BY KELLY MASTERS
Coburg displayed a promising start to the season ahead in their first practice match against the Box Hill Hawks at La Trobe University.
Kicking towards the Plenty Road end, Coburg donned the traditional Navy-Blue Home guernsey’s as the day got underway.
Mark Baker faced up against Isaac Abbas of Box Hill in the ruck, and the Hawks worked the ball into their inside 50 early.
There was great composure in the back half from the Lions who put the wall up, making it as difficult as possible for the Hawks who still managed to kick the first goal of the day.
Marcus Lentini was able to take up grass on the wing and get the ball to Coburg’s forward half. Sam Lowson laid his famous forward pressure, but the Hawks managed to overturn the play, kicking their second.
A superb smother in the centre by Lentini allowed Adam Swierzbiolek to send the ball towards the Lions end. Dinny Cleary fought off opposition to take possession in the goal square, getting Coburg on the board with his first goal in the blue and red.
Shortly after, Lentini received a 50-metre penalty shot at goal and took full advantage, adding excitement to the Coburg campaign.
The patience and composure when switching play across the ground was impressive from the Lions, and the defensive efforts around the field did not go unrecognised.
Jesse Corigliano, Harry Nolan, Ryan Exon, Lucas Cavallaro, Liam Whelan, Jhye Baddeley-Kelly and Ben Overman were all kept occupied in the back half during the quarter, managing to keep the Hawks to a six-point lead at the first break.
The midfield group started the second term well looking to press forward wherever they could.
A superb intercept by Mitch Podhajski signified what would be a quarter full of relentless pressure at the contest and turnovers by both sides.
Another new Lion Aaron Clarke was a force down back. At the same time, Josh D’Intinosante, Brayden Gillard, Luke Bunker, Jackson McDonald, Tom Silvestro, and Jake Sutton all could be found in the midfield and amongst the contest.
Nathan Boucher was winded in a collision, although fortunately returned to the field and played out the rest of the game.
Neither team managed to score a goal during the second term, as Coburg were kept scoreless and Box Hill only added three behinds to their tally.
Trailing by 9-points at the start of the third, the Lions required a significant effort to get the game in their control.
Both sides forced each other to play on the outside, as there was not much action down the corridor.
Athan Tsialtas was awarded a free-kick directly in front and kicked the first goal at the nine-minute mark. Cooper Sharman also joined the goal kicker list in what was a promising hit out by the pre-season recruits.
Coburg continued to press forward via handballs, although Box Hill started to cover Coburg’s game nearing three-quarter time. The Lions held a two-point lead with a quarter to play out.
The momentum continued into the fourth term as Tyson Old kicked a goal on the run and Jacob Ballard made use of a downfield free kick to extend the Lion lead to 14-points.
Harry Nolan took on his opponents to get the ball out of Box Hills forward line, although the Hawks pressed back kicking another major halfway through.
Josh D’Intinosante sealed the deal as the finisher, kicking a set shot straight through the middle with under five minutes left.
Coburg controlled the ball in their forward half as the clock ran down. After what was a substantial second-half effort, the Lions defeated the Hawks by 16-points.
Speaking Post Match, Lions recruit and former Hawk Nathan Boucher, was proud of how the Lions handled the intensity of the game.
“We knew it was going to be one of those games. The first game of pre-season for both sides and it’s always pretty quick and no one can really get a good flow of play, but I thought we held our nerve well and just kept building on the things we wanted to work on. The scoreboard looked after itself into the second half.
“I think that was the main thing was that we just continued to work on what we needed to do and coming into the second half we did that and executed really well.”
The exposure around the ground is something Boucher has thoroughly enjoyed this pre-season.
“Coming across from Box Hill as a forward, I knew I definitely wanted to expand on the positions I play. To get the opportunity through the midfield and on the wing as a high half-forward and a small forward as well it’s a great opportunity for myself. Sturge has been really supportive of me trying out different positions, so I’m looking forward to the year ahead.”
After a successful day, Senior Coach Andrew Sturgess thought the Lions efforts against an opposition for the first time in 2020 were encouraging.
“Box Hill probably settled into the game quicker than what we did, but I was really happy with how our boys were able to make some adjustments at half time and put some things in place in the second half.
“Sometimes we might have overdone it ( switch play ), but It’s really encouraging as a coach that the players are able to listen and probably take things too literally at times. We made some adjustments at half time of when we can take the footy forward, and I thought our players did that really well in the second half.”
As many players trialed various positions throughout the game, Sturgess was impressed with the versatility shown.
“Who we’ve added into the group over the pre-season are probably guys who will have to be able to play multiple positions. That’s encouraging for us as coaches because there are also guys who didn’t play today that were probably very deserving to be in the squad, but I thought the guys who did play multiple positions today, did play well in those. We’ll go to selection again before Richmond’s game, but it’s a great position for us to be in.”
The Lions will take on Richmond Football Club at the Swinburne Centre on March 13th from 6:30 pm; we hope to see as many Coburg fans there as possible to cheer the Lions!
COBURG 7. 4. 46
BOX HILL 4. 6. 30
GOALS: Cleary, Lentini, Tsialtas, Sharman, Old, Ballard, D’Intinosante.