By Colin MacGillivray
Whittlesea capped a tumultuous week with a rousing three-point Northern Football Netball League division one victory against Northcote Park.
The Eagles shocked NFNL onlookers by announcing on Thursday the sacking of 2019 premiership coach Blair Harvey, with assistant coach Matt Glenn opting to resign.
Former AFL player Jarrad Waite, Jimmy Robinson and Luke Russell were announced as Whittlesea’s new senior coaching panel on Friday.
Waite, who has been hampered by injuries this year after being touted as a key signing for the Eagles during the summer, returned to great effect, kicking three goals against the Cougars on Saturday.
The Eagles also benefitted from the inclusion of midfield gun Blake Watson, who has missed all but three games this season with VFL commitments.
Watson kicked what proved to be the game-winning goal, capping off a 10.14 (74) to 10.11 (71) victory in front of a vocal home crowd at Whittlesea Showgrounds.
In the first half the teams traded goals, with neither able to take advantage of a breeze favoring one end of the ground, but Whittlesea capitalized in the third quarter with four unanswered majors.
Leading by 23 points at three-quarter time, the home side withstood a furious onslaught by the Cougars, who kicked four goals in a matter of minutes.
Whittlesea captain Xavier Dimasi said his team was able to keep its composure in trying circumstances.
“We always knew that they were going to kick with the wind in the last quarter and put one last big crack in, which they did,” he said.
“They kicked four in 10 minutes and eventually hit the front, but to the boys’ credit, in every game this year that we’ve won we’ve managed to kick a goal late in the last quarter and find a way to win, and we did it again.
“Everyone contributed and it was great to see everyone making a contribution to the result in some way, shape or form.”
Defenders Brody Bell, Jaron Murphy and Max Dyson were all among the best for Whittlesea, while ruckman Tom Indian gritted his way through the game after an early injury. Forward Taidhg Bland was also injured minutes into the first quarter and took no further part in the match.
Dimasi declined to comment on Harvey’s departure but said the tumultuous week had affected the players.
He said the Eagles sang their club song with gusto after the stirring victory.
“It was a fair old rendition of the song. There were a few beverages to go with it as well,” he said.
“It was a big week but it was great to get the result and see the enjoyment on everyone’s faces. Everyone was happy after the game and the changeroom was buzzing.
“All the reserves had their day on the hill, which they do annually, so they hung around and were really vocal, especially in the last quarter. They helped us find an extra leg when we needed it.”
The team will enjoy a week off with a Queen’s Birthday bye, before returning to play top-of-the-ladder Heidelberg.
Dimasi said the Eagles would head into the second half of the season with newfound confidence.
“We’ll come back refreshed with some belief that we can win when we play the right footy,” he said.
“The boys will be hungry now after having that win. Our next challenge is to win two in a row.”