Its often said that “footy is a funny game”.  It sure is.  Any attempt at logically predicting or explaining results is fraught with danger.  You confidently forecast that so-and-so is going better than the other mob and sure enough, you end up with egg on your face when they get rolled.  And you need look no further than our own team for more proof of footy’s unpredictability.  After a mis-firing season which had produced a 5-8 win/loss record, Norwood tripped to the foreboding surrounds of Noble Park’s “Bullring” for round 14 action against an opponent with a 9-4 record and an imposing history of putting sides to the sword at their home venue.  In 8 or 9 attempts since entering first division, we had tasted victory there just once, in 2015. On balance of exposed form the pundits wouldn’t have expected us to trouble the home side, even after our confidence boosting win at home before the bye against Blackburn.  Noble had everything to play for, finals double chance and a top 3 finish, while we are in that unenviable abyss known as “still mathematically possible” in terms of making finals, which, when translated, really means “no chance”.

So after of all this wise analysis and carefully computed postulating, you could throw it all out the window as we proceeded to put the home side to the sword with one of our most complete 4 quarter performances in recent memory, leaving the home side and its supporters (and most of ours to be honest) stunned as we swept to a definitive 27 point victory.

The day was described by Noble’s ground announcer as “a bit blustery” surely one of the understatements of all time as a wind that approached 50kmh at times blew almost straight down the ground to the scoreboard end, and in Q1 we were charged with the job of kicking into it.  It was widely acknowledged by all the wise heads that if we could be within 4 goals at QT we had probably done OK, it was one of those quarters where you just want time to evaporate to eliminate the oppositions chances of scoring.  In the opening minutes we defended grandly. Trent Shinners was a standout, rucking and marking around the ground.  But 9 minutes in they got their first, and for the next 5-6 minutes threatened more, but the wind was proving rather more tricky to kick with than previously thought Josh Buceto went off early with what looked like a shoulder injury and would not return for the day, not ideal. We held on until the 15 minute mark, kicking wide to the dead side as the wind was going a little more diagonally into the pocket, though still blowing a gale. And then, as a reward for our hard work, a little nugget of gold appeared as Trent found Rej with a clearance from wing/half-forward. His long kick held up into the breeze, young Brayden Mead judging its flight perfectly to mark strongly 25m out.  His work was far from done but he executed a brilliant low drop punt which split the middle, a goal into the breeze!!!! To accentuate the value of this goal, the entire Development League match had been played WITHOUT A SINGLE SCORE to that end, not a Goal or Behind.  And there was more to come.  From the next centre bounce, Shinners found Gouldy who kicked quickly forward. Writter gathered it cleanly and dished back to Gouldy running on. He went low to space at full-forward where Blair Hudson read it best picking up and executing a little right foot check side low and straight through the middle.  2 goals in 30 seconds into the gale!!!  The pattern of played continued for another 10 minutes as we bottled play up on the outer wing, our forward pressure causing Noble to kick quickly out of defence where Shinners would mark repeatedly.  Immediately before the siren he drove it forward one last time, the ball bounced randomly and Leroy was there to soccer it through for a 3rd goal as we took an invaluable 10 point lead into quarter time 3.0 – 1.2.

Denis was full of praise for his charges, their attack on the ball and hitting up short targets working perfectly, but he stressed a change for the 2nd quarter, where we need to play on at all costs, but not blaze away with the breeze as Noble would set several extras behind the ball, but rather to lower the eyes and hit up targets.

The 2nd quarter started perfectly as our resident Mack Truck (skipper Hilly) marked on the wing and  squared to CHF where Leroy juggled a quality contested mark.   His shot from 50m started right and came back neatly with the breeze to register a major.  Straight from the clearance we worked it forward with a chain of possessions.  A pressured kick came in high towards Zak Carroll, running courageously with the flight offthe ball>.It seemed to be up there for ages, but Zak held his nerve and marked on his chest, then slotted home coolly from 20m for our 5th goal.  It was all Norwood as we continually outworked our opponents at the contest, getting more numbers to the ball and using it better as well. Writter found Corey Quinlivan but his shot was just wide as we continued to score.  15 minutes in Krousser received a somewhat fortuitous free for a high fend off and made no mistake from 30m as we built our lead.  We were harassing Noble into error and panic as Leroy was tackled without it 35m out on an angle, but his little 7 iron chip was deadly accurate for his 3rd and our 7th as we went to HT with a commanding 32 point lead, 7.2 – 1.6.

Noble needed to take the game on in the 3rd quarter, whilst we, of course, needed time to evaporate again. The home side got the perfect start, scoring in the first 20 seconds and had early chances to further reduce the lead but thankfully fluffed their lines. 10minutes in Blair Hudson had a chance to score an invaluable goal into the breeze but his left foot snap was denied by some acrobatic goalkeeping by the Noble defender.  Rej had a shot that looked impossible into the breeze and so proved to be, but we still had a 25 point advantage. Noble put together one of their cleanest passages of play for the day to score, and then did so again with a long conversion from 50m as our lead was cut to just 13 points, with still half the quarter to play. We countered with some elusive play from Krousser and Lochie to hit up Blair for another chance close-in, but the strong wind proved his undoing as a golden chance went begging. To make matters worse Noble went coast to coast and the lead was just 8 points, with still 10+ minutes to play.  We needed a goal and we got it through some inspirational stuff from Leroy.  Hilly scrambled a kick to the wing from D50 where Leroy picked it up and dished to Hudson who ran down the wing and cleverly squared it on the bounce towards the vacant goal square. Leroy, following up, sprinted back 70m to get there first, get a little shepherd from Krousser then dish over the top to Krousser who slotted from 10m as the Norwood faithful erupted. Energies renewed we attacked Noble for the next 5 minutes.  Leroy was mauled but from the free slammed a hard hit checkside into the fierce breeze straight into the woodwork from 20m. We wanted to hang on until 3/4T but Noble worked it forward and scored again from long range, the margin back to 9 points. With the quarter just about done Jordan Gysberts, whose skilful disposal on a  near impossible day had been a delight to watch, won a ball on the wing and kicked precisely to Gouldy at half-forward. Gouldy went to the square where Blair finally got his reward, picking up the loose ball and getting just enough shoe-lace on it to see it dribble over the line for another nugget of gold.  The siren rang and we went to the last change knowing we had a gale behind us and a very, very handy 15 point lead.  9.5 – 6.8.

Any thoughts of settling in comfortably for a regulation win in the last quarter were put on hold in the first 15 seconds as Noble scythed through both our defence and the breeze to score and once again bring the margin back into single figures.  Happily, this threat lasted all of just 60 seconds as we immediately replied through who else but Leroy, marking imperiously from a well weighted pass from Krousser.  His shot from 40m on a 45 degree angle started just inside the right goal post and stayed exactly there as Norwood fans in the grandstand with the perfect view from straight behind it rode it home and rejoiced. A minute later Lochie went long to the square where a wounded Fingers, operating with just one arm after having played an excellent game, stayed down at the back and was rewarded as the wind took it over the pack into his arms for a simple snap goal.  It was party time now as Krousser put one deep into the pocket where Rej attacked it and dished back to Zak Carroll who wobbled through an amazing snap from 20m near the boundary.  To top off his best day of the year, and surely Norwood’s as well, Zak put himself front and centre to a long ball directed at Leroy, took the crumb and slotted on his left from 15m to seal the game.  We were out by 34 points and the game was won.  The game fizzled out In the last 15 minutes both sides knew the result was inevitable. The siren sounded to raucous approval from the Norwood faithful and a distinctly Noble Park free grandstand, the home supporters long ago  having absented themselves from a lost cause.

Final scores Norwood 13.8.86(Leroy 4, Carroll 3, Hudson 2, Krousser 2, Fingers, Mead) def. Noble Park 8.11.59.

Best players on the day included just about everyone on the team who all contributed to a great win for the club, their best of the season no doubt, But Trent Shinners wins the BOG this week for an incredible 1st half display of ruckwork and round the ground marking which set up the win, even if a little quieter in the 2nd half. Fingers, Lochie and Krousser were the architects through the middle and Leroy worked extremely hard for his 4 goals to be the outstanding forward on the day.  Writter enjoyed the ball being on the ground more often in the conditions and Zak’s 3 goals were of enormous value. Gys’ exquisite field kicking stood out despite receiving a hard tag all day and Aidan Kemp led a long list of other good players on the day.

So, where does this win leave us.  Both happy and proud, wins at the “BullRing” are as rare as rocking horse doodoo, but extremely frustrated at the same time, as our “mathematical chance of making finals” remains alive, if on life-support with last rites having been read.  We won’t play finals, that’s the reality.  We are 3 games out with 4 to play and there are two sides we need to get past.  They are Blackburn and Doncaster and they play each other in the last round and one of them has to win.  Its annoying, really annoying, as we are surely a better side than both, but then that’s probably just a one-eyed view, one not supported at all by the win/loss ratios of the teams.  Our Grand Final this year comes in Rd 16 at Vermont, where it would be simply superb to beat them on their postage stamp ground for the first time and also ruin their unbeaten run this season.  But lets focus on beating Baysy next week at home first.  In happy news, the development squad registered a ripping win against a fellow finals contender, whilst both clubs U19s had an enforced bye caused by the lack of a complete set of U19 teams in the competition, surely a black-eye on the club concerned and the EFL too.

Go Wooders