Dogs by a point
Monday, 1st July, 2019
By Tyler Hannigan
North reminded the rest of the competition that they are still very much in the hunt for the 2019 flag by holding off West in a thriller on Saturday.
It was a game that won’t be remembered for its display of skills, much of that down to a strong cross breeze that made life tough for both sides and kept the majority of play on the brewery side of the Jubilee Oval, but it was an enthralling contest from start to finish in which the momentum swung back and forth.
The Bulldogs got the early jump, booting the first two goals through player-coach Codie Howard and then Jordan Vella, from their first two inside fifty entries.
North pushed further ahead thanks to a beautiful set shot goal from club debutant Curtis Jelbert who used the breeze to perfection.
West struggled to get any consistent movement from defence to attack but did finally string some nice play together late in the term with Rourke Turner capping it off with his side’s first goal.
The Robins improved towards the end of the term and while they trailed by 13 points to start the second quarter, they managed to get the game on their terms with goals to Robbie Bates and another to junior Brock Ellis.
It was now West who controlled the territory and weren’t allowing North any quality ball movement. West pushed hard in attack but were continually held back by some superb defensive play from Matt Dempster and Tobias Hack.
It was a very scrappy term but when a team was able to hit three or four targets in a row, they got full value and that was evident when North finally got the ball deep into their forward line, allowing Jelbert to soccer through his second goal of the day.
The Bulldogs held a seven-point lead at the big break but this game was anyone’s for the taking. North had started the game well with West fighting back late in the first term while that was flipped in the second term.
That arm-wrestle continued after the restart and while it felt like North had the upper hand in the third term, they could only extend their lead to nine points after each team kicked one goal. West’s came through late call up Rylie McInnes and North’s through the always consistent Eddie Morgan.
North struck first blood in the last quarter through Jedd Watson but wasted a number of chances that could have put the game to bed during a dominant 10 minutes of play.
That looked like it may have cost them the win as West went on a tear thanks to two goals from Rourke Turner and another to McInnes who was lively up forward in his return to senior football. True to the nature of this game though, there was to be another twist or two before the final siren.
It was now West’s turn to waste their chances as they missed a couple of shots on goal, either of which would have put the game beyond North’s reach if they had gone through.
Time was ticking down and North were left with one final chance following the second of those West behinds.
They kicked in and worked the ball to half back with a series of short kicks before Jayden Kelly, who battled through a Michael Westley tagging job, took a big mark on the wing and set off. Kelly sent the ball long and deep into the North forward line where Shane Dalby found himself sitting under it and took the mark.
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Dalby hadn’t had a great day by his standards up until this point but now found himself with the chance to win the game for his team. He lined up directly in front and just 25 metres from goal but the severe cross-breeze meant that this was far from a ‘gimme’.
However, the ice-cool Dalby went back and made no mistake, slotting it straight through the middle to put the Bulldogs back in front by a point with under a minute to play.
North sent extra players into defence and it was lucky they did because West won the subsequent centre-clearance, sending the ball forward where North defender Hack took a strong contested mark.
Unfortunately, as good as Hack’s hands were on Saturday, his normally reliable right boot had a shocker and he turned the ball over again allowing West to go into their forward fifty.
A rushed shot at goal looked like it was bouncing through for a behind but the North defenders smartly batted it away and forced it out of bounds as the siren sounded and the crowd erupted.
North had won by a point and showed that they’re far from a spent force in 2019.
Trent Barraclough was the star for the Bulldogs. The athletic ruckman’s ability both around the stoppages and over the ground is incredible. He took a number of big marks and was one of the leading possession winners on the field.
Kelly continued his good season and while Westley did a decent job to quell his influence, Kelly was important when it mattered most. North’s midfield lacks class when Kelly isn’t in there and that was again evident on Saturday.
Quinton Beavan and Codie Howard played well as they always do while Hack and Dempster were great in defence. Mitch Reberger added grunt around the stoppages whenever he went into the middle.
For the Robins, Rourke Turner played his best game in the red and black, finishing with three goals whilst playing a largely midfield role. Nathan Greenshields never has a bad game and Thomas Rowe found plenty of the ball as usual. Liam King started well and Michael Andruszkiewicz were also among the best.
The result sets up a battle for top spot next weekend at the Alma Oval between West and South while North stay at the Jube to host Central. One thing is for sure, 2019 is definitely not a two-horse race.