Beyond the Bounce
Football and netball is back in full swing throughout the district’s four leagues.
Drouin’s Liam Axford, a busy player all day in the Gippsland League match at Moe on Saturday, gets wrapped up in a tackle as players across the region fought out games in warm conditions.
Also back is The Gazette’s “Beyond the Bounce” liftout, this season expanded to 12 pages with full coverage of football and netball in the Gippsland, Ellinbank and district, West Gippsland and Mid Gippsland competitions.
Drouin suffered a start of season setback when it was soundly beaten by a sharp Moe at Moe on Saturday.
The Lions, a big improver last year to finish in fourth spot, look a genuine finals’ prospect again after brushing aside Drouin 16-24 to 8-7.
The margin would have been greater but for Moe’s inaccuracy in front of goal in the final quarter when it kicked 2-11.
The Hawks are a better side than last year when it failed to win a game and showed plenty of encouragement in the first half with which new coach Jordan Kingi, who missed on Saturday due to a shoulder injury, said he was reasonably pleased.
But he was far from happy with the second half.
In a post-match address to the team he was critical that the “fundamentals they’d worked on during the pre-season” went out the window after half time.
Moe’s performance, however, was slick and purposeful.
The opening to the game was fast and hectic, the ball swinging from end to end but both defences holding sway.
It was almost 10 minutes before the Lions got the first goal that was soon answered through an accurate Rhys Fairlie snap.
Moe got out to an 18-point lead before Drouin pegged the gap back to six points at the end of the quarter with late goals to Nathan Guy and Bob McCallum.
Liam Axford had been a busy on-baller for Drouin and would continue to be one of best four quarter contributors.
The Lions got away to a great start to the second term, a goal within 40 seconds.
Drouin‘s ball carriers were under pressure from the opposition but neither side was giving ground.
Rhys Salter, another good contributor all day, got the Hawks’ first goal of the quarter before Moe strung together three in a row.
Tom Barr’s running goal from an angle almost 50 metres out as the siren sounded brought Drouin within 19 points, 7-11 to 5-4, at half time.
Some poor disposal errors, most tellingly in its defensive half of the ground, had crept into the Hawks’ game and Moe had showed its ability to catch Drouin out with its running ahead of the ball as it swept from defence.
Pressure may have accounted for some of Drouin’s mistakes but there is little excuse for illdirected short kicks from the back lines from kick-ins from behinds, marks or free kicks that gave the Lions some easy turnovers.
Moe’s first two goals of the third term came from kicks off the ground as Drouin fumbled and failed to force behinds from close to goal.
Fairlie got one of those back, and his second for the day, before the Lions kicked the next five goals to take a 14-13 to 5-5 lead into the final change.
Drouin’s problems had been compounded when James McKellar, one of the Hawks’ best across half back, left the ground with a rib injury early in the third quarter.
A goal to Moe only one minute into the final term was answered by McCallum, on the end of a long run and kick from Barr on a wing.
From then on it was all Moe, its inaccuracy the only shortcoming.
Barr got the last goal of the match as the contest fizzled out.
Drouin showed it is a much more competitive side this year and it will get better when a few return from injuries and other absences over the next few weeks and when they settle a line-up that has a number of new faces.
Assistant coach Eddie Morris will become more influential.
Bunyip recruits Jeb McLeod and Michael Laszczyk were effective and Wayne Morris, back after an absence and named captain, was one of the better backmen.
Axford was good in and around the packs, first-gamer Jesse Craig made a promising debut and Rhys Salter, Liam Anderson, Sam Piner, Nathan Guy, McKellar and David Miller were solid.
Moe has lost a couple of key midfielders from last year but look to have covered them well.
Josh Pearce took little time to show he was a valuable recruit coming from Newborough and the Lions have plenty of younger players that have stepped up seamlessly to the seniors.
Coach James Blaser, a joint league best and fairest last year, was a key play maker especially in the second half.
Michael Laszczyk, left, in a battle for a loose ball with Moe coach James Blaser, showed plenty of promise in his first outing in Drouin colours. The Hawks were well in the game for a half before a slick Moe took charge..
Drouin’s Jakob Simpson loses the ball in a strong Moe tackle during the reserves game on Saturday. Simpson was an effective playing kicking two of the Hawks’ goals.