WARRNAMBOOL earned a night off training this week after giving North Warrnambool Eagles the blues in yesterday’s Super Sunday encounter at Reid Oval.
The Blues were told to prepare for “a bit of fun” tomorrow night at training and given a reprieve from the usual Thursday session following their 13.9 (87) to 7.10 (52) victory.
The 35-point triumph eased growing internal pressure after last week’s 37-point loss to Camperdown but referred the spotlight to the Eagles. While the Blues go to the interleague bye sitting second on the ladder with a 4-2 win/loss record, the Eagles are sixth with two wins.
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter revealed after the game he had challenged several members of his side’s leadership group to lift. He wouldn’t name names but he was pleased with their effort and contributions.
“Four and two, I’m pretty happy with that,” he said of the Blues’ start.
“Last year we were 3-3, this year we are 4-2.”
It was a different story for Eagles coach David Haynes.
“It’s put us under pressure,” he said of the side’s fourth loss.
“We have Port Fairy after the bye and we are going to have to have a red hot crack when we play everyone the second time.”
The Eagles opened yesterday’s game strongly, kicking the first three goals to open an 18-point buffer at the 12-minute mark. They ran the ball with precision, appeared to be quicker and were able to get the ball inside their attacking 50 fast, leaving Haynes isolated with his opponent Sam Cowling.
He had a hand in the first two goals as forward Jeremy Parkinson, midfielders Dean Gavin, Matthew and Adam Wines got plenty of the ball.
Such was North’s dominance, Warrnambool didn’t get the ball inside its forward 50 in the first seven-and-a-half minutes.
Travis Graham kick-started the Blues with their first goal 16 minutes into the term but it came without any flow and precision.
But the longer the quarter went, the Blues started to win more possessions in the midfield through Josh Walters, Tim Hunt and Graham was looking dangerous across half-forward.
Full-forward Jason Rowan kicked a goal just before quarter-time to close the gap to five points at the break.
Rowan, who was opposed by North assistant coach Tim Sheldon, kicked three of Warrnambool’s four goals in the second term as they broke even in the centre clearances and dominated possession. The 11-point lead at half-time should have been more had Walters converted from 15 metres out on the run just before the siren.
While Rowan was kicking goals, Haynes at the other end created the biggest talking points. He went to the interval goalless and endeared himself to the Blues faithful for a heavy hit on youngster Jake O’Donnell at the 11-minute mark.
After the break, Haynes brought the game to life when he barged through three Warrnambool defenders to snap a goal across his body just 38 seconds into the third term. His effort failed to inspire his teammates as Warrnambool kicked 4.2 to 0.3 in the following 25 minutes to take a 28-point lead to the final change. Haynes and Cowling sparked a push-and-shove after the siren with no ramifications for either side other than a torn jumper for Haynes.
Eight days earlier at the same ground, Warrnambool’s midfield had struggle to win possessions but yesterday Tim Hunt, who was best on ground, Walters, captain Dustin McCorkell, Angus Chirnside, wingmen Darcy Graham and Brendan Moore were impressive contributors.
Cowling, returning from a groin injury, kept Haynes to 2.4, although Carter said his key defender was still only on “one leg”. Rowan and Graham were good, while defender Tim O’Keeffe providing an extra lead-up option after spending large parts of the game across half-forward.
The Eagles were best served by captain Matthew Wines, who according to Eagles statistician Scott Buck had 40 possessions and Gavin 38.
The Eagles were pleased with the performances of young defender Mitch Bowman, who had 15 spoils against players like Andrew McCarthy and O’Keeffe, while Murfett had 17 spoils while opposed to Travis Graham.
Their defensive efforts said it all from the Eagles’ perspective — the margin could have been bigger such was the time the ball spent in Warrnambool’s half.