By Daniel Foley
Coburg continued its strong pre-season form with a six-point win over Williamstown in a thrilling practice match at Deakin University on Sunday. After trailing by three points at three quarter time, Coburg kicked two goals in the last quarter to claim a 9.14. (68) to 9.8. (62) win.
The Lions had threatened to break away after kicking six unanswered goals in the second quarter, yet Williamstown fought back in the third to take the lead. Despite multiple last quarter lead changes, the Burgers were able to hold their nerve and get back in front to claim victory.
Marcus Lentini provided plenty in the middle for Coburg, leading the team in disposals with 27 possessions alongside several clearances and contested possessions. Luke Nelson was also critical in the win, booting three majors and acting as a strong attacking option for Coburg. With five minutes left in the match, Nelson snapped a shot at goal on the run to put Coburg in front.
A fast start saw Coburg kick the opening goal of the match, with Nathan Mullenger-McHugh taking a mark and kicking truly. Coburg had a number of inside 50’s early on but were unable to make the most of their opportunities. Williamstown then hit back in the second half of the quarter, dominating possession, and kicking three goals to take the lead. Goals were hard to come by in a tightly contested opening term with plenty of tackling and stoppages. Luke Bunker exemplified this pressure on the opposition, ending the match with as many tackles as he had kicks (10).
In an impressive second term, Coburg kicked away from Williamstown, with six goals for the quarter whilst keeping the opposition scoreless. The Lions dominated possession early with Braedyn Gillard and Mitch Podhajski kicking back-to-back goals. Sam Lowson (15 possessions) then pounced on a loose ball in the forward 50, snapping a goal to give Coburg the lead. Ryan Exon and Harry Nolan took strong intercept marks during the second quarter, with Exon providing some run off half back to rebound the ball out of the defensive 50.
Coburg took a 25-point lead into half-time before Williamstown responded in the third quarter – kicking five goals of their own whilst restricting the Lions to just three points. Despite conceding the first goal of the second half, Coburg was strong defensively in the early parts of the third quarter, cutting off several forward 50 entries by Williamstown. The Lions gave away several free kicks and 50 metre penalties in the third term, three of which resulted in goals for Williamstown.
Both teams struggled to score in the early stages of the last quarter. After kicking a behind from a similar position minutes earlier, Aaron Clarke kicked a goal from a set shot to give Coburg a one-point lead midway through the final term. A potentially goal-saving tackle at half-back from Lentini was rewarded with a free kick for holding the ball, allowing Coburg to go inside 50 once again. After multiple Lions behinds, Williamstown pushed forward to kick a goal and take the lead. Coburg struck back soon after with a goal to Nelson, putting the team back up by four points. Exon again took a strong intercept mark to pump the ball back inside 50, with Coburg being able to lock the ball in their forward half for the last stages of the quarter. Notably, Charlie Thompson moved the ball extremely well throughout the match, with 18 disposals at 94% efficiency.
Speaking post-game, backline coach Mark Hounslow said that the team showed some positive signs in the win.
“It was great, it was a good build up from last week. I think we are taking a few steps each week and what we’ve been doing in regards to training is starting to translate now onto the ground,” he said.
“We are looking good, there is great competition for spots… there are a number of guys now trying to get that round one spot, which is good.
“I think we are pretty much at full strength now, we got a couple guys back today, including Harry Nolan and Rigga (Jesse Corigliano). So, if those two can get through next week, then come Frankston I think we’ll be in really good shape and ready to hit the ground running.”
Coburg: 1.3 9 | 7.5 47 | 7.8 50 | 9.14 (68)
Williamstown: 3.4 22 | 3.4 22 | 8.5 53 | 9.8 (62)
Goals: Nelson 3, Clarke 2, Mullenger-McHugh, Lowson, Podhajski, Gillard