Round 1 vs Blackburn

The 2017 EFL season has begun in rocky fashion for the Norwood Football Club after losing a difficult first up encounter at Blackburn by 33 points  The day began badly when Blackburn won the toss and kicked with a strong breeze in the first quarter. Just how influential a part the wind  would play would become very obvious as the game wore on.   Blackburn opened the scoring in the first minute with a goal and we responded when Leigh Williams marked nicely 25m out on a tight angle and speared through an excellent drop punt for goal with the wind howling out of the goal mouth.  The next 8 minutes however, would eventually decide the game as Blackburn dominated clearances, broke tackles and swarmed the ball forward repeatedly.  3 times the ball was delivered directly to the hotspot 15m out, only for our defenders to fail to kill the ball, allowing crumbers into the open goal.  We also gave up a couple of goals through overly ambitious kick-ins after a point. In this period Blackburn would kick 5 goals in total to lead 6.3 – 1.1 after only 10 minutes had elapsed.  For the next 15 minutes we held on and quelled Blackburn’s forward moves, but it was a constant problem trying to clear the ball from defensive 50 as kicks were travelling only very short distances into the breeze and even short targets were tough to hit.  Late in the quarter Blackburn marked twice and converted to make the reading for Norwood supporters at 1/4Time quite miserable: 8.4.52 – 1.3.9

How much the wind had played a part quickly became evident in the 2nd quarter as Fingers picked up a loose ball on half-forward and banged through a goal in the first minute.   Leroy marked deep in the pocket and converted his 2nd soon after, then directly from a clearance Reg marked, played on and scored easily from 45m – the ball sailing through post high to underline the impact of the wind.  Leroy cleverly toe-poked through his 3rd from the goal-square and we were right back in the game at the 14 minute mark.  It was as though teams had changed jumpers as Blackburn experienced the same issues clearing the ball from D50 into the strong breeze as we had, it was our turn to pounce. Leroy marked again and kicked his 4th as we closed the gap, though Blackburn got one back from virtually their only sortie into the F50 for the quarter.  At the 22minute mark  Leroy pounced on a loose ball, turned and banged through a nice snap from 40m, to close the gap to 12 points.  We had multiple other chances to score but could only register points as we went to HT trailing by only 8 points, it was certainly game on at Morton Park.

With confidence buoyed by our 2nd term showing we emerged after HT full of running and looked the better side for the first 10 minutes, but could not convert chances into goals at the non-scoring end.  Blackburn swept the ball forward and kicked 2 goals before Reg marked and slotted through his 2nd. The game was more even now, but we needed to hold on into the breeze to minimize the deficit going into the last qtr where we would have the breeze – or so we thought… Blackburn kicked two more with the breeze and we missed one or two more, most notably a crucial one from the ‘hawk’ Blair Hudson, who had been lively this quarter, but his shot on the run from 25m running into goal could not find the target. At 3/4T we trailed by 25 points, 13.8.86 – 8.13.61. We had work to do but were far from out of it…

Around about this time the day was turning from a warm-to-hot Autumn day into a squally stormy disaster as the predicted thunderstorm clouds advanced menacingly towards Morton Park.  Coach Denis Knight’s words of warning to the troops “The Wind will not do it for you” could not have been more prophetic.  Blackburn did well to tock the game down for the first 6 minutes before Writter snapped from deep in the pocket for the first of the quarter to give us hope, but, as the ball was being run back to the centre by the boundary umpires the cool change hit, and the wind direction change immediately – nearly 180 degrees – to favour Blackburns end.   Momentum which had favoured the southern end all day shifted with it as the ball was now able to be launched deep into the Northern F50, and Blackburn assumed control of the game.  To make matters worse, 5 minutes later came heavy, driving rain – making the ball as slippery as soap as any chance in the game visibly disappeared from our grasp at the hands of Mother Nature.  We tried our best but could not make any impact, and – to be fair, Blackburn had been the superior team on the day, stronger at the ball early and definitely more efficient with their entries into F50.  The final margin was a disappointing 33 points, 15.11.101 – 9.14.68, but it is reasonable to surmise that the margin would have been a lot closer had the strong breeze maintained its direction for the last quarter.  On reflection however, it is difficult not to blame those first 10 minutes of the game, when Blackburn slammed on 6 goals, as the prime reason for the loss.

On the day we had some solid contributors, Kreuzzers spark when shifted onto the ball in the 2nd quarter certainly a major factor behind our 2nd quarter resurgence.  Leroy with 5 goals was a constant threat until HT, after which he was forced to get as far down the ground as half-back to make a target and find the ball into the wind. Joel Naburg’s first game in the ruck for us showed he could be a vital pick-up, he has an amazing leap and was constantly able to get first hand on the ball, tapping and palming to advantage repeatedly. He has great awareness at ground level too, able to position his body and manipulate the ball to advantage in close, likely a benefit of his basketballing background.  Gouldy was solid the last 3 quarters and Lochie Dickson looked classy at HB though will rue a couple of costly poor kicks, not something you would normally see from him.

So, after just one week, we go into the Easter hiatus, an annoying trait of the EFL where you get a taste of the game then have to wait a fortnight for the 2nd instalment.  It is no easy one either as we take on Noble Park at Mullum.  Its early in the season, but in what shapes as a tight and even competition our home wins are a must.

Go Wooders