BY KELLY MASTERS
Against a strong Williamstown outfit, Coburg provided plenty of resistance in a hard-fought clash at Downer Oval.
Wild winds and wet conditions meant many players opted to join Jack Sandric in wearing the long sleeve jumper at the Seagulls nest. Co-Captain Ryan Exon won the toss and chose to kick with the wind towards the city end.
Mark Baker was struck down in a marking contest in the first few minutes, increasing the tension between the teams and making for plenty of hard footy early on. With no finals to play, it was evident the Lions strived to leave nothing in the tank for what was their second last match of the 2019 season.
With the breeze on his side Mitch Podhajski backed himself and kicked the first goal of the game straight through the middle, a textbook drop punt from half forward.
Coburg’s defence efforts were relentless as they forced Williamstown to earn their forward 50 entries, also having 7 rebounds to Williamstown’s 1 mid-way through the quarter.
Forcing the Seagulls to switch play often, there was no doubt the Lions had the upper hand on their hosts early.
Lochlan Dickson went on to line up a long shot from the centre square, adding a well deserved second goal after the group had the last five forward 50 entries.
It wasn’t long before Billy Cannolo snapped his very own in the forward pocket, signifying the return of the talented small forward.
Williamstown hit the scoreboard 20 minutes in, once Jake Greiser broke through the wall of the back six. Jesse Tardio and Sam Martyn added to the Seagull tally that trailed Coburg by 1-point at quarter time. Mark Baker went down to the rooms at quarter time for medical assessment after being struck earlier and was ruled out of the game.
Kicking into the wind in the second quarter proved a difficult task, but the Lions showcased their spirit through their pressure in defence.
Williamstown’s Jack Dorgan and Ben Kennedy used the wind to their advantage by kicking the first two of the second term eight minutes in, after what was a highly congested start following the break.
Coburg kept the footy tight and worked the ball forward later in the term. Marcus Lentini was awarded a free kick and then another 50-metre penalty due to an off-ball incident. Lentini took advantage, adding a goal to his already 15 disposals.
Lentini ended the quarter with 17 disposals, Bunker 13, and Tye Browning 10, all working the ball out of congestion well. Dickson, Podhajski, Cannolo, Josh Weightman, and Sam Lowson could be found amongst the contests as well. The Hard grunt work and forward pressure ensured the Lions were only down by 11-points at the main break.
On return to the ground, the opening minutes were owned by Coburg who struggled to nail their kicking accuracy with the wind. Adam Swierzbiolek hit the post and Steve Stroobants shot at goal swayed left from centre half forward. Lentini kicked the miracle goal, snapping what could be Coburg’s goal of the year from 40 out on the boundary.
Tyson Lever and Ryan Exon joined Coburg’s wounded list after fearless contests, fortunately both were able to play out the remainder of the clash.
The Lions continued to dominate the ball while struggling to convert, holding 54 percent of the possession mid-way through the third term.
It was feeding time for the Lions as a superb tackle by Harry Nolan in the forward pocket and a chase down by Sam Lowson on yet another Seagull, flaunted their hunger.
Sam Lowson continued to press, kicking his first major since returning from injury in round 17. There was an easy goal by Williamstown before the break, but the Lions were well in the game, only 9 points down.
Coburg’s injury concerns continued well into the fourth quarter as Steve Stroobants heavily collided with a Williamstown opponent, and Josh Weightmanhit the ground hard from a Sheppard in the centre-square.
The Lions worked the ball well out of the backline and around the wing, although Williamstown were able to take possession, sending the ball back to their forward half.
As the clock ran down Pete McEvoy was able to take a strong contested mark to get the ball into the Lions forward 50, although Coburg were unable to convert it into a scoring opportunity.
Stand out four-quarter performances included Jack Sandric keeping Michael Hibberd to 15 touches, Marcus Lentini raking up 32 disposals as well as kicking three important goals, and Luke Bunker finishing with 16 impressive tackles.
Williamstown went on to kick three late goals which extended the margin to 38 points at the final siren, not accurately reflecting Coburg’s lion-hearted efforts.
Speaking post-match, Deputy Vice Captain Sam Lowson was pleased to have Billy Cannolo return from injury today and join him in the forward line.
“He does heaps, his off ball run is unbelievable, he works hard both ways and we’re both probably a little bit rusty but him just leading to different spots of the ground to open up spots for other people to work was good.”
Lowson went on to detail where Williamstown got on top.
“I think we just didn’t adapt to the conditions; they play this ground very well and we got drawn to far up and it ended up getting out the back. They used the spare very well, so it was just time to adapt to the conditions, they just knew the ground a lot better.”
Forwards coach Brent Taylor commented on the Lions efforts against the top four team.
“For us to only be two goals down at half time I was actually very proud of the boys. I thought it was our best quarter against the wind all year, so we took a lot out of that. I thought we were going to set ourselves up for a big third quarter, but we just didn’t finish well.”
Looking towards the Lions last match in round 21 against Footscray, Taylor said,
“We’ve got to really come to bring a game for four quarters. We could almost have pinched this game today so hopefully we take a lot out of that.”
Williamstown: 13. 13. 91
Goals: Lentini 3, Podhajski, Dickson Cannolo, Lowson
Best Players: J. Sandric, H. Nolan, M. Lentini, A. Swierzbiolek, S. Lowson, J. Weightman