The allure of the key full-forward has been an ever-present attraction in VFL/AFL/EFL for as long as the game has been played. Growing up in an era when McKenna Hudson and Jesaulenko ruled the forwards lines of 70s VFL footy, watching the full-forward kick a ‘bag’ has always been THE reason why many of us follow the footy at all. Let’s face it, despite their undoubted importance to the game and to the success of the team, no-one goes to the footy to see a defender spoil a marking contest (except Spud Frawley maybe). In recent years the ‘bag’ has been missing far too often in footy as increased fitness levels, zone defence and floods have devoured the critical space that the full-forward needs to ply his trade one-on-one. In the AFL, the position (in fact any ‘position’ for that matter) has gone the way of the dinosaur. Happily, a couple of levels down at EFL Div 1, the full-forward is still breathing. He’s an endangered species mind you, but he’s not dead yet.
In Leigh Williams, the full-forward is still a vibrant and going concern at Norwood. Not quite in the traditional stay-at-home mould that once dictated a full-forwards movements, he is now required to lead hard up the ground and then often turn around and lead hard back to the goalsquare to get his prey. But on Saturday, Leroy was close enough to goal often enough, strong enough and certainly good enough to put on an old fashioned clinic at East Ringwood, bagging 11.4 in a stand-out game> His personal total was in fact one point more than our final winning margin of 69 points.
Pitted against a committed but undersized opponent – who incidentally in the way of 70s footy was left to stand Leroy all day despite the onslaught, it appeared quite early that if Norwood could get enough supply to him, Leigh was going to have a good day. EastRingwood didn’t roll over straight away mind you, kicking the first two goals. It took until the 17 minute mark for us to score our first goal, Box Hill import Michael Knoll winning a free at a ruck contest and intelligently handing off to Sam Blease who weaved past one before slotting home from 40m on a tight angle. Exciting new prospect Joel Narburgs doubled our tally 4 minutes later, running on to a long ball from Darin Stewart, arching his back and gliding past a defender with significant pace, then charging into goal from 30m. From the next centre clearance Alex Mioni kicked quickly on the left where Leigh charged forward and marked 45m out. Kicking into a cross-breeze slightly hurting the kick, Leigh’s drop punt never looked like missing. He was away, and so were we as we’d stemmed the early East Ringwood attack. At 1/4T we held a small lead, 3.2 – 2.4
Coach Denis Knight was unimpressed with our 1st quarter display, and his words must have had some positive effect for we began to play dominant footy thereafter. Leroy gave some insight into what lay ahead with his 2nd goal just 4 minutes into the quarter, a squaring pass from Alex Calder setting Sam Blease free on the wing. With time and space Sam’s only intent was to kick to the full-forward’s advantage and his planning was rewarded, Leigh marking effortlessly amongst players and converting from 25m with a low bullet. He should have added his 3rd a few minutes later when a preoccupied defence infringed 20m out on a slight angle, but his kick was narrow. Kreuzzer erased those annoying memories quickly with a nice shark from a ball-up, dribbling through from close range. 20mins in Darin Stewart read a long Rej kick best, marking close in and scoring as we began to pull-away from East Ringwood. Moments later Alex Calder intercepted a poor defensive pass and kicked long to the square where Leroy again marked amidst a forest of opposition arms and coolly slotted his 3rd. Talks of a bag of 6, 8 or even more were discussed amongst the blood-thirsty faithful as we could sense a kill. No doubt Leigh did too as a turnover at half-back allowed Matt Aver to release Michael Pearson, Pearso’s kick to centre half forward marked effortlessly by Leigh on the lead. His 45m drop punt went through for his 4th goal and our 8th as we took a 38point lead into the main break 8.8 – 2.6.
Straight after the break the Leroy show got into full swing. From a point we went coast to coast, as Blease found Aver who went to Stewart. His kick to a leading Leroy was wide and appeared headed out of bounds in the pocket, but Leigh decided otherwise, tapping along the boundary and then picking up and prodding through from close range for his 5th, a wonderful individual goal. Blair Hudson and Alex Mioni combined to produce the next sortie forward, a pass which found Skave who slotted home from 40m, his kick left swinging beautifully on the breeze to find the middle. 7 minutes in Gouldy went long to the square where the almost inevitable consequence of Leroy marking occurred. Sent to a tight angle Leigh swung it through on his left for number6. The contest was now officially over and it became ‘Leroy-watch’, just how many could he kick today?? It soon became 7 as Mioni/Hudson combined again to find our man whose low drop punt from 40m went straight over the goal umpires hat. 20 minutes in Leigh turned provider, reading best a quick kick which he appeared to mark, but an early call of ‘touched’ allowed him to dish instinctively off to Corey Quinlivan who goalled from close range with a neat check-side punt. At 3/4T it was Norwood all the way, 13.12 – 4.10.
East kicked the first of the last quarter but it didn’t take long to see no8 from the big fella He led to a ball which just eluded his grasp and turned back towards goal. Reading the crumb best was Ben Trend who neatly handpassed in-board to Leigh who ran in and scored from 20m. Stewart, having a great season and playing another quality game, added his own 2nd from another mark close in as the lead approached 10 goals. Quinlivan on the wing to Mioni provided no9 for Leigh as he led back towards goal and was hacked down at the top of the square. With plenty of time left it seemed likely that a double-figure ‘bag’ was on the offing. 18 minutes in Blease found Leigh 40m from goal deep in the pocket but his kick, despite diving back late on the breeze, was always narrow. Time began to wind down but Josh Buceto came to the rescue, hitting Leigh up on a lead 30m from goal on a 45 degree angle. His kick appeared headed over the right goal post but just squeezed inside for no10. Leigh falling to the ground animatedly as he watched the balls path towards goal is surely likely to earn him the ire of the team’s fines committee……. Not satisfied with 10 Blair Hudson, who had played a tidy game across the middle, burst out of the centre from the next bounce and found Leigh again, his imperfect check-side doing enough to sneak inside the post for an 11th major. Could there be a round ‘dozen’?? Sadly, no, but there was time enough for Kreuzzer to charge past Stewart, take a handball, sell some candy and storm into the open goal for our 19th and final goal.
Final scores: Norwood 19.15. 129(Leroy 11, Stewart 2, Kreuzzer2, Quinlvan, Blease, Skave Narburgs 1) d East Ringwood 8.12.60
Unsurprisingly Leigh managed to gain top accolades as B.O.G. for the day with his haul of 11.4. Other fine players included Alex Mioni, Sam Blease, Darin Stewart, Matt Aver and Blair Hudson.
The season is now back on track as we square the ledger at 3 wins 3 losses, and this was a good win at a ground where we have had some success, but never before with such ease. Happily, we have made it a hat-trick of Wooders days as both Reserves and Colts saluted comfortably. An acid-test awaits however as we journey to Balwyn Park for Rd7 to play the reigning premiers who themselves have endured a rocky start to the season before steadying with wins of their own to sit also at 3-3, just one place below us on the ladder. What a great way to announce ourselves as finals contenders it would be to beat Balwyn at Balwyn.