By Colin MacGillivray
A frank discussion about effort was the catalyst for Kilmore’s bounce-back Northern Football Netball League division three win against Old Eltham Collegians on Saturday.
After grabbing top spot on the ladder for the first time ever after a big win against Lalor in round six, the Blues slumped in consecutive losses to Mernda and Laurimar.
Coach Nathan Phillips said he delivered a message about a need for more physicality during the week, and his players responded.
“We had a chat … about how much it meant to us. It showed on the weekend that it matters a bit,” he said.
“[The players] supported each other a lot better. They had more numbers around the ball, worked harder and ran with purpose when the ball was in their area.”
Despite their renewed focus and effort, the Blues were never in for a walk in the park against the Turtles, who had only one loss to entering round nine – also to Kilmore.
In soggy conditions Kilmore kicked the only goal of the opening term, before the visiting Turtles hit back to level the scores at 2.1 (13) apiece by half time.
Kilmore began to control the match in the third quarter, kicking 3.5 to a single goal.
Wingman Tom McMillan typified the Blues’ intent, playing with physicality and winning contest after contest.
Chris Jackson, moved from the midfield to half back, excelled in a new role, while Chris Ryall, Chris Barton, Leigh Irons and Mick Marrett thrived in the midfield.
Kilmore kept the pressure on until the final siren, emerging with a 5.12 (42) to 5.4 (34) victory that could have been greater if not for some inaccuracy.
“[Old Eltham Collegians] obviously like to play pretty attacking at times, and in the last quarter we knew they’d throw everything at us and take a lot of risks, because they had to,” Phillips said.
“We knew if we could absorb their pressure and get the footy going our way we’d be able to create some opportunities in the last quarter.
“We kicked six behinds, and if we’d kicked a bit straighter we might’ve had the game under control a bit earlier.
Phillips praised the efforts of his players, particularly McMillan.
“‘T-Mac’ was really good all day on the wing with his contested work – I don’t think he got beaten all day. Early in the game he was the one throwing his body on the line in contests and inspiring his team mates to follow him and do the same,” he said.
“All our midfield brigade were really good. There was a lot of contested footy and stoppage after stoppage, and not once did they not crack in or give 110 per cent.
“It is pretty gruelling having seven or eight stoppages back to back and it can be pretty taxing, but to their credit they hit the eighth one as hard as they did the first one, which was really pleasing.”
Kilmore will be at home again on June 18 after a Queen’s Birthday bye weekend, with a crucial match looming against South Morang.
Phillips said his side would need to bring the same intensity to emerge victorious.
“We’re going to have to be at our best again. The top six sides have shown in the first half of the year that if you’re five per cent off your best anyone can beat anyone on any given day,” he said.
Kieran Moran is likely to return for the clash, with Luke Chapman one of the few regular senior players still out of the side with a calf injury.
“We got through the game unscathed so we should be pretty close [to full strength],” Phillips said.
“There are a couple of boys running around in the twos who will be putting their hand up as well, so hopefully come Thursday we’ve got a few good headaches in the selection room.”