Having missed last week’s game due to the weather and with the holiday round, it had been over three weeks since Team Hawkins had played. It had been a decisive win for The Cats at Allan Border the last time these two teams met, but we were certainly not going to take them lightly.
Our game day focus had not changed over the break, and Coach Mic emphasized the points of going one-on-one, sticking with your man and moving the ball forward. After a rousing address by Captain Tommy, The Cats ran onto the field and promptly lost the toss, kicking into the sun in the first.
The Cats initially got out to a lead, with Jude cooling slotting a set shot after a high tackle decision, but from the centre-bounce that followed the Swans dominated the remainder of the quarter, kicking three goals to go into the first break well ahead. Team Hawkin’s starts this year have been noticeably poor, and the coaches wonder if they just need 10 minutes of getting beaten before they kick into gear and get some ferocity.
The turn-around came after quarter-time, as coach reminded of the need to go hard at the ball and to pick up their man. Our defenders in the second were particularly pressed, as the Swans kicked one goal and pressed strongly in attack. This term saw perhaps the play of the day when a long defensive kick-in from the goal square was marked and marked and marked again, downfield into the forward zone, where Noah sharked the ball off a textbook front-and-square and kicked our second goal. Lucky we did those front-and-square training drills on Thursday night! Hudson also slotted a very nice individual goal, breaking free of two defenders and making space for himself to score on the run.
The boys had to be reminded at half time that despite the poor start they were actually getting on top in general play. “Stick with your man” was the mantra, as they would tend to drop off as they got tired. The third quarter was a bit of a slog, the Swans scoring the only goal with a bit of luck.
At three-quarter time break, the boys were reminded that they were only 3 goals down and they were back in their preferred zone positions. Could they bridge the gap?
The boys went in with fire, and from the centre-bounce were on top. Our defenders only touched the ball on a handful of occasions, when covering and returning to the centre zone. Our midfielders kept up the pressure on the ball and ball-carrier and the forwards were busy. Henry had impressed at goal-kicking drills on Thursday night with his long-range goals, and kicked a very nice example to bring the margin back. Jacob showed off his soccer background not only by kicking a grubber that somehow failed to miss every single defender’s fingertips and get through the big sticks, but also by celebrating with the trademark jumper-over-the-head run normally seen only in the A-League. Both Jacob and an injured and limping Jude had chances to win the game with set shots in the final minutes, but sadly both shots viered wide. Our last quarter score of 2.2 to 0.0 was not enough, and The Cats went down by three.
The trainers will look at their marking and particularly leading to a kick, also the ball-up set-up would break down as the boys got tired. Drilling this into them would set them up so that it was automatic. If we could train them to get over the First Quarter Blues we would also, as it is that aspect of our game that costs us matches.
Despite the close loss, this was a great effort though, no doubt about it. When asked to pick up their man the boys did, and when challenged to perform they did impressively. Defensive Play of the day went to Shane for his hard work in the second quarter, and Team Player went to Hudson, who was consistently clearing the ball whatever zone he was in and kicked an outstanding goal. The Coach’s Hot Chocolate went to Jacob, who played easily his best game yet, he certainly enjoyed his tackling today and scored his first major.
Hawkins next game is at Mike Pawley Oval at Curl Curl this coming Sunday, and hoping to atone for our big loss to Manly Mustangs.