An undermanned and aging Woodsmen side traveled to Morningside in what felt like complete darkness! Sporting ill fitting clash guernseys and a cobbled together line-up, the Woodies were slow out of the blocks allowing the younger, fitter Panthers side an early 2 goal break.
However, despite their younger opponents running hard through the middle, the experienced Woodsmen outfit were able to absorb the pressure and return fire using some speed of their own through Irish Sammy Banim electric on the wing, and Shayne Baldwyn linking up beautifully on the flank to finish off a coast to coast goal and settle the nerves.
In a proud moment for veteran Magpie and former 'Minister of Defence' in the Magpie senior side, David Jackson took the field alongside his son Tristan Jackson, unsurprisingly - not the first time the Woodies have featured a father/son combination! Jacko worked his way into the game beautifully on half back, while Tristan was busy through the middle of the ground with his workrate.
While the Woodies were missing plenty of troops, it was a strong looking 22, but with a distinct lack of height, leaving Andrew Thomson essentially one out in the ruck for the full 80 minutes. While he was able to get on top early, the Morningside talls took advantage at the centre bounce in the 2nd half before the midfield were able to adjust and neutralise the Panthers advantage in the hitouts.
After trailing at 1/4 time, the Woodies started strongly in the 2nd quarter to pinch the lead through goals to new recruit Steve Campbell and veteran forward/midfielder Jay Baker. Some late goals from Morningside however gave them a 9 point lead at the long break.
After resetting at half-time the Woodies dominated the 3rd quarter, keeping Morningside to a single behind to wrest back the lead at 3/4 time. Billy Hyde was busy through the midfield, the Young brothers were quality stoppers across halfback and Alec Parsons was showing plenty of dash through the middle of the ground and out of defence to give the Woodies some much need line breaking speed.
One thing about any Woodsmen side over the years has always been that while fitness is not a strong point, the willingness to work back in defence is a feature of the group. If the team is ever accused of 'one way running' it is to defence, not attack and this proved crucial in a thrilling last quarter.
With the older bodies tiring in a warm Round 1 hitout, Morningside were getting on top through the middle and while they held strong field position, couldn't get clean possession as the Woodies repelled them time and time again. Andrew Bell and Simon Purkiss were particularly good down back, while the willingness of Matt Hockley and Andrew Thomson to repeatedly push back and clog the Morningside attack and chop off their attacks was crucial.
Despite their tiring teammates, Tristan Jackson, Sammy Banim and Shayne Balwyn still had a bit of gas in the tank and when the Woodsmen were able to turn it over and take clean possession, their opponents showed they weren't as willing to run hard defensively as the Woodies put on 2 classic coast to coast goals to get an important 17 point lead midway through the final term, with wily old veteran and Captain/Coach Chris Mihalopoulos causing a few headaches for the Panthers when the ball did get forward of centre.
The Woodies continued to work as the Panthers had waves of forward entries that were consistently repelled as they came come to kick 1.6 in the final 10 minutes, unable to convert several opportunities with the Woodsmen applying plenty of pressure to frequent scoring opportunities. As the clock ticked down, a Panther forward marked in the pocket and the siren sounded with an opportunity to tie the game. The kick sailed wide and the Woodies got the chocolates and enjoyed a well earnt beer in the Panthers clubhouse after a 5 point win.
Woodsmen 8.6-54 defeated Morningside 6.13-49
Best: Banim, Baldwyn, T.Jackson, A.Parsons, Campbell, Thomson
Goals: Banim, Baldwyn, Campbell 2, Baker, Mihalopoulos 1