Berwick aiming for 20 on the trot

It’s lucky Anzac Day is fast approaching with tipsters in the South East Football Netball League needing some serious two-up skills to pick today’s four winners.

Seriously, where do you start?

The obvious place is at Edwin Flack Reserve where Narre Warren host Berwick in a re-match of last year’s grand final.

Sorry, are you confused?

This was originally a Narre Warren home game but moved to Edwin Flack Reserve to cater for the new Narre Warren clubrooms being built at Fox Road. The new facility should be built in the coming weeks providing the Magpies with a brilliant new place to call home.

But that will the last thing on the minds of Matt Shinners and his coaching staff as they look to achieve something that no team has been able to for 19 games – unravel Berwick.

The Wickers are a slick outfit, no doubt, and are the clear front-runners to take this year’s crown.

Shinners acknowledges they are a tough team to break down.

“We need to combat their midfield for a start, that’s where they gain so much drive and they’ve got some great players in there,” Shinners said.

“The amount of ground Madi Andrews covers is just phenomenal and then you’ve got blokes like (Bryce) Rutherford, (Travis) Tuck and (Ash) Smith that roll through there as well. They just wear you down Berwick, they play a fast pace both ways and normally roll over the top teams in the second half.”

Shinners said he knows where his team had to improve to catch last year’s grand final conqueror.

“We went back to grass roots in the pre-season, got a fitness coach in and really pushed the players to get fitter and stronger,” he said.

“We’ve had a massive turnover of players and got a lot of young blokes now, similar to Cranbourne, so I think we’ve improved in the leg-speed department.

“But this is the ultimate test because, as I said, they wear you down Berwick.”

The Magpies were lucky to be so close to Cranbourne at quarter time last week, the Eagles kicking 1.9 to 2.3 for the term, before the Magpies responded with 13 goals to nine after the first break.

“If they had kicked straight it would have put us seriously behind the eight ball, but they had a game up their sleeve and looked a little more organised than we did in the early stages,” Shinners said.

“We’ve got some new set plays that we needed to bed in and we butchered the ball in the first quarter but got better in both of those areas after quarter time.

“If we played really well and only won by that much (16 points) I would probably be concerned but there’s definitely plenty of room for improvement.”

There were a lot of positive signs for the Magpies last week.

They won without any great influence from their two star recruits, Trent Shinners and Brad Scalzo, while Liam Myatt was impressive after his first pre-season for a long time after a knee reconstruction.

Jack Toner, Pete Gentile and Cory Machaya were lively up forward while Col McNamara relished being back in the thick of the action. And Nick Scanlon’s four goals against the best defender in the business, Brandon Osborne, also points to a big year in front of the big sticks.

It will be an intriguing contest this one, to see how the Magpies stack up against the best – but it’s the Wickers to win by 19 points.

Cranbourne travels to Beaconsfield today, hoping for a normal day at the office after a strange one against Narre Warren last week.

It wasn’t your typical Saturday afternoon at the footy at Casey Fields.

A flock of birds - let’s call them parrots for the purpose of this story – numbering several hundred flew across the ground as the senior players ran out for their warm up at three-quarter-time in the reserves.

The noise they made was quite remarkable, but their aim was off with no white stains seen on any clothing in the near vicinity afterwards.

But what it did seem to do was put a curse on Cranbourne in the first half of footy.

The Eagles started slowly, conceding goals to Machaya and Jake Richardson, before gaining control of the footy in the first quarter.

Shaun Marusic was the dominant midfielder on the ground, driving the Eagles forward and using his unique height to take several intercept marks.

But inaccuracy stifled their attempts to build a winning lead, kicking nine points straight before Ryan Jones dribbled one through from close range at the 26-minute of the quarter.

And then came a scary second-quarter incident involving Eagles youngster Nick Darbyshire.

Narre Warren had just kicked a goal to the Berwick-Cranbourne Road end of Casey Fields, the ball relayed back to the central umpire who halted play when Darbyshire started convulsing on the ground.

His Cranbourne teammates were visibly upset as medical staff from both teams tried to come to grips with the situation. Play was stopped for approximately 15 minutes and – not surprisingly – the Eagles were a flat unit for the remainder of the quarter.

The Magpies were relentless, kicking 4.3 to 0.3 to open up a 23-point lead – a lead they would not relinquish all day.

Micky Boland was sterling in the ruck for the Eagles and his contest with Scotty Meyer will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the match.

The Osborne brothers, Brandon and Glenn, were joined by Stu Morrish in a dour defensive effort.

Beacy did create 20 scoring opportunities against Berwick last week but was inefficient in front of goals.

Nathan Langley was held goalless in his first outing for the club and won’t find things any easier today. Fancy taking on Brandon Osborne to try and find a bit of form!

Daniel Johnston, Jackson Thomas, James Munro and Kyle O’Sullivan were all impressive for Beacy last week and will to reproduce to get the job done.

This really is a flip of the coin – we’ll go for Cranbourne in a close one.

A top-four clash between Officer and Tooradin is something we’re not accustomed to over the years but that’s the reality at Starling Road this afternoon.

Both teams were impressive last week, Officer with 21 goals to six against Doveton after quarter time while the Seagulls were good early before fading against Pakenham.

On that form, expect the Seagulls to lead early and the Kangas to come with a rush.

Officer coach Doug Koop has won premierships before and knows the qualities of a good team.

He was not happy with the back-slapping at half-time against the Doves last week and let his players know it.

“Be relentless, be professional, do the business, then the smiles can begin.”

It was classic Koop.

Matty Clarke was sensational with six goals while Ben Tivendale and Jake Ingaliso drifted forward for four of their own. A Tivendale left-footer on the run in the third term showed the 300-gamer has still got it.

Tooradin played a slick brand of footy against the Lions last week, but just became a little confused after half time. Their best was brilliant, their worst very poor – Lachie Gillespie will be working overtime to find the balance.

Julian Suarez took some telling marks when the Lions were surging last week, while the class of Andrew Dean and Nick Lang stood out like a beacon under the bright lights.

What a cracking contest and a tough one to predict – who really wants that 2-0 start to the season.

The Kangas will get there by 11 points.

And Doveton host Pakenham in a game that both will be expecting to win.

The Doves have been poor over their first fortnight of footy while the Lions showed true grit to lift themselves off the canvas against Tooradin last week.

They went down, but they went down fighting.

Effort will be the key in this one, who wants it most will come away with the four points.

Matt Stapleton, Russ Gabriel and Jake Dermott will need big games for the Doves to win, a similar statement can be said for Steve Morey, Jimmy Harrison and Chris Cardona for the Lions.

This same fixture caused some controversy last year but the prime focus this time around must be purely on the four points.

Doveton will get there by under a straight kick.   

-AFLSE Media-




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