AN INCREDIBLE second half — after a goalless first half — was enough to lead Merrigum to an upset 8.16 (64) to 8.10 (58) win over Avenel on Saturday.
The heavily-fancied Avenel pulled away to 5.6 (36) to 0.3 (3) lead at the main break, leading most to think it was almost game over.
However according to Merrigum coach Steve Lawlor, the belief never died in the Bulldogs.
“The outside perception was probably that we would struggle a little bit,” Lawlor said.
“But internally we never doubted we could do it, not even at half time.”
Lawlor said a “re-jig” of the forward half allowed his side to find an avenue to goal.
“We were actually winning the stoppages in every quarter on the weekend and our defensive structures were holding up well, it was just going forward that was costing us a little.
The Bulldogs kicked eight goals to three in the second half to steal an unlikely victory.
Dylan Fitzgerald was moved on to prime Avenel play-maker Michael Tinkler after quarter time and managed to quell his influence.
“Dyl just loves the defensive side of the game and Tinkler was pretty much doing what he wanted in the first quarter, so Dyl’s job on him after that was terrific.
Lawlor is confident his group can make an impact on the competition this season.
“Without making any rash predictions, I honestly believe our local talent is as good as anyone in the competition.”
The Bulldogs will face Longwood this weekend who are coming off a strong win in round one.
“We are aware of what they are building out at Longwood and we have a great respect for them but we will be out to go two and zip.”
DESPITE a 13-goal loss Merrigum coach Louise Richards is content with how the seniors played.
The team played a more senior Avenel side and put up a good fight for their first game of the season, going down 28-41.
“Avenel is a much smarter team on the court so we could learn a thing or two from them,” Richards said.
Ebony Halliwell and Allana Adams put on stellar performances and were best on for the match.
Other notable appearances included Jorja Hoskin and Jaymee Frampton who stepped up from the B grade side to assist.
Hoskin provided fresh legs in the centre court and Frampton ensured there was some seniority up the attacking end.
However it wasn’t enough to hold off Avenel’s attack.
“Our defensive end was quite strong and our goalers showed some great potential for people who hadn’t played together,” Richards said.
“But it was obvious we needed more fitness on the court so that will be a focus. While nothing is going to change in a week we’re looking to improve long-term.”
However Richards remained positive and said it’s early days for the young team, praising the B grade duo for moving up for the game.
“They stepped up and played really well — they showed the potential to be consistent,” she said.
GIRGARRE will be out to bounce back this weekend after coach Shannon Tucker labelled his side’s last stanza against Stanhope “the worst he has seen since he has been at the club”.
The Roos were in touching distance at half time, just 15 points behind the highly fancied Lions.
However a 13-goal second half from Stanhope led them to a 95 point victory.
“We were obviously right in it in the first half, but we didn’t take our chances,” Tucker said.
“Then after that, the flood gates sort of opened and they had momentum and they were able to run away with it. Our second half was really disappointing, we were just really flat.
“I think it was probably good for us too, to come up against one of the flag favourites early on.
“It was a lesson for us early on that the good sides will make you pay and they did that to us.”
Tucker expects his side to learn from the loss and move on quickly.
“It’s only round one and we understand that, it’s definitely not panic stations or anything like that,’’ he said.
“The boys were disappointed after the match but we will re-group and move forward ready for round two.’’
Girgarre will come up against a struggling Ardmona this weekend after the Cats conceded 39 goals against Lancaster.
“We just have to prepare this weekend as normal as possible and go back to basics.
“We can’t be worrying about winning already or anything like that, our structures need work after the weekend and that’ll be our focus.”
GIRGARRE is finding their feet and while last weekend’s fall may have left them sore coach Chloe Kavanagh is remaining positive.
Stanhope proved to be too much for the side in a 79-16 demolition, however Kavanagh said it gave the team their first opportunity to get acquainted on court.
“It’s the first time we’ve played together because we hadn’t had everyone available at one time for our practice matches, so it was good to get out there as a group,” she said.
“On the scoreboard it looked like an absolute killing but out there on the day it felt really positive and we made sure everyone came off the court feeling like they had contributed.
“We kept trying different things but one thing the team needs to work on is using their voices more.”
Best on went to Jacinta Turgoose and Jac Jahan scored the incentive award.
“Jacinta worked really hard — playing against Chicky Barr is no easy feat so she and Sarah Goodsell were kept pretty busy,” she said.
“Our goal shooting accuracy was also off — we were at about 50 per cent accuracy which is something we need to improve on.”
Throw in an ankle injury to Erin Potter and it seemed Girgarre wouldn’t be able to hold off the Stanhope onslaught.
But last week has shown the seniors their areas of weakness, something which Kavanagh says will put them in good stead for this week’s clash with Ardmona.
“This week we’re working on sticking to our set plays and hopefully coming away with a win,” she said.
LANCASTER kicked off their 2018 campaign with a thumping 235-point win over Ardmona in round one on Saturday.
The Wombats had 16 different goal kickers on the day with bags of nine and five to Chris Eddy and Michael Hill respectively.
First-year Lancaster coach Corey Carver was pleased with his side’s ability to run the full game out.
“We didn’t rest on our laurels at any stage and kept pushing which was pleasing,” Carver said.
“I think we kicked about 14 goals in the last quarter so it was a good way to finish.”
While it might have been one-way traffic for most of the day, Carver said his side was still able to put pre-season plans into action.
“That was the main thing for us, just focusing on what we could do.”
Lancaster will face Violet Town this weekend in what’s sure to be a tougher contest.
Last year’s Grand Finalists are coming off a solid round one win over Murchison-Toolamba.
“This week will be a much bigger test for our boys, we will be able to get more of a grasp of where we are at.
“They have a really strong on ball brigade so are looking forward to the challenge.
In added motivation for the Wombats, club favourite son Rikki Busch will play his 200th game.
CO-COACH Laura Thomson is confident after the A grade team’s weekend performance against Ardmona.
In a tight game the side managed to seal a one-goal victory against a strong Ardmona side, coming out on top 47-46.
Reh Collyer, Chelsea Nicholson and Zoe Hayes proved to be assets for the team scoring best on ground.
Nicholson is a new face to the club coming from Merrigum while Hayes is a familiar face who has joined the seniors after a stint in the junior levels.
“Being a new team it was a good gelling experience for the girls — we made hard work for ourselves because we had a couple of opportunities which we missed but it was a good run for round one,” Thomson said.
“Ardy came out fairly strong and were accurate with their goals but our girls worked hard bringing it down the court.”
Thomson said the team will have a lot of work to do across the court to make the most of the new talent throughout the season.
“There’ll be a lot to do going forward but this has given us a good start to the season and we’ll be working on some plays to bring it all together,” she said.
STANHOPE got its season off to the best possible start on Saturday, kicking 13 second-half goals on its way to victory over Girgarre.
The Lions withheld a strong push from the Roos early in the game to run away with a 20.9 (129) to 4.10 (34) win.
“It’s always good to start the year off with a win,” co-coach Rob Montgomery said.
Montgomery said his side’s ability to restrict the Roos’ game plan was the main factor in their dominant second half.
“We were able to restrict what they were trying to do with the ball and then once we gained some control it really opened up for us.”
The Lions managed to have 11 different goal kickers in the win, something Montgomery thinks is one of their main strengths.
“We don’t go out there to have a certain goal kicker so to get that sort of input from everyone is pleasing.”
The Lions will face a rampant Tallygaroopna side in round two, who are coming off a thumping 77-point victory over last year’s premiers Nagambie.
“It’ll certainly be a good test for us, we will just prepare how we have been for the last few games and we will see what happens.”
THE seniors eased into the season with a more than comfortable win over a fresh-faced Girgarre.
Even with the side calling on Under 17 players Lill Holden and Liv Quattrocchi to make numbers, Stanhope had no problem winning 79-16.
Best on went to ex-GVL player Chicky Barr and Jamieson Young.
“It was a solid team effort, we had the girls from the Under 17s side step up and they did phenomenally which was great experience for them,” coach Kerrie Gray said.
“Liv got in, did the work and played really well. It was an outstanding effort for the 15-year-old.”
This week the side squares up against Tallygaroopna and Gray is expecting a tougher battle.
“Tally will be tough, we’ll be going in a little under-manned so this week we’re working on our match fitness,” she said.
“Compared to last week, Tally is the opposite end of the spectrum.”
She said the team will be setting themselves up for wins with a heavy focus on plays and making the most of the on-court talent.
“We’re not focusing solely on getting wins but if you set goals to achieve then the wins should come,” she said.