By Colin MacGillivray
KILMORE senior football coach Paul Derrick believes his young side’s self-belief will continue to grow after a stirring two-point road win against Heidelberg West at the weekend.
Despite entering the Northern Football Netball League division three clash as underdogs against the undefeated Hawks, the Blues played hard, committed football to emerge with a 7.16 (58) to 8.8 (56) win, with only inaccuracy in front of goals holding the team back from an even greater win.
With defender Liam Monaghan and forward Michael Fenech lost to injuries in the first half, Derrick said his team could have settled for an honourable loss, but showed grit as it fought on.
“After half time we were two men down, so we just put it on the boys that they’re fit, they’ve worked hard, and we deserve to win if they’re good enough,” he said.
“We asked them to keep plugging and to their credit they just kept hammering away.
“After being challenged in that third quarter anything could have happened, but to the boys’ credit they fought on.
“In the last quarter the scores were level with about 10 minutes to go and we kicked two behinds at the end of the quarter to win it.
“They’ve done the work since November, so we know they’re all fit. It was just about believing in themselves. Hopefully they’ve got that after the weekend.”
Behinds were a theme of the day, with full forward Aaron Speak’s lone goal belying his dominance inside Kilmore’s forward 50-metre arc.
Speak and fellow tall forward Grant Paxton each finished with single goals despite taking several impressive marks, with Ethan Derrick finishing as the Blues’ sole multiple-goal kicker with two.
Riley McLaughlin was outstanding for the Blues, earning plaudits from his coach.
“Riley Mclaughlin was best on ground to me by a mile. He won a lot of footy, played multiple positions and wasn’t beaten all day. He was fantastic for us,” Derrick said.
Also impressive were Caden Fitzpatrick, who showcased his outstanding athleticism in the ruck, and his brother Ethan, who took plenty of intercept marks across the half-back line.
Kilmore ruckman Caden Fitzpatrick shows off his impressive leap against Heidelberg West opponent Lachlan Evans.
Derrick also praised Kilmore’s experienced leaders, who he said were set a tone for the young players to match.
“The old heads like Leigh Irons, Mick Marrett, ‘Barto’ [Chris Barton] and Adam Milne were good,” he said.
“I reckon we had 12 to 15 guys who hadn’t played 15 senior games, so the more experience we can get into them, the better.
“The older heads are desperate for any success, so they keep lifting. Hopefully they drive it and we keep going.”
Kilmore co-captain Mick Marrett isn’t letting Heidelberg West’s Marcus Hill go anywhere.
With another road game against the dangerous Mernda looming this weekend, Derrick said he expected his side to continue its upward trajectory.
“In round one we had a game plan and didn’t execute it at all,” he said.
“In round two Kinglake kicked four [goals] in the last five minutes of the third quarter, which ended up being the final margin. I thought for 60 per cent of the game we played the way we wanted to.
“Reservoir was a good hit-out for us. There were still things we wanted to work on, but we executed 90 per cent of the time. On the weekend there were great signs for us.
“Mernda have had a great start to the year. On their home ground it won’t be an easy ask, but we’ll worry about how we play and hopefully get most of it right.”
Derrick said Fenech was likely to play after rolling his ankle at the weekend but the injured Monaghan would be assessed.
Also in line for selection are ruckman James Atkinson, who made his return from injury in the reserves at the weekend, and vice-captain Mick McCulloch.
Whittlesea faces a tough task to avoid relegation to the NFNL’s second division after its most disappointing game of the season, failing to kick a goal until the third quarter as it lost 2.9 (21) to 20.23 (143) to Macleod.
Whittlesea’s Joshua Eid looks to handball with a Macleod opponent bearing down on him.
The Eagles had been competitive against a string of tough opponents to start the season, playing reigning premier Heidelberg, 2022 grand finalist Bundoora and current top-three sides Montmorency and Hurstbridge in the first four weeks.
Saturday’s game against the 1-3 Roos was seen as an opportunity for the Eagles to earn their first win, but the team was largely listless, kicking only five behinds in the first half and trailing by 79 points at the long break.
Former Essendon AFL player Michael Hurley ran riot with seven goals for Macleod, with Whittlesea’s sole majors for the game coming through Curtis Taplin and Harry Beattie in the third quarter.
Whittlesea captain Xavier Dimasi sends his team inside 50.
Defender Deakin Tennant and midfielders Mitch Andrews, Riley Carter and Taidhg Bland were named among Whittlesea’s best, but the team had few winners for the day.
The Eagles, now two-games clear on the bottom of the ladder, will return to Whittlesea Showgrounds on Saturday to host second-last West Preston-Lakeside.