Dogs on top
Monday, 22nd July, 2013
A 19-point win over arch rivals South has given North a two-game break as ladder leaders and almost assured them of the minor premiership.
In a match that was played in blustery conditions, it was obvious early on the Bulldogs had come to play.
With five rounds to go, North would have to fall in a heap to miss top spot and a berth in the grand final.
In a game that was vital to both clubs, North went in with a game plan which was based on tagging South star Jordan Johns and keeping gun forward Cody Schorn quiet.
The last time these two teams met, the Roos won on the back of Schorn and fellow forward Tyson Boland booting 12 goals between them while Johns was the mid-field general.
The pre-match planning worked as the two forwards had a combined tally of three goals and Johns, while still a good player, was restricted by Dalton Reick.
The lock down job on Cody Schorn was not so much handed to Jake Borlace but requested.
“Jake put his hand up,” said North Coach Mark Pitt. “He was pretty keen to redeem himself from the previous game against South when Schorn kicked six on him.”
The fine effort of Borlace kept Schorn to a solitary goal and hampered the Roos ability to kick a winning score.
The other element Mark Pitt brought to the game was not allowing the South runners to get free.
“We discussed it at training and said we needed both intensity and pressure.
“With the conditions, we had to work really hard defensively and make sure we shut them down where we could.”
The game started with North kicking to the airport-end of Alma Oval which was favoured by a 3-4 goal breeze.
The mid-field of the Bulldogs deserve plenty of credit for their combined defensive efforts where they would continually drop into the South half forward line and block up some of the holes.
Not only was Howard, Caldwell, Kelly and Johnson getting plenty of leather forward of centre they were selfless in helping their backline contain the dangerous South forwards.
The loss to North has now made it harder for the Roos to challenge for the minor premiership, a fact not lost on their Coach Peter Johns.
“The most important thing about the game was we were basically playing for the minor premiership.”
“We win and we are level with North, lose and we are two games behind ... it was a very important game.
“I am very disappointed to lose it.”
The skill level of South was down with a combination of the conditions and the Bulldogs’ pressure causing unforced errors.
In the first quarter with the wind in their face, the Roos squandered chances with five points being kicked, and in the second term with the breeze at their back they failed to capitalise booting a solitary goal.
While South struggled going forward, North capitalised on the form of Tobias Hack who kicked four goals from full forward.
In previous seasons, Hack had made a name for himself as a dashing half back but the move forward has been a positive one for both he and the Bulldogs.
If he just managed to drop the excess kilos and become more consistent he would be a key play for his club heading into September.
The shining light for South was that they did mount a challenge in the final quarter.
They managed to outscore North 4 goals to 3 but it was not enough.
“We came home in the last quarter but it was too late,” Johns said.
“We are leaving it to too few, we have guys perform week in week out busting their guts, but we need it across the board.
“I just want 22 players that take the field to give a consistent four-quarter effort ... today we didn’t have it.”
A few of the South players that did put their hands up included back pocket player Phil Neal who had his best game for the year and Jordan Staker who alternated between centre half back and centre half forward.
It was the performance of a former South player that also caught the eye on Saturday as Brad Pressler turned in a vintage game for his new club.
He switched clubs mid season and is playing like it is the first year of his career and not the back end.
The only concerns for both clubs is injuries, the Bulldog Wiz - Anthony Henderson kicked two goals but is struggling with a groin injury. Mark Pitt said the club will monitor him closely.
The Roos who lost Dustin Stephens pre-game with a sore hamstring had more drama when key defender Arlen Bird went down with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.
He is expected to miss a couple of weeks.
Next week North and West clash while South will be looking to bounce back against Central.
XXXAll in a helv box
Final score: North 8-11 (59) defeated South 5-10 (40)
Best players: (N) Tobias Hack, Brad Pressler, Cody Howard, Heath Caldwell, Jake Borlace, Brett Johnson, Jayden Kelly. (S) Phil Neal, Jordan Staker, Marc Purcell, Todd Davidson, Jordan Johns, Jake Peters.
Goalkickers: (N) Tobias Hack 4, Anthony Henderson 2, Jayden Kelly 1, Cody Howard 1. (S) Tyson Boland 2, Marc Purcell 1, Cody Schorn 1, Luke Lines 1.