NORTH Ballarat Rebels coach David Loader had a simple message for his players after a stunning 99-point TAC Cup qualifying final loss — better for longer.
In a bizarre match against Calder Cannons, the Rebels led by 21 points at quarter-time and trailed by just five points at half-time before being belted in the second half. The Cannons kicked 17.3 to 1.5 in the second half as they bolted to a 25.10 (160) to 9.7 (61) win.
“We were outgunned severely after half-time,” Loader said.
“The disappointing thing is we had far too many players who waved the white flag when it got tough.”
Loader said the Rebels had dominated the opening term and had opportunities to be four or five goals in front at half-time after missing straight-forward shots for goals and producing costly turnovers.
“The first quarter was the best quarter of footy we’ve played all season. We just couldn’t land the killer blow. We got three or four goals in front and then we missed a couple of goals from 20 metres out.
“Really we could have gone in four goals up at half-time and that would have changed the game.”
Loader promised a selection shake-up for next Sunday’s cut-throat semi-final.
“We will make changes,” he said.
“There are a couple of players who have runs on the board but ...”
The Rebels were without six of their best eight players because of injuries.
“Are we going to get them back? We may get one. We have a couple who were close to selection who missed out pushing.”
Loader said Portland ruckman Rowan Marshall continued to impress, rucking all day against taller and physically-stronger opponents.
“He did an enormous job.”
Warrnambool centreman Tom Ludeman was also impressive. He said the hard in-and-under midfielder provided plenty of drive and never stopped trying.
The Rebels play Sandringham Dragons in a semi-final this weekend.
The south-west’s other TAC Cup side, the Geelong Falcons, are also in a knockout semi-final next Sunday against Dandeonong Stingrays after suffering a one-point loss to Oakleigh Chargers, 9.10 (64) to 9.9 (63).