Mount Buffalo and a snow-capped Hotham reached resplendently towards a cloudless blue sky in the sunny Ovens Valley yesterday.

The twin peaks provided a graceful, towering backdrop to the clash between the Ovens and Murray’s cellar dwellers, Myrtleford and Wangaratta Rovers, at a well-grassed, but greasy, McNamara Oval.

Opinion amongst the media experts was unanimous – it was all Myrtleford – and with some justification, I suppose.

The Hawks had dropped their last five games, as had the Saints. But the League’s most distinct home ground advantage was enough reason for them to plump for the boys from the hills.

Almost from the first bounce, the Rovers were in command. The player who stood out in early exchanges was sleek left-footer Ryan Cobain, who must have gathered six or seven telling possessions, and drove his side deep into attack.

Surprisingly, he always found himself well clear of his opponent, and his disposals seemed to find their mark.

The Saints don’t boast a large reservoir of talent and the absence of reliable goal-kicker Jarred Hayze ( away on fire-fighting duties in Canada) and competitive ruckman Matt Dussin, was a telling blow.

In fact, they were probably kept in the game by indefatigable co-coach Brad Murray, whose spirited tussle with Dylan Wilson was proving to be a real highlight.

So typical of the form pattern of this developing Rovers team is that they are capable of producing 20 minutes or so of finals football. Then they can allow their opponent back into the game through inexplicable lapses in concentration.

Experience will eradicate this.

After an impressive opening term, the Hawks looked ‘on song’. They led by six points, were well in command in the mid-field and their pressure was good.

But could they ‘maintain the rage’ ?

Wisened old supporters, who don’t need these fluctuations of form to test their already questionable stress levels, pondered that question at the break.

No, things were improving as the day wore on. They went out to a 38- point lead at half-time with some polished play up forward.

A telling moment in the context of the game came courtesy of a rugged collision between the dynamic Murray and Brydon Robbins. The young Hawk commendably stood his ground in a collision which saw both players depart the ground.

For the Saints’ newly re-appointed leader it was bad news. A suspected A-C joint injury which could keep him out for several weeks and quash his chances of becoming a dual Morris Medallist.

But he was the player who was doing his darndest to keep his side in the game and they certainly lacked leadership upon his departure.

Robbins, also, failed to re-appear. Hopefully, his diagnosis won’t be as severe.

Myrtleford’s most productive period of the game came in the early stages of the third term. They attacked for a good 10 minutes but could register only 1.5.

The more sceptical of the Hawk supporters were wondering whether this was going to be a reverse of the Findlay Oval encounter earlier in the season, when they ran down the Saints in a miraculous comeback.

But no. Having weathered the initial onslaught, thanks to some brilliance in defence from Sean O’Keeffe, Nick Henderson and co, they stretched their lead to 44 points at the final break and had snuffed out any chance of a Myrtleford revival.

O’Keeffe again emphasised what a master he is at reading the play. He is the ‘Director of Affairs’ in defence and rarely wasted a disposal, in another telling performance. It convinced Rovers fans that, surely, he will be able to prolong his magnificent career by one more year.

The superb run of form of Alex Marklew continued. His last half-dozen games have taken him to another level and his work on-ball and up-forward was inspirational. On a couple of occasions, he burst away, bounced the ball and kicked to advantage. Two fine goals were the icing on the cake.

I loved the display of skipper Shane Gaston, who dominated the hit-outs and picked up plenty of kicks around the ground. He has grown, over the past couple of years, into an inspirational leader.

But really, the Hawks didn’t have a passenger. Dale Martin is another whose game has grown over the season. His work in close was good and he appreciated having his old cohort Luke Peters back in the line-up.

Lochie Dornauf used his body well in one-out duels, to convert on a couple of occasions and finished with four goals. Dylan Wilson was tigerish all day; Nick Henderson capped another solid game with a long goal; Michael Powell continued to grow in confidence ; Dan McCullough and Dylan Stone, both players of class, were always dangerous and both booted a couple of majors; Coen Hennessey had his moments, the pacy Stuart Booth looked the goods, as did Darcy Booth, who used handball to advantage on many occasions.

My pick for BOG in the 77-point triumph.  I’d go for Cobain, who turned in a fine four-quarter display. He beat off a few contenders.

The lack of pressure applied by the Saints must have disappointed their heirarchy and was, by all reports, their worst game of the season.

2014 Morris Medallist Kristan Height, who looked to be a bit proppy, gave his all and attempted to bring his team-mates into the game. The Sharp twins showed a bit at times and are players of potential.

But too photomany players made little, or no contribution.

The Hawks ? They’ll go into the ‘Derby’ clash this Sunday, with renewed confidence. If they can repeat the consistency that they showed at McNamara Reserve, they must be a chance.













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