The Western Magpies have had a 12 goal win over the winless Sandgate at Chelmer on Saturday. The Pies won a somewhat scrappy match 20.20-140 to 10.8-68 and the win may have been larger but for inaccuracy in front of goal.
With four key outs at selection on Thursday night and then two further late withdrawals from the side on Saturday morning, Magpies coach Brydan Morgan was justifiably nervous before the match.
With the Pies wounded, Sandgate sniffed a chance and the Pies expected the visitors to be fired up in a big effort to break their 2017 duck.
The two late withdrawals were key forward Jake de Winter, who is having some time off, and swing man Brady Allen, who pulled up sore after Thursday training. In to the side came half back Rohan Smith for his first Senior game and ruckman Dom Beer to add height up forward. Both played their roles well with Beer kicking two goals as well as giving Aaron Highlands much needed support in ruck.
The Hawks threw everything at the Magpies in an untidy first quarter and the home team was guilty of overuse of the ball and of being "too cute", with too much handball and short passing which often then went astray.
The Pies tidied up in the second quarter with more direct football and longer kicking and the forward line opened up for them to pile on seven goals to one for the quarter and hold a comfortable 8 goal half time lead.
The lessons of the second quarter were forgotten as the Pies went back to the short game in the third quarter and were outscored two goals to Sandgate's three for the quarter.
The players heeded Morgan's three quarter time call to be more direct and went on to boot 6 last quarter goals to go on to an emphatic victory.
Given the circumstances, the victory was meritorious and puts the Magpies into fourth place on the ladder but still in a dogfight to play finals. Currently 5 teams are neck and neck for three finals spots.
Gareth Crawford was the Pies best with a four quarter effort in midfield, consistently winning the contested football to set the Pies on their way. Joe Murphy was an excellent link man and was creative from a wing and Jack Goodall was superb at centre half back with intercept marks and clean hands to repeal many Sandgate attacks.
Aaron Highlands again rucked well and was influential around the ground, Riley Easton returned to form and booted three goals but it was the forward pressure he applied to the Hawk defenders that pleased his coach most.
Harry Marshall was again good in defence providing plenty of run and his ability to play both tall and short makes him a very valuable player. Will Fletcher and Luke Mitchell were also good with strong play across half back and providing run out of the back half.
Matt Thomson returning from a long term ankle injury at Redlands was a busy player and showed his class with hand and foot and Aaron Maricic was busy in midfield and across half forward to finish with four goals.
Brodie Easton was given a tagging role at quarter time and curbed the influence of his opponent, who was damaging early, to make an important contribution to the win.
The Magpies are at home again on Saturday when they host Morningside at Chelmer and with the Panthers building momentum it is another huge match for the Magpies. At least the selectors will have a nice headache with several players to return to the lineup this week.
An added incentive will be the club hosting "The BG Day" which will mark the tenth anniversary of the passing of the much loved Brett Gwyther at the tender age of 24 from cancer. The much coveted "BG Award" for the Most Courageous Player recognises the courage BG always and showed on the ground but also in his last months of his life when he remained tough and determined but gracious as he fought his cancer.
Coach's Thoughts - Brydan Morgan
" A mixture of satisfaction mixed with relief. With four key outs on Thursday and another two withdrawals this morning I was a frankly very worried before the game.
We knew Sandgate would look at this match as a big chance to have a win and they haven't been far off in recent games and I must admit we looked vulnerable, but to kick 20 goals without our two key forwards was fantastic effort from the entire playing group.
We tended to overuse the football at times and tried to pick our way through traffic but in the second and last quarters were much better with direct movement of the ball and were able to open up in attack.
The past two wins get us back in the mix and we look forward to the next few weeks against a couple of teams we need to beat to make the finals".
5.5-35 | 12.10-82 | 14.16-100 | 20.20-140
4.3-27 | 5.4-34 | 8.6-54 | 10.8-68
Goals: A. Maricic 4, R. Easton 3, M. Thomson 2, L. Dwyer 2, D. Beer 2, V. Pope 2, J. Murphy, L. Mitchell, W. Fletcher, T. Ielasi, J. Goodall
Best: G. Crawford, J. Murphy, A. Highlands, H. Marshall, R. Easton, J. Goodall