In front of a partisan crowd at Kenny Park, the Magpies zigzagged their way methodically down the field with passes to teammates who were running into spaces South Mildura just couldn’t close.
It was precision football at its best and a sign that last year’s one-win, bottom-of the-table side is a different beast this year, one that is more level-headed, more mature, more potent.
The hosts won by an percentage-boosting 81 points but the gulf between the Pies and the Bulldogs, who are propping up the ladder, was even greater than that margin suggests.
The die was cast early when South Mildura, kicking with a strong breeze, blew an opportunity to put their hosts under any scoreboard pressure and were stunningly five points behind at the first break.
Merbein banged on six unanswered goals in the second and it was game over. South Mildura barely won the third (1.3 to 1.1) before the Magpies kicked away in the last with another six goals-to-nil effort to seal the emphatic win.
With four rounds to go, Merbein are snapping at the heels of fourth-placed Wentworth and a game ahead of the other finals aspirant, Ouyen United.
After last year’s travails, it’s a position Magpies coach Jarrod Buckley is relishing.
“We’ve got the three best teams coming up and Ouyen (United) as well but I think we’ll be able to snag a couple of wins there,” Buckley said. “I think we are playing our best football at the moment.”
Veteran performers like Ash Rowe, Justin Frankel and Joe Cavallo continue to haul their load but they have a new cadre of workmates who are easing their work rate.
Joshua Carmichael was dominant around the ball and lethal when up forward with three goals, Lachlan Collihole was equally impressive and booted four, Darren Booth and Kyle Stevens provided great rebound from defence in a team full of contributors.
“We recruited well and the blokes that have come in have helped pick up the skills,” Buckley said. “We had a problem last year where we didn’t have enough leaders on the field and now we have 22 guys who are not afraid to tell each other what’s what.”
That sort of experience and leadership is sorely lacking at South Mildura and something that can’t be remedied quickly, according to coach John Pratt.
“Today was pretty disappointing all round and probably the worst loss we have had,” Pratt said.
“These guys are playing for their future. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing now and we will be looking to bring a few more in over the next few weeks. You can’t just rant and rave, you just have to encourage the young guys and tell them that they have to have pride in their performance.”
Adrian Pantarotto, John Jackson, Deklan Loveridge, Kevin McDonald and Tyler Curtis, who played a lone hand up forward with three goals before being asked to perform a Canutian task in defence, stood out for the battling side.
The following is the round 14 summary from the weekly footy guide (R15)
To quote my dear Grandfather, if you were having a cup of tea at the footy on Saturday…….. “The wind would have blown the milk clean out of it”………Well that’s about what it was like at Kenny Park. The “Its OK not to be OK” round with Merbein was a great day raising awareness on mental health issues and we were glad to be apart it and the great work this foundation is doing. All in all a successful day for South with only a couple of results not falling our way come the final sirens.
Our A-Grade netballers put on a dominant display to reap the return of an outstanding result in the windy conditions. With Demi Toms back in the side from a few weeks overseas holiday she was on point straight up dropping goals in from every angle. Regan took out BOC honours for South in a great display, congratulations ladies.
The senior footy team suffered a less than desired result, only hampered more so with a calf injury to Pratty in the first 5 minutes of the game, and by half way through the 3rd quarter we were down to only 1 on the bench. Not a good outing by any football standard. Baily Stone came back into the side for his first senior game for the year after debuting early last season, he put in a very solid effort and just seemed to take the extra pressure and speed at which the game is played all in his stride. Tyson Giles in only his 3rd senior game showed glimpses of his speed, agility and his very good foot skills in the trying conditions. But it was young Rowey on the wing, Grandson of club legend Wally Keeble who cut loose with a standout performance for the year, breaking the lines and running around 2 and 3 opponents to get the ball to his forwards. Tyler Curtis finished the day as our major goal scorer with the limited opportunities that were offered up.
Today we host Ouyen United and look forward to returning their hospitality that they conveyed to us at Underbool earlier in the season. Both clubs over the last couple of seasons have developed a very respectful attitude toward each other both on and off the ground and court, this extends to after match functions which have been greatly attended by both clubs and the friendly and relaxed atmosphere is fantastic to be apart off, Good luck to all teams competing today.
Today is also our Mildura Holden Day. Mildura Holden has been a major sponsor off South Mildura for many years and we extend a warm welcome to Paul Shelly and his team here at #3 today with some Holden vehicles on show. Remember if you are in the market for a new Holden and you mention you’re a member of South you can receive further discounts on new vehicle pricing. Talk with the Holden team today. Again we look forward to all Netball and Football games today at #3 and may the best teams be triumphant…….Go Doggies…
The Barking Bulldog