It was billed as the top-of-the-table clash and it certainly delivered in all the excitement and tension that you would expect from such a game. Father’s Day brought out all the family including grandfathers, and the (socially distanced) crowd rivaled a mid-Covid SCG clash, both in size and enthusiasm. Steve Chisholm Oval was in pretty good nick, the overnight rain softening up the the ground slightly, and there was only the need for a hurried filling up of a hole obviously dug by a poorly supervised dog. The boundary cones were blue and white, a little bit of psychological warfare!
Coach Roger brought them in a little earlier than normal for the pre-game address, and talked not only technique — “get a hand in to spoil”, but attitude — “this is a great opportunity and we should be excited for the contest”. He stuck largely with the new positions that were successfully trialed the previous week. Angus captained today and he led his team out with a mighty “C’mon Cats!” roar.
The game started out slowly for the Cats, the ball was in the Reds forward fifty more than not, and they scored 2-1-13 to our solitary behind. At the quarter time break, as the boys came in dragging their heels, Coach Roger implored them to want to beat their individual opponent to the ball, and work through it together as a team. The boys responded immediately, dominating the 2nd quarter 4-1-25 to 1-1-7, and went into the long break ahead by only a single straight kick. The third quarter was squared at one goal apiece, and the margin at three-quarter time remained one goal in the Cats favour.
The last quarter couldn’t have started off worse for the Cats, with the Reds kicking a quick goal and behind to regain the lead by one point. The Pennant Hills parents were kicking up a jubilant storm at the eastern end, and on the Cats side, there was tension everywhere: in the players, in the parents, and particularly in the coaches box! But at that point the Cats players responded, dug in, got the ball over the top to the running forwards and scored two more goals to take the lead. When Zac Holgate pulled down a strong forward fifty mark in the last minute, the runner bolted out to give the message to take his time with the kick. But Zac had already spotted the clock, and was nonchalantly tossing bits of grass into the air like a seasoned pro. It didn’t even matter that it hit the post, the result was beyond doubt. The siren sounded, and with players hugging, parents hugging (or covid-safe fist-bumping) and the coaches back-slapping, everyone enjoyed the victory. The boys didn’t even wait for the coach to begin the team song! In his post match address, Coach Roger was particularly impressed that the response to his call at quarter time was a team response, with every member competing to get the win. It is an effort that will hold us in good stead for the upcoming finals.
Goal scorers were Dylan O’Dowd (3), Hudson (2), James Hughes, and Lucius. Final score was 7-3-45 to 5-3-33. When all the team performs well, it is far harder to decide who should be rewarded, and choosing one player over another is a matter of fine degrees. Dylan Fleischer was strong in defence, and was missed when he was on the bench. He was awarded Defensive Player of the Day. Hudson had been challenged during the week by the coaches and he responded masterfully, easily accumulating the most disposals on ground, most clearances, and contributing in front of goal. He was awarded Team Player. Dylan O’Dowd’s work in front of goal, including kicking the sealer, earned him Play of the Day.
After a full-on game like today’s it is tempting to have a light training session. But no, there’s one more home and away game to come and we need to protect our undefeated Sydney Harbour Div 2 minor premiership. Then to follow up with two weeks of finals series; it is only ramping up!
Team Ablett’s final game next Sunday is against Leichhardt Cygnets at Steve Chisholm Oval at 11:45am. Go Cats!
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