By Nicholas Galea
It was a successful trip down the Princes Freeway as the Coburg Lions defeated the Geelong Cats, who had 15 AFL-listed players named, in windy conditions at Deakin University Oval, Waurn Ponds, 10.7 67 to 6.9 45.
Even though it was the first game against VFL opposition in almost 20 months, there were no nerves on display in the first of three preseason games for the Lions as they hit the ground running in the opening quarter, having several entries inside 50 and controlling the early stages of the game.
Coburg was eventually rewarded for its efforts with Luke Nelson slotting the opening goal of the game after a strong tackle for holding the ball before Geelong responded through Sam De Koning.
Both sides had their fair share of the footy throughout the quarter but Coburg’s pressure on the ball carrier was at immense levels and it allowed them to put some space between them and the Cats, kicking the last three goals of the quarter through Sam Lowson, Charlie Thompson and Nathan Mullenger-McHugh to lead 4.3 27 to 1.1 7 at the first change.
Lowson started the second term much like the first, being a constant threat in the forward half with his pressure, but it was Geelong who capitalised with the wind advantage kicking consecutive goals to bring the margin back to seven points.
Coburg once again steadied, denying the Cats the ball, with midfielder Marcus Lentini his usual prolific self, finding plenty of the ball. Josh Guthrie’s work rate on and off the ball was also exceptional. Goals to Thompson and Lowson rounded out the half which saw Coburg lead by 17 points, 6.3 39 to 3.4 22.
It was a more open and faster start by both teams to get the third term underway but with the wind not as strong in the opening half, the Cats were able to get their game up and running as they started to control the footy and territory game, not allowing Coburg’s defence to switch the ball or create much run off its half backline.
With the Cats kicking three consecutive goals to hit the front and having the momentum, a spark was needed and it came from Lowson who regained the lead for Coburg with his third goal. It was a more even second half of the third quarter with Coburg settling once again and holding a five-point lead at three-quarter time.
The fourth term had a mixture of tempo and free-flowing footy from both sides as they each understood that the first goal of the last quarter would set the tone.
The Cats continued to press hard but it was an important goal to young Lions key forward Aaron Clarke which extended the margin to 10 points to create some breathing space.
The defence was ably led by co-captain Ryan Exon, Jack Maibaum, and Liam Whelan, with strong support from Ryan Sturgess and Mullenger-McHugh. The defensive unit kept their composure as they absorbed the Cats forward forays, holding them goalless in the last quarter.
Crafty small forward Luke Nelson sealed the victory with a crumbling goal before Luke Bunker put some cream on the cake with a long bomb from 50 metres to see Coburg run out 22-point victors.
Speaking post-game, Senior Men’s VFL Head Coach, Andrew Sturgess was encouraged by the game and attitude the team displayed against the Cats to create a winning culture.
“I think we came here today with the mindset that we want to develop a winning culture,” he said.
“We obviously haven’t won a lot of games in recent years in the home and away season so for us, it’s about developing that winning culture from the outset.
“While we want to work on things for practice games; because that’s what they’re for, we still want to try and win games of football.
“I’m just really happy that we won and hopefully we can carry that confidence into next week.”
Although there was a lapse in the third quarter, Sturgess was also proud of the fight the team showed in the second half of the term to steady the Cats’ momentum and regain the ascendency.
‘We just probably didn’t get our structures right around stoppages in particular and just allowed too many easy exits at the front of the stoppage, which put our backs under pressure. They (Geelong) were able to take some marks forward of the football and convert their opportunities,” he said.
“To our guys’ credit, that was probably the first 15 minutes of the quarter and then they held up and wrestled back some of that momentum, finished off the quarter really well and carried that into the last quarter.”
Co-captain and reliable defender Ryan Exon also shared his thoughts on the victory post game.
“It was a really good game, I thought we played really well,” he said.
“We showed a lot of resilience with the group to only have a goal lead going into three quarter time against the wind and still be able to get a win.”
Exon highlighted that the belief in the playing group was a key factor in the 22-point win.
“It’s one of our key pillars that we pride ourselves on is having that belief,” he said.
“It was just a different feeling to previous years… we came in today, regardless of who we were playing, and we had that belief we were going to get the win.
“That belief in the group is massive.”
We encourage all Coburg Football Club members and supporters to come down to our game and cheer on our boys when we take on Williamstown at Deakin University Oval next week. The opening bounce is at 12:00pm.
Coburg: 4.3 27 | 6.3 39| 7.6 48 | 10.7 (67)
Geelong: 1.1 7 | 3.4 22 | 6.7 43 | 6.9 (45)
Goals: Lowson 3, Thompson 2, Nelson 2, Mullenger-McHugh, Clarke, Bunker