“IT SURE BEATS LOSING……”

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…….

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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………

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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………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAWKS CLINCH A NAIL-BITER….

The noble old John Foord Bridge connects Wahgunyah and Corowa ; Victoria and New South Wales. Upon traversing it, the sight of the Mighty Murray and the surrounding, superbly-manicured parklands, never cease to impress.

Yesterday, literally hundreds of corollas dotted the grassy landscape, then swept up into the towering gum trees of the John Foord Oval, where, screeching and squawking, they presided over the O & M clash between Corowa-Rutherglen and Wangaratta Rovers.

The Hawks had enjoyed a euphoric week, following their dramatic win over arch rivals, Wangaratta. One sensed that they needed to guard against complacency six days later, as they geared up for the encounter with the bottom-of the-table Kangaroos.

The boys from the border are always hard to shake off at home. Despite a winless season, their form hasn’t been all that bad. To me, to be quite frank, the game spelt “Danger”.

And that’s how it panned out.

The Rovers had a goal on the board within minutes of the commencement of play and appeared to be in complete control. The Roos nailed one, the Hawks replied with a couple and thereby maintained a 2-3 goal ascendancy throughout most of the first half.

But they were unable to establish anything resembling a comfortable lead. Inaccuracy around goal plagued their best endeavours and kept their opponents within reach.

Sam Carpenter, who, by the quarter-time break, had been confined to the bench with a hamstring twinge, was accompanied by young gun Connor Shanley, nursing a foot complaint.

‘Carps’ warned of the perils of giving a young side a ‘sniff’ by turning over the ball. Perhaps the flagrant over-use of the pill hinted at a lack of respect for the Roos. Whatever, they were still hot on the Hawks’ tails and by half-time trailed by only 19 points.

The discrepancy in the scoring shots at this stage, was 14 to 5.

A magnificent performance in defence by Michael Clarke was proving a stand-out for the Hawks. He has been a revelation this season and has received yeoman support from tall, under-rated Coen Hennessey.

‘Pup’s’ appearance in this clash drew a couple of members of the famous Gayfer footballing clan from the other side of the river to run the rule over their young relative. They would have been suitably impressed.

He’s a good judge of a marking contest, ever-willing to punch if necessary, and doesn’t mind embarking on a bit of a run if the opportunity permits. In a couple of words, he’s ‘strong and safe’.

Veteran Sean O’Keeffe was again producing another of his top-shelf performances and was his usual steadying influence in defence.

The warnings of the Hawk heirarchy that they would need to sharpen their game proved spot-on.

At one stage in the third term, after they had booted a couple of quick goals, the lead had stretched out to 28 points. Were they about to blow the game wide-open ?

Far from it. By three quarter-time the margin had been reduced to 10 points.

The Roos were now playing desperate football, inspired by a couple of unknowns in Bill Hansen and Sam Harvey, talented Jay O’Donoghue and Tyson Logie and a presentable target in Leigh Schmidt.

They indeed could smell an upset and the sight of Rovers powerhouse Shane Gaston hobbling from the ground with a damaged ankle would have given them further reason for confidence.

The Hawks now needed to dig deep. They had no bench and were confronted by a revitalised home combination.

That they produced some courageous, old-fashioned, scrapping stuff in a contest that was to go right down to the wire, was a credit to them.

Ryan Cobain, who appeared out of sorts early in the game, gave a lift and looked much more comfortable when slotted back onto a wing.

They had to improvise in the ruck with Hennessey and James Smith, at times, but still missed some vital opportunities in front of goal which would have provided breathing space in that hectic final term.

Dan McCullough had heaps of the ball during the day and finished with four goals, He and Dylan Stone, with three, were the main goalkickers. But ‘Chopper’ would have enjoyed a field day had he converted a few of his other chances.

He’d be cursing the successive shots he had early in the final term, from an identical position, which fell away.

When Nick Cox marked strongly and kicked poorly from close range, it seemed that the Hawks were going to kick the game away. But Matt Smith snuck one through to stretch the lead out to two kicks.

Youngster Tristan Lenaz was another who desperately tried to influence the game in the dying stages with some strong physical work in attack.

But still the Roos kept coming. The final few minutes were a classic arm-wrestle, with play predominantly in the Corowa-Rutherglen forward half. It was so desperate that you feared a piercing blow of the whistle and an errant free kick in those scrimmages could decide the game.

The final scoring shot was a rushed Roo behind. The crowd held its collective breath………another pack formed…..bodies desperately scrambled for the ball……the siren blew.

The Hawks had escaped with a courageous, if somewhat lucky, four-point win.