DEAKIN University has started the 2012 season with renewed optimism after surviving a nailbiting round-one clash with East Warrnambool.
In the opening standalone match of the Warrnambool and District league season, Deakin held off a defiant East Warrnambool 11.10 (76) to 10.11 (71), much to the relief of victorious coach Craig Fowler.
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He said the win was about nine months in the making after the Sharks sat down in the middle of last year to discuss how to rejuvenate the club.
“We knew we had to do something to change this club and we’ve been working really hard to do it,” he said.
“We knew it wasn’t going to happen straightaway but we’ve picked up a couple of recruits and it would be fantastic if we could continue to grow with those players.”
The Sharks established a mini-break in the third quarter after some slick play and precise delivery to boom recruit Dylan Chaplin-Burch, who basically had the entire attacking arc to himself.
Late in the term, a scuffle immediately after a Deakin major gave the visitors a free kick directly in front of goal, which they converted to stretch their lead out to a game-high 25 points.
“I think we stuck to our game plan (in the third quarter) and it paid off,” Fowler told The Standard after the match.
“The boys were running into space and we kept trying to move the ball as quickly as we could.”
But East refused to give in, going into three-quarter time 14 points down before kicking the first two goals of the last term.
The latter was thanks to a smooth manoeuvre from Marcus Clarke, who side-stepped around his opponent before snapping it through from about 35 metres out, reducing the gap to two points.
A free kick for a high tackle on Chaplin-Burch and a miskick in Deakin’s 50 handed them the next two goals.
East rallied again, making the Sharks pay for a ruck error in the forward pocket that saw them smash the ball into a vacant Bombers goal square.
The host had another attempt for goal in the dying minutes but it hit the post, with the Sharks hanging on.
It was a nerve-wracking end to a match that started scrappy as both teams were untidy with their skills.
The Bombers had quicker ball movement, often taking the ball through the corridor before looking for Andrea Miar.
The centre-half forward was their go-to player, pushing up the ground to take grabs before palming the ball off to his hard-running teammates.
The Bombers then had trouble finding targets in their forward 50, mainly because of Fowler, who was commanding in the backline as he intercepted numerous kicks.
Down the opposite end, Chaplin-Burch was the target for the Sharks and the target of some unwanted and off-the-ball attention from East recruit Tour Miar.
In a separate incident, Tour was yellow-carded shortly before quarter-time, when Deakin led by a point.
The Sharks controlled the first part of the second quarter.
Their intense pressure took them to six inside 50s before the Bombers got it in their attacking arc.
But the visitors could not capitalise on their dominance, with a goal not coming until halfway through the term through recruit Clinton Baker, who started to assert himself around the ground.
He was crucial in the visitors jumping out to a 16-point lead before an East revival, which was sparked by Andrea’s ruckwork.
He helped the Bombers reduce the deficit to five points at the long change.
The league will confirm today if there was a report from Tour’s yellow card.