Hello ! We’ve got OAK-FM here to cover the game…… and I spot a photographer with a giant lens lurking in the vicinity……..you notice the old Corowa-Rutherglen brethren with a bit of a spring in their step. Maybe the football world senses that the ‘Roos’ losing streak is coming to an end today.
To tell you the truth, I’m starting to wonder about it myself.
After all, the Hawks are coming off four straight losses of 90 points or more – and that’s something that can dissipate the confidence-levels of the proudest of football clubs.
Yes, the clash of the O & M’s cellar-dwellers seems to have a expectant atmosphere to it, and has attracted a larger-than-anticipated crowd to the John Foord Oval on this sunny, crisp winter afternoon.
Corowa-Rutherglen have named their youngest-ever debutant. At 15 years 7 months, the 180cm Will Chandler is apparently one out of the box and will be worth watching. He’s the son of former North Melbourne player Jeff, and has been plucked from the Under 16 competition.
The Rovers have also seen fit to promote their Thirds captain, Paul Sanderson – last year’s Leon Dean Medallist – and a highly-skilled small man. Surely, I surmise, as my eyes wander around the visitor’s rooms, this must be one of the Hawks’ youngest-ever sides…….
Chatting with a couple of old ‘Roos about their well-publicised plight, they say it hasn’t had too much of an effect on the attitude of the players . “They haven’t been too competitive on-field but off-field they’re as happy as Larry. It’s nothing that the infusion of a few players won’t fix. We won’t be going anywhere,” said one.
In their best performance this year, they fell short by only a couple of points against Wangaratta. Today’s is the best line-up they’ve fielded since then, and they admit, they’re quietly confident of doing okay today………
The Hawks were off to a flier. Within a minute or two of the start, captain Shane Gaston provided a big target down forward and, with a well-timed lead, cradled the Sherrin to his chest . A lovely pass, but an equally-impressive conversion, as the big fellah landed it over the goal-umpie’s head and it cascaded towards the gum trees.
Most of the early play had been in the Rovers-half of the ground, but when the ‘Roos grabbed the ball from a turn-over and rushed it forward, the locals were in raptures. The silky-smooth Chandler swooped and booted their first. What an entry to O & M ranks !
I happened to be standing alongside the iconic Jimmy Sandral – the triple Morris Medallist – who would have to be the most unaffected and humble champ you’d find. But you could detect that even Gentleman Jim’s chest was swelling with pride.
Especially when the lad kicked his second – and then third goals for the term. He was to go on and finish with five for the game. You had the feeling that, among the smouldering embers of Corowa-Rutherglen’s current misfortunes, fresh hope was born in this new star.
The Hawks’ recent goal-kicking woes ( they had kicked just 22 in the past 4 games) seemed a thing of the past, as they snagged six in the first term through a variety of avenues.
They led by three goals at quarter-time, but it was noticeable that the ‘Roos’ gun forward James Lawton had just started to impose himself on the contest, as had the talented Will Robinson.
Within minutes, during the second term, both were off the field. Robinson had a sprained ankle and took no further part. Lawton returned in the third-quarter with a his knee heavily-strapped and was restricted.
He’s obviously a star, and still finished with three goals. I wonder what a difference he may have made had he been able to help out this young team for the full season.
The Hawks led by 28 points at the main break, but their opponents were snapping at their heels. It was proving an entertaining game and the ‘Roos certainly weren’t out of it.
They mounted a real challenge in the third term and reduced the margin to 15 points at one stage.
But within a matter of five minutes or so, the fight-back was snuffed.
It was possibly attributable to Shane Gaston’s period of dominance at the centre bounce. The Hawks swept the pill forward on three consecutive occasions and goals were booted after strong overhead marks by Chris Knowles, Jack Reiter and Simon Pane.
The result was that they led by 33 points at three quarter-time and had resumed complete control.
One of the highlights of the day, in my book, was the clash between Corowa-Rutherglen stalwart Kade Kuschert and the dogged Hawk centre half back, Michael Clarke. ‘Pup’ punched, marked and persisted magnificently, to take the honours. He and his half-back sidekick Mitch Horwood both give the impression that they are badly in need of a good feed, but you just can’t fault their application.
The classy Dylan Stone was on fire, particularly during a scintillating first half, and amassed 33 possessions, many of which set up scoring opportunities.
Cam Fendyk played possibly his finest game in Brown and Gold and impressed with his precise kicking. He’s a dangerous presence around goal and most of his 23 touches were effective.
Likewise, the enigmatic Jack Reiter made Hawk fans sit up and take notice. Whenever he took possession you figured that something was going to happen. His five goals were a reward for presenting himself at the contest and his long left-foot kicking was a feature.
Josh Newton continued his fine form and was ferocious in his attack on the ball. His work in-and-under was impressive, as was the contribution of the hard-working Ben Clarke.
And Sam Carpenter continually worked himself into position and drove the Hawks forward. He must have appreciated some room to move, after being sweated upon for the last few games.
There weren’t many better players for the Roos than Brent Rose, who starred in defence and on the ball, as did the helmeted Jay O’Donoghue and dynamic Hayden Filliponi.
So the Hawks belted out the club song with plenty of gusto and the group of five players who figured in their first win for the club were the subject of the obligatory Gatorade-spray from their joyous team-mates.
Yes, it sure beats losing………