Cannons not out yet
CALDER coach Andrew Johnston has admitted his side was “five or ten per cent off” in their 35-point loss to Sandringham at RAMS Arena, but insists they will bounce back for this week’s clash with Bendigo.
A six-goal-to-one third quarter from the Dragons was enough to secure victory after the Cannons led by three points at half time, but Johnston believes there were plenty of positives to take out of the 8.8 (56) to 13.13 (91) defeat.
“Our pressure and our intensity probably wasn’t there for the first quarter and a bit, but certainly about halfway through that second quarter we lifted our intensity,” Johnston told Cannons media.
“Our ball use was good, the pressure on the opposition was really good, we didn’t turn the ball over, so all those things got us back into the game at half time and got us in front.”
With Noah Balta, Mitch Podhajski, Curtis Taylor and Dylan Landt all representing Vic Metro among six Cannons squad members for their U18 Championships clash with Western Australia, and over-agers Aidan Tilley and Jean-Luc Velissaris (Development League) selected for Coburg in the VFL, it was a fresh-faced Cannons side which took on the Dragons.
But Johnston refused to treat the sweeping changes as an excuse, adding the inexperienced line-up, which included four debutants in Nathan Croft, Jeremy Topham, Ismail Moussa and Cody Wight, would learn from the experience.
“It doesn’t matter who you’ve got playing; whether they’ve played before or it’s their first game, they should understand what the standards are and what the message is,” he said.
“Nathan Croft was really good, his pressure and his work rate were really pleasing. Jeremy Topham was okay up forward, and we threw him onto the ball as well.
“Issy Moussa is only a 17-year old, so he’ll get some more experience with playing, which was pleasing, and Cody Wight was coming back from a long-term injury.
“So hopefully those guys got some good experience out of it, and will continue to improve.”
Captain Brad Bernacki was again outstanding with another 30-disposal effort to be named the Cannons’ best.
Johnston said the onus was on the club’s other midfielders to support their skipper.
“Brad’s been carrying the load now for three or four weeks, and he certainly showed on the weekend why he’s the leader,” he said.
“We just need other guys to really step up and shoulder some of that responsibility as well.
“We had an opportunity to play some guys in there that we hadn’t played there all year, so they’ve just got to get better and work on it.”
Johnston was full of praise for the Cannons’ renovated backline, minus key staples Podhajski and Tilley, with Lucas Cavallaro and Patrick Brookes spearheading a team defensive effort in keeping a dangerous Dragons forward line relatively quiet.
“‘Cav’ was really good, he certainly stepped up and played a really important role for us,” Johnston said.
“‘Brookesy has been there all year, so he was able to lead the way down back as well.
“The backline was certainly under pressure all day, and I thought they handled it pretty well. It was probably through the midfield that we lacked a bit of pressure on the opposition and that put our defenders under the pump more than they needed to be.”
The Cannons face the eleventh-placed Bendigo Pioneers on Sunday at RAMS Arena, and Johnston believes a return to the ferocity that brought about two wins in three matches heading into the mid-season bye will return the side to the winners’ list.
“We’ve set some standards for ourselves in the last three or four weeks, and we’ve got to get back to those both on and off the field,” Johnston said.
“If we can get things right and make sure we take it into the first bounce, then the result will look after itself.”