By Nicholas Galea
The Coburg Lions have fallen heartbreakingly short of pulling off an incredible come-from-behind victory over the Williamstown Seagulls, going down 9.15.69 to 10.13.73 in it’s third home game of the 2021 VFL season at Piranha Park. It was the Club’s fourth defeat by under a goal this year.
It was a rather subdued start as both teams set up strong defensively, each guarding the corridor but the ball started to get rolling as either side alternated periods of dominance throughout the quarter.
Coburg struck first blood, kicking the opening two goals of the game through Mitch Podhajski and crafty small forward Josh D’Intinosante who was playing his first game since round four after a lengthy injury layoff which was enough to give the Lions an 11-point lead at quarter time.
Coburg had the early play in the second quarter but Williamstown would soon gain the ascendancy locking the ball in their forward half, not allowing the Lions defence much respite as they struggled to clear the ball beyond the wings.
Adam Marcon and Billy Meyers would see Williamstown get in front for the first time in the game but Coburg would eventually slow down their momentum and retook the lead through co-captain Peter McEvoy who kicked his first of the day just before half time to give Coburg a four-point advantage.
The third quarter would start much like the first term in terms of dour defensive play before it started to open up from the halfway point of the quarter.
Coburg’s midfielders continued to provide its forwards with plenty of opportunities but seemed to blaze away on occasions with the Seagulls defence rebounding with ease at times.
The match began to turn as Seagulls ruckman Tom Downie would start to take control in the ruck contests, allowing Williamstown’s midfielders to deliver several quality inside 50s, helping them kick six goals in a row which included three in three minutes through Marcon, Josh Pickess and Corey Rich which put them 30 points up.
First year Lion, Charlie Thompson halted the onslaught after slotting his first of the game from the top of the goal square a few minutes before the three-quarter time siren to give Coburg hope going into the final break.
With the margin sitting at 24 points, quick and early goals in the last quarter would be essential in reeling in the deficit and sparking belief of a momentous victory and the call was answered by Podhajski who kicked his second goal of the game before a long-range bomb from defender Tom McKenzie made the difference just 11 points.
The Lions seemed to be playing with a lot more flair and courage, moving the ball at brisk pace with many of its players finding space which wasn’t found earlier in the day. Coburg continued to put pressure on the Seagulls defensive half and were rewarded for their efforts with two special goals; from D’Intinosante and Thompson, which made the idea of a comeback victory seem very possible as they hit the lead.
A strong mark and clinical set shot by McEvoy a few minutes later made it five goals in a row to put the Lions ahead by nine points at the 18-minute mark but Williamstown would respond almost immediately through Josh Pickess who brought the margin back to three points.
Even though there was no one in attendance due to COVID restrictions, you could feel the tension rise across the ground as neither side took a backwards step, lifting their intensity and pressure at every contest, willing the ball forward.
Thompson had a chance to make things extremely difficult for the Seagulls but his kick from 45 metres out just faded to the left-hand side.
Fortune favours the brave in these games and in this instance Williamstown forward Corey Rich was able to find space close to goal taking a mark as he slipped over but regained his composure, kicking truly from 10 metres out to put the Seagulls back in front by four points.
Unfortunately, the final siren was once again the enemy for Coburg as they ran out of time with Williamstown just holding on in what was a very tense final quarter.
Speaking post-game Senior Men’s Coach Andrew Sturgess was disappointed with the defeat and could understand that there would be some frustration but he chose to focus on how far the group has come in a short space of time considering the maturity of the team.
‘I think the beauty of our group is that we are putting ourselves into positions to be in the contest every week and win these games compared to previous years where the likes of Williamstown and these other clubs that we are going toe to toe with, we were being wiped off the park,’ Sturgess said.
‘It’s incredibly disappointing because we feel like we did enough to get ourselves back in the game, particularly that last quarter and finish it off well… All we can do is earn from these experiences.’
‘As hard as it is right now in the moment, it can be galvanising for a group going forward that these close losses will hopefully create learning opportunities if we are put in these positions for our final two games or in years to come that we are better prepared to deal with them.’
Sturgess also highlighted the performance of small forward Josh D’Intinosante who impressed on return from injury as an important piece of Coburg’s forward puzzle.
‘I think that’s what we say today was a young kid who loves to play the game,’ he said.
‘His pressure is something that we have missed a fair bit, just that harassment and willingness to chase and put the opposition under serious pressure was really good.’
‘I think it helped other guys like Luke Nelson and Sam Lowson who have had to probably do a lot of heavy lifting in that regard.’
‘It was really nice to see him finishing off with two goals as well, when he kicked one early one all his teammates got around him which was nice.’
The Coburg Lions Men’s Team return to the field next Saturday 7th August when they take on Sandringham at Piranha Park with the opening bounce scheduled for 1pm.
Coburg: 2.3 15 | 3.7 25 | 4.10 34 | 9.15 (69)
Williamstown: 0.4 4 | 2.9 21 | 8.10 58 | 10.13 (73)
D’Intinosante (2), McEvoy, Podhajski, Thompson & McKenzie