor premiership with a 16-2 win/loss record.

Robinson credited a strong team fabric for the stand-alone club’s strong home-and-away campaign.

“I suppose to back it up, Williamstown finished third in their first year as a stand alone as well, so it shows what team unity can do,” he said.

“Our moral is team first — that’s unconditional.”

But Robinson said the Borough couldn’t afford to rest on past results.

He said meeting reigning premier Box Hill, a team brimming with Hawthorn-listed players, was the ideal way to start a tough finals series.

“Ayresy (coach Gary Ayres) is big on saying the job is only half done,” Robinson said.

“He congratulated us but was pretty clear there is still a lot of work to do and that was just the start of it.”

Robinson said Ayres was “one of the best coaches I’ve played under”.

The former Geelong and Adelaide mentor was a strong influence on former South Warrnambool midfielder Sam Dwyer, who is now in his second season at Collingwood.

“His ability to articulate what he wants and to bring 25 blokes together on the same page, I don’t know how he does it,” Robinson said.

“You look at Port’s success since he took over in 2008 and what he has done with the resources he has (is great).

“He’s approachable and makes you think about things.”

Terang Mortlake’s Nick Couch and Kolora-Noorat’s Ben Moloney will play in VFL elimination finals for North Ballarat and Collingwood respectively this weekend. 

justine.mc@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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