Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Can Wolves win away from the Den?
Written by Michael Shillito.
East Coast Eagles vs. Manly Warringah Wolves – Kanebridge Oval on Saturday, July 7, 2018.
Five rounds remain before the finals, and the battle for positions within the top five remains intriguing. The North Shore Bombers look to have the minor premiership sewn up, but then we have second to fifth level on games and separated by less than seven percentage points, with Sydney University only one game behind and a better percentage than third.
Every game between teams in that bracket is potentially of massive importance in how the finals positions end up. And as such, there was considerable interest in what would be a bizarre game of footy between East Coast Eagles and Manly Warringah Wolves at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday. There was nothing wrong with the conditions at Kanebridge. The sun was shining, the ground in good shape. A bit of a swirling cross-wind, but it wasn’t that bad. Nothing that would suggest it would be impossible to kick goals in the first half.
But both teams went into the game with a defensive mindset, moving numbers back. And there was plenty of physical pressure applied, with some ferocious bumps that saw players dispossessed with regularity. Add to that some inexplicable turnovers and plenty of congestion around the wings that saw numerous boundary throw-ins.
Manly Warringah scored three behinds to one in the first term, and East Coast added five behinds in the second. But neither team was able to penetrate the big sticks in the first half, with inside 50s being repelled by numbers behind the ball and prominent forwards from both sides unable to get anywhere near where the ball was going. When the siren sounded for half time, with neither team having a goal on the board, the faithful from both clubs were left shaking their heads and pondering the record books, as to whether they had witnessed something unique in the history of the game at this level.
After the stalemate of the first half, something had to give. And the game took on a new direction, as the shackles were lifted and the East Coast midfielders were given license to attack and propel the ball forward more directly than the no-risk first half. Suddenly the tension was eased, tags were lifted and the game opened up. And with this more positive mindset, the scoreboard began to tick over. The East Coast Eagles were the better side as the game became more free-flowing, landing six goals to one and increasing their lead from three points to 33 by three quarter time.
The one-quarter burst that broke the game open was enough for the East Coast Eagles to get the job done. They added three unanswered goals in the last, increasing their winning margin to 55 points. But it was the third quarter that did the damage. After a first half memorable for its no-risk defensiveness, the Eagles finding their attacking prowess in the third term was the difference between the two sides.
Trent Stubbs, Stuart Turner and Damon Steer were pivotal to the East Coast Eagles’ success on the day, with Turner bringing up his 100th game milestone in style. The Eagles remain in fifth place, with the worst percentage of the four teams level on 32 points. But the size of the win, and in particular having so few points added to the points against column on the ladder, could go a long way in bridging that percentage gap. The double-chance, or making the five, could well depend on it.
Lachlan Behagg, Gareth Benbow and Eric Burke were busy bee’s all day for the Manly Warringah Wolves. But to only get one goal all day would be disappointing for the Wolves, and after holding the East Coast Eagles for a half, were unable to maintain that pressure in the second half. Manly Warringah remain in second place, thanks to their impressive percentage. But they have only won away from Weldon once this year, and with only two more games at Weldon this season, they will need to improve their away record to stay in the double-chance position.
EAST COAST EAGLES – 0.1 0.6 6.9 9.13 (67)
MANLY WARRINGAH WOLVES – 0.3 0.3 1.6 1.6 (12)
EAST COAST EAGLES GOALS – R Haupt 2, M Weekes 2, T Stubbs 2, D Visser, Jamie Vlatko, C O’Brien
MANLY WARRINGAH WOLVES GOALS – J Field
EAST COAST EAGLES BEST – T Stubbs, S Turner, D Steer, R Haupt, A Drinkwater, K Emery
MANLY WARRINGAH WOLVES BEST – L Behagg, G Benbow, E Burke, L Kilpatrick, H Vaughan, R Wearne