Old Eltham Collegians led from start to finish to record an impressive 40-point victory over the previously undefeated Kinglake in their Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 clash at Eltham College.
A four goal to one second term set the tone for the day, with the Turtles never looking back in the 9.7 (61) to 2.9 (21) result.
With a 26-point half time deficit, the Lakers toiled hard after the main break but were not able to find an avenue to goal. They had more scoring shots than the home team, but their forward thrusts yielded only 0.7 after the main break.
“We got it back to square at 3-3.” Old Eltham Collegians coach Matt Sleeman said.
“We now have a couple of weeks to rest before setting up for the back half of the season.”
The fact that the Turtles were so difficult to score against was thanks to a dominant defence led by Daniel Hallett and Nathan Byatt. Hallett has been especially notable as he hadn’t played for seven years prior to this season and today was only his second senior game.
Mitchell Rodda debuted for the winners and impressed down back. Rodda had previously played a senior game for West Preston-Lakeside in 2019, while fellow 2023 recruit Jaedyn Kearney was also terrific in the defensive half, winning one-on-one battles and using the ball well.
Part of the reason Old Eltham Collegians defended so well was that the Kinglake players would constantly bomb the ball into forward fifty to an outnumbered contest. Sometimes the pressure applied to them caused this and at other times it was just poor decision-making.
The Turtles outworked the Lakers and it sometimes appeared that they had more players on the ground due to their superior work rate, with Nicholas Milne and Matthew Williamson being the beneficiaries of that effort, kicking three and two goals respectively.
The work of Sebastian Francis-Perkins and Jack Fitzgerald in the engine room was exemplary. Fitzgerald managed to grab a couple of crucial centre square clearances which led to goals, while Francis-Perkins was named the unanimous best of ground. He played all over the ground, winning clearances, helping out down back, also going forward to kick a goal.
After the game, Francis-Perkins spoke of the team focus to go in hard and to be first to the ball.
“Grit won us the game today,” he said.
Benjamin Cox had a great day on the wing and kicked two goals, while Matthew Quinton worked tirelessly in the ruck.
Winners for Kinglake were harder to find as they registered their first loss in the 2023 competition.
“They were too good for us,” Kinglake coach Andrew Fairchild said.
Fairchild had praise for Riley Kennedy who was a stand-out across half-back with his intercept marking, and was also a reliable linkman from defence to midfield.
The coach also gave a tick to Thomas Clarke for his ruckwork and thought that the defence as a whole stood up well.
Matthew Langford was busy through the midfield and half forward area, while Lachie White and Mason McAllister contributed well. Matthew Coen was best on ground at quarter time after dominating the first term with some brilliant contested and intercept marking, all while playing a role in the ruck.
A pleasing fact for Lakers fans, despite the loss, was that they fought the game out well once it was done and dusted.
It didn’t really show up on the scoreboard as they were unable to put the ball through the big sticks, but they could’ve easily fallen away in the final quarter. However, the ball lived mainly in their forward half late in the contest.