Inside story of GV’s win at home of footy

May 24, 2018

Bradley Mangan, Michael Mattingly, Patrick Wearden and Thomas Holman during the 2018 - WorkSafe Community Championships Seniors match between Ballarat FNL and Goulburn Vallery FL at the MCG. Photo by Luke Hemer.

WHEN you have only been in town for five minutes, and you’ve only played six games for the best team in regional Victoria, the last thing you expect is to be asked to play for the interleague team.

And to be honest, after my performance at the weekend it might be the first and last time I get asked.

I started OK, getting a few touches but then faded out of the game.

Fortunately the rest of the team was outstanding and steered us to a hard fought 20.8 (128) to 16.10 (106) against the Ballarat competition.

I was really pumped to play, I had never been in an interleague team before and the chance to train and compete alongside the best players in any league is always a great challenge.

So when I was asked if I was keen to put my hand up it was just a matter of how high the coach would like it raised.

Mind you, when he mentioned we would be playing on the MCG it did add a little extra zing to the offer.

At 21 I still consider myself a young bloke, and with so many better and more experienced players than myself in the squad, the chance to learn from them also drew me in.

Heading to our first training run at Seymour with Tatura boys Brad and Matt Ryan, we were unsure what to expect.

But coach Luke Morgan only wasted about one breath before he hammered home his message: If you don’t want to be 100 per cent committed to this team go home now; if you stay you are here because you want to win.

No question, Luke and his support staff were deadly serious about this game – and their intensity and passion about the GV rubbed off on the other players too.

Obviously representative footy has its question marks, but there was no doubt our side was in it to win it.

After another training session in Seymour and a final run in Shepparton last Wednesday, the side was announced.

I was stoked to be in the side with three of my Kyabram mates: Brad Mangan, Patty Wearden and Tom Holman.

The build-up to the clash was fairly normal – I wouldn’t say the four of us are the types to get overly hyped up for a game of footy.

Our team ran through some basic structures and did a little opposition analysis on the Ballarat outfit, but the main focus was playing our GV brand of footy – the open, flowing and fast game that makes our competition good to watch.

We headed down on Friday night, preparing for an opposition we didn’t know much about and a ground most of the team had never played on.

It was a strange feeling.

We rocked up to the G on the Saturday morning keen to get stuck in. There was a good feeling in the rooms – everyone was obviously really keen to be playing on the most famous of all footy grounds.

Before the game, Morgan reiterated how much the result meant to our league and what a fantastic opportunity we were being presented with. I don’t think many of the boys needed to be told twice.

It was a weird feeling heading out to an empty stadium that can hold 100,000. But we could imagine what it would be like packed to the rim on Anzac Day or Grand Final day.

The boys were soaking it up as we ran out onto the ground – the sheer size of the stands was imposing enough, and the deck itself was in great condition.

The big screen was on and a few of the boys were fairly happy with how they looked.

Once the ball was bounced though, it was just footy.

Most would agree once you’re in the game you could be playing anywhere, it’s not that you take the moment for granted, but you have a game of footy to win.

As expected, our game was open and free flowing, probably due to the fact the ground was bigger than most of us were used to; there seemed to be a player in a paddock of space at all times.

The G is a tough ground to defend – I think the only way you can do it properly is to have a strong system that has been worked on and drilled into players for months on end.

Which is why Melbourne-based AFL teams, who spend all year working on defensive presses and zones, are able to limit opposition scoring on the ground.

We, on the other hand, only had weeks to prepare, and when you combine that with the high skill level – well it really was a bit of a free for all.

We were down early, but stayed in striking distance for the whole day, knowing our running game would hold us in good stead as the afternoon wore on.

Some of our bigger-name players really lifted late: Jase Cole from Seymour, Brandyn Grenfell from Tatura and our own Patty Wearden played great second-halves to get us over the line.

We kicked seven last-quarter goals and really ran over the top of them to win by 22 points.

I admit I finished a little bit disappointed in my game, but was really happy with the win.

Our other Kyabram boys in the side played well.

As mentioned, Patty Wearden is in really hot form and played another great game.

Tommy Holman refuses to get beaten in a one-on-one and flew the flag beautifully.

And big Brad Mangan held down a key post in the back half with ease, despite the ball coming in with real venom.

We definitely owe a lot to the AFL, AFL Victoria, the Goulburn Valley League and anyone else who played a role in getting the game on the G. It was something we won’t forget.

But that was last week.

Now our job is being Kyabram players, with a big game this Sunday against Rochester.

While I was asked (ordered) to write this, and will probably get fined and/or abused for it by the Bombers boys, it was a great experience and one I’m glad I was part of.

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