By Nicholas Galea
The Coburg Lions have fallen short in heart-breaking fashion after being defeated by the Northern Bullants by one point at Piranha Park in the 158th edition of the Battle of Bell Street, 12.10 82 to 12.11 83 to complete NAIDOC Week.
The opening stanza was a tightly contested affair which was filled with plenty of aggression from both sides and it was the Lions who held the sway of play in the early minutes of the game but it would be the Bullants who struck first through Nathan Honey; who kicked the games opening goal and Tynan Smith to open up an early lead.
Coburg key forward Peter McEvoy finished off some classy foot skills from Corey Ellis but the Bullants continued to lock the ball in their forward half extending their lead to 13 points.
Coburg once again hit back through the impressive Charlie Thompson who burst through a pack and put one through at the top of the goal square but Jack Boyd and Liam Mackie steadied for the Bullants as they lead by 20 points at the first break.
The second term started much like the first but with Coburg kicking with the wind, they found the going a fair bit easier and started to translate its control of the corridor and clearances onto the scoreboard after Corey Ellis found crafty forward Sam Lowson who duly converted.
Coburg continued to control of the tempo of the game and started to put the Bullants defence under constant pressure with repeat entries inside 50, forcing them to play wide. This increase in desire and hunt for the contest saw the Lions kick a further five goals (including three in four minutes) with Lowson kicking his second to see the Lions lead by a point in the shadows of half time, 8.4 52 to 8.3 51.
It was a fast start by the Bullants to kick off the third quarter as they reclaimed the lead in the opening seconds through Sunny Brazier before they started to gain the ascendency and the territory game, which resulted in a 16-point lead.
Playing counter attack footy, Coburg hit back against the run of play with a goal from Luke Nelson who snapped truly in a congested forward line bringing the margin back to 10 points, but costly lapses towards the end of the quarter saw the Bullants stretch their lead out to 23 points going into the final term.
With much on the line and the wind still at large, Coburg knew it had to take a few risks to bring home the four points at Piranha Park and the final quarter started off the best possible way with forward Sam Binion, who came in for his first game of the season, had an inspired five-minute patch where he booted two goals trimming the margin to just the eight points. Shortly afterwards McEvoy put through his fourth to make it a two-point game at the 13-minute mark and you could feel the momentum swinging the Lions way.
Coburg continued to keep pumping the ball inside 50 but it was to no avail as they found out that the hardest goal to get is always the one to put yourselves in front.
The intensity and pressure at ground level seemed to rise another notch as both sides defended and attacked desperate with neither giving an inch. Unfortunately for Coburg they weren’t able to capitalise on their inside 50 dominance in the final quarter as the Bullants defence clogged up the forward space and were able to clear Coburg’s forward line and run the clock down successfully to hold onto a one-point victory.
Speaking post-game, senior men’s coach Andrew Sturgess highlighted that although the fight was on display against the Bullants, it was a missed opportunity in the context of the season and something that needs to be improved on.
‘They are a resilient group and they keep coming back but we spoke about that not as a good thing as a hump that we need to get over because we can’t keep putting ourselves in positions like the Collingwood and North Melbourne games and today where we come home like a steam train and we fall just short,’ he said.
‘We’ve lost three games this year by under three points and really that’s on the back of what we are doing earlier in the game to try and set the game up on our terms. No doubt the boys have got incredible character but we’ve got to improve in that area, that’s for sure.’
‘It is probably not necessarily what happened in the last quarter but more what happened earlier in the game.’
‘We felt like we had a lot of the play in the second quarter and then we give up three goals against the breeze late in the quarter, which we come in even at half time.’
‘It’s about getting back to that predictability and that real ruthlessness and hunger to compete and to win games.’
‘I thought the Northern Bullants to their credit came a little bit hungrier today, that’s not to say that our guys didn’t try, they put their best foot forward every week and I can’t knock their character but somethings that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.’
‘We lick our wounds and come up against really good opposition that touched us up last time, so what better way to bounce back and try and bring our best against one of the competitions leading teams at the moment.’
We encourage all Coburg Football Club members and supporters to come down to both our games at Piranha Park next week and cheer on the Coburg Lions Men’s Team on Saturday July 17th at 1pm against Geelong and the Coburg Lions Women’s Team on Sunday July 18th at 12pm against Mornington.
Coburg: 2.1 13 | 8.4 52 | 9.5 59 | 12.10 (82)
Carlton: 5.3 33 | 8.3 51 | 12.10 82 | 12.11 (83)
McEvoy (4), Lowson, Binion 2, Gillard, Thompson, Nelson, Ballard