The forecast morning rain never showed, allowing Springfield Park to play host to a dry but soft surface, as the Whitehorse Pioneers fell at a hurdle from the ruthless Park Orchards Sharks, and going down 12.10 (82) to 17.19 (121).
The scoreboard, however, belied the seven goal blitz slammed on by the Pioneers into the wind in the opening term.
Having been thumped by Ringwood in round three, the most important part of the Whitehorse game was redemption, and that’s exactly what Eddie Sim, Jordan Trevaskis and Marcus Tippett set out to do. Before Park Orchards even cantered out of the starting gate, it was 3.1 to no score; advantage Pioneers.
Out of the contest, Whitehorse powered forward, and thwarted multiple attempts from the Sharks when they approached the attacking 50. Nothing was sealed at quarter time despite the 7.3.45 to 1.3.9 scoreline.
Whitehorse coach Ben Russian emphasised to go man-on-man and slow the Park Orchards run down, but the Sharks turned the tables after a goal to Pioneers Mitch Ward, and began to get a consistent rhythm up the ground, clawing their way back through Sam Coghlan and a brace to Tom Harley.
Like the Sharks players had heard Russian’s words, the margin narrowed to 11 points at half time. Park Orchards captain Tom Fehr, terrific through the middle all day, began to rubber-stamp his name on the game as the top end of Springfield Park continued to be peppered, with 12 of 14 goals being booted towards the carpark.
The shutdown job after halftime on Whitehorse was ruthless. Eleven second half goals to just four meant the Sharks took complete control of the game. Sim was well shut down by Brendan Dillon in the Pioneers forward 50, while Liam Buhagiar sent Park Orchards fans into a frenzy with five third quarter goals.
Having come up from Division 4 last year, the Sharks sit 3-1 after their big win over Whitehorse, and the pressure applied around the ground resulted in 43 second half tackles, and plenty of Whitehorse fumbles. Feher, Harley and Thomas Johnston became mainstays, driving the ball through the middle of the narrow ground.
Critical mistakes, including hurried kicks and being handball friendly cost both sides, but like Whitehorse in the first quarter, Park Orchards made the most of getting the ball away from the contest and into the hands of the forwards.
The Sharks had just four goalkickers for the day, but were well set up by delivering the ball into the forward arc from a variety of angles. Failing legs and limited entries into goal stifled the Pioneers in their 39 point loss, after opening up a margin as high as 42 to the good.
Park Orchards coach John Brown admitted the desired output didn’t show from the senior side early in the game.
“I was really disappointed with our first quarter, we didn’t come to play. Not taking anything from Whitehorse, they were ferocious, they moved the football quickly and efficiently…converting on the scoreboard.”
Brown highlighted the ball control aspect of the game as one element of Park Orchards needing to step up after half time, and they did with flying colours.
“We needed to step up, and the intensity wasn’t there. We got the game back to ten points at half time, and knew we were back in the ball game. Changes made in the second half were fortunate enough for us, with some of those moves paying off.
“We addressed our stoppage football at half time…we let ourselves down in the first half, but ended up with 43 second half tackles. Whitehorse were forced into turnovers through our aggression, starting at the stoppages and continued to flow outside of that.”
“Our list is young, and needs to develop consistency. It may mean we fluctuate a little bit with the effort in terms of contested football, but we’ve brought in experienced footballers to assist. If you don’t turn up, you can be beaten by anyone, and we have to execute our skills by foot and hand.”
The confidence boost of the second half will set Park Orchards in good stead, as they travel out to Heathmont next Saturday, while Whitehorse face last year’s Division 4 premiers, Silvan, in a must win game, not only for points but also percentage.