By Colin MacGillivray
A CONTROVERSIAL free kick and a goal after the siren denied Kilmore an eighth successive win in a dramatic Northern Football Netball League division three showdown against Old Eltham Collegians on Saturday.
The Blues, playing shorthanded without centre half-forward Bailey Taylor-Egan or wingmen Tom McMillan and Ciaran Barton, looked to have done enough to secure a tough win against the Turtles late in the last quarter, but were done in by a lack of composure at critical moments.
Kilmore goaled to go three points clear with about three minutes left in the contest, and surged forward again for what would have been a game-sealing goal before missing an easy shot.
After an Old Eltham behind the Blues again moved the ball into the forward line but missed an open target.
With only seconds left before the siren the Turtles sent the ball inside 50, where centre half-forward Tom Woods was awarded a free kick for a push in the back.
Woods calmly slotted the set shot after the siren, snapping a Kilmore winning streak that extended back to round four.
While Kilmore coach Nathan Phillips said the free kick ‘definitely wasn’t there’, he said it was a lack of composure that ultimately doomed the Blues.
“We had a few opportunities to make it so that call wasn’t the decider and we weren’t able to take them,” he said.
“The loss hurt the boys. They know we need to be better, and they’re all keen to get on the track tomorrow night to make sure we knock Laurimar off this week.”
Despite the loss, Phillips saw plenty to be happy about, including the contributions of younger players like William O’Dwyer-Richards, Angus Hart and Liam Monaghan, who made his senior debut.
Onballer Chris Jackson played one of his best games for the season, young tall Caden Fitzpatrick continued his promising form and Scott Swindells booted three goals at full forward.
“We were undermanned and had a young side in. It was a fantastic effort and we fought back two or three times from being behind,” Phillips said.
“The kids all stood up and contributed, which is a bonus going forward – we know we’ve got a few boys we can call on if need be and who could stay in the side and keep some others out.”
Phillips said many opposition sides had targeted the Blues this season but that his team had responded admirably.
“We won seven in a row and almost every week with the exception of when we played the bottom side it seems to be that everyone gets up for us as a big game and we have to keep going to the well and continuing to be up. It can take its toll over time,” he said.
“At the end of the day we’re 8-3 and, while we squandered some opportunities, it’s about learning and we’ll make sure the boys understand the mistakes that we made as a team late in the game and make sure they don’t happen again.”
The Blues will be tested against Laurimar, which downed previously unbeaten South Morang 16.6 (102) to 13.6 (84) on Saturday.
Jacob Lawson, Josh Leather and a four-goal haul from Brody Glenn lifted the Power, who leapfrogged the Blues into second place on the ladder.
Mernda was also impressive at the weekend, recording a 27.24 (186) to 5.5 (35) win against Reservoir, with Will Crouch and Jake Stavrevski leading the way with 10 combined goals.
The Demons will play Lalor in round 14.
In division one Whittlesea was unable to stay with Greensborough, losing 16.18 (114) to 10.10 (70) after leading at quarter time.
The Eagles were well served by brothers Jake and Cameron Wild, with Blake Watson, Xavier Dimasi and Zach Molloy also putting forth their usual outstanding efforts.
Whittlesea will have a week of rest during the split round before returning on July 24 to play winless Northcote Park in what looms as an excellent opportunity to capture a second win of the season.