By Colin MacGillivray
KILMORE asserted its Northern Football Netball League, NFNL, division three premiership credentials with its first ever road win against perennial powerhouse South Morang on Saturday.
The Blues had never beaten the Lions at their Mill Park Lakes Reserve home since joining the NFNL in 2016, and with South Morang undefeated and boasting a percentage north of 400 entering the round five clash, many onlookers expected it to stay that way.
But Kilmore was confident, scoring a couple of early goals on the board before a persistent rain set in, reducing the game to a physical slog.
Blues coach Nathan Phillips said his side could have been further in front at quarter time if not for a failure to adapt to the conditions.
“The first 10 minutes of the game it hadn’t rained, so we were able to play the way we wanted to play our footy,” he said.
“I told the boys we had to stop trying to play pretty footy once it started raining. We probably cost ourselves the opportunity to score a couple of extra goals through trying to overuse the handball in the wet.
“At the break we were able to communicate that to the group and our focus was on getting good field position against them, because they can lock you into their forward half at times.
“We were able to get the ball forward and our pressure all around the ground was next level.”
Kilmore added another three goals to two in the second quarter, leading 6.2 (38) to 2.7 (19) against the errant Lions at the long break.
South Morang emerged with renewed vigour in the third quarter and kicked two quick goals, but Kilmore was able to find quick replies through Scott Swindells and Marcus Webb.
When pressure forward Luke Chapman went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter, the rest of the forward line stood up, not allowing South Morang an easy transition from defence.
The Blues’ ruck tandem of Mick McCulloch and James Atkinson gave the midfield brigade of Chris Ryall, Chris Barton and Mick Marrett first use of the ball, while the backline was superb all day.
Jaxson Kinnear, used to playing as a loose man in defence, played a tighter role on South Morang spearhead Mitch Kalpakis, keeping him goalless and still managing to take several intercept marks.
Phillips said it had been a complete team performance.
“It was one of those games like in the junior days where you want to put ‘team effort’ in the best. It was pleasing the way we played as a team,” he said.
With a home game against struggling bottom-placed side Lalor ahead on Saturday, Phillips said the challenge for his team was to maintain its intensity.
“The effort has to stay at the same level. We’re probably about 200 per cent behind South Morang. If we want to take top spot at any point during the year percentage is a big thing,” he said.
“No disrespect to Lalor, but we’ve got to try to capitalise when we get opportunities. The boys will be motivated to come out and try to win by as much as we possibly can. We won’t be resting anyone or trying to flirt with form.
“Lalor will come out and have a crack, so we can’t take them lightly or think that it’s going to be an easy one for us. Good sides won’t allow themselves to do that, so we need to make sure we treat it as we would any other game.”
Phillips said the Blues were hoping for a big crowd at the game, with the gates at JJ Clancy Reserve to be thrown open to all spectators free of charge. The seniors’ game begins at 2.10pm.
“Hopefully we get a lot of supporters to get behind the boys,” he said.