Both the Rams and the Blues scraped home in round one, which was the perfect platform for a contest on Saturday at Croydon Park. Brendan Weinert and Jamie Hoffman wasted no time, booting two goals before the Rams had even the slightest look in.
Played in a “game of halves”, East Burwood clicked and found a way out of defence. Wayne Cripps for the Rams brought scores back to 13-apiece, and the main aim of the game was clear: defensive football was the key, as neither side could find a constant breakthrough.
Weinert kicked one more before quarter time, and Croydon took a slim seven point lead into the break.
Quarter two was true momentum football. The centre square was heavy and slow, but finding space on the wings proved to be an effective method of attack towards goal.
An innocuous pack contest saw 17-year-old Jayden Cyster fall awkwardly on his right leg. Croydon missed a couple of chances on the run, while East Burwood couldn’t make the most of their opportunities until the final minutes, with Stephen Catros scoring one and another seconds before the siren, making the half-time margin 10 points.
With heads over the ball for much of the third quarter, pouncing on turnovers and skill errors became almost the only way to break the shackles. Weinert was once again superb for Croydon, while Joseph Canavan was close to brilliant with ball use and midfield drive.
Croydon coach Paul Newlands was incredibly vocal at the final change, drilling the need for more talk in the forward line and motivation to push the ball forward.
They did it, but not before Luke Brown dropped the margin to just seven points. When Weinert scored a major shortly after, the Croydon crowd began to sense a victory. However, Daniel Gribbin made sure East Burwood were there until the end, emphatically celebrating his goal for the day.
Holding the ball up in the defensive half, Croydon ran the clock down for victory.
Newlands re-iterated the confidence he had in the conditions after constant rain all week, as well as the look of the side.
“It’s (the ground) has been in the best shape in the long time. The centre is a little bit heavy, but we knew that was the case…we were happy with the selections we made, and we were happy with the run.”
On the topic of Jayden Cyster, Newlands was disappointed about the loss of a player, but being young he would bounce back.
“He’s a 17-year-old kid…he’s come up from the 19’s, and unfortunately he’s gone down. At the end of the day, it’s part of the game.”
Newlands also highlighted the defensive efforts to keep East Burwood out as a key to stifling the scoring.
“Our back six were exceptional. In the third quarter, East Burwood went in 12 times to kick one goal three (behinds). That to me says our back six are working really well and putting pressure on the opposition…they were our key.”
Croydon 3.2, 5.7, 7.7, 9.8 (62)
East Burwood 2.1, 4.3, 5.6, 7.6 (48)
Croydon: Weinert 4, Kimpton 2, Haag, Travers, Hoffman
East Burwood: Brown, Winder, Masters, Duman, Cripps, Gribbin, Catros