By Mitch Guy
THE Alberton FNL climbed further up the VCFL rankings after an outstanding team effort against Loddon Valley FNL at the Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo on Saturday.
Led by Phillip Island midfielder Brendan Kimber – who was awarded the AFL Victoria medal for Alberton’s best player – a faster and hungrier Alberton team came away with a 39 point win.
Alberton coach Mark Lafferty was impressed by the team’s efforts on the day.
“They listened to instruction and we moved the footy really quickly; our young guys were super, they were so good,” he said.
“They were really clean and it makes life easier when they play football the way they did today. Their tackling pressure was outstanding.
“We made a decision that we really wanted to pick guys that wanted to play – we didn’t want to chase people and force people to play – we really wanted the guys that wanted to be here.
“The league takes it deadly serious and Brendan Kimber, I can’t speak highly enough of his attitude and the way he goes about it and it flows through.”
The conditions on Saturday couldn’t have been any better for footy with blue skies, no wind and an impressive surface.
And it didn’t take long for Alberton to get going with three quick goals from Foster big man Nick Connellan setting up an early lead.
With Stony Creek’s Josh Schelling holding his own in the ruck and the midfield of Kimber, Justin Marriott (Allies) and Cal Park (Fish Creek) providing the grunt work at stoppages, the Alberton side was able to move the ball quickly and swiftly.
When Tarwin’s Tom Keily kicked truly from long range, Alberton’s lead was extended to a healthy 24 points at quarter time.
Loddon Valley found their feet in the second quarter and hit back with back to back goals to Anthony Dennis and Jay McDonald within minutes.
But Alberton answered its first major challenge of the day when Cal Park roved a ball up at the top of the goal square and delivered the reply.
Alberton’s hard work was rewarded again when Cal Park streamed forward and calmly slotted a running goal.
Loddon Valley started to move the ball better and allowed Danko Bzenic to break away in space for a running goal as the match heated up.
The Alberton side looked exceptional when allowed space to run and carry, with captain Jaymie Youle (Phillip Island) providing rebound from half back and Ash Snooks (Fish Creek) finding plenty of the ball.
A fine passage of play saw Schelling tap the ball forward from a stoppage before late inclusion Hayden Egerton (Allies) gathered the loose ball and delivered a bullet-like pass to Joe Brooks (Fish Creek), who finished with a steadying goal for Alberton.
Nearing halftime, former Richmond and Carlton player Andrew Collins cut the deficit for Loddon Valley to 21 points.
Collins was captain/coach of Loddon Valley FNL and popped up throughout the day to be amongst his side’s best players, but perhaps showed why he isn’t at an AFL club anymore with a number of missed opportunities in front of goal.
Alberton’s willingness to work hard and pressure the opposition started to reap dividends after half time, with a quick goal to Cal Park after the restart before Marriott pushed forward and kicked his first goal on the run.
When MDU’s Tom McDermott fired out a quick handball to Connellan who snapped around his body, Alberton were in control by 41 points.
But Loddon Valley lifted their intensity and started to register more inside 50s, resulting in a number of shots on goal.
Their inability to convert cost them dearly, as they kicked 0.8 for the quarter to let Alberton off the hook.
Down the other end, Alberton had their own problems in front of goal, kicking 3.8 for the term, but held onto a 38 point buffer at the final change.
Lafferty encouraged Alberton to continue to run out the game and not let the opposition back into the match.
They responded when Ben Fitzpatrick (Korumburra-Bena) found Marriott who had no issue from a tight angle to seal the win for Alberton.
Further goals to Snooks, McDermott and Cam Stone (Stony Creek) put Alberton further ahead as the sting went out of the match.
A few late goals to Loddon Valley made the scoreboard look more respectable, as Alberton ran out deserving winners.
Post-match, Lafferty said he was proud of the side’s efforts.
“They’ve had two wins in a row and the rankings start to improve, but the real thing is giving our league credibility – putting our league where it should be which may be around the 20th mark hopefully,” he said.
“I’ve loved it, just to deal with guys that want to be there. There were a few guys who we would’ve liked to pick but they didn’t want to be here.
“Everyone took their opportunities – even young Gareth Park who’s a 16-year-old – to be playing senior interleague and he wasn’t out of place. It’s a feather in their cap for all of them.”
In a demonstration of the league’s young talent, Cal Park, Josh Schelling, Ash Snooks, Joel Sinclair and Cam Stone were part of the 2010 under 18 interleague side, also coached by Lafferty.
The win sees Alberton move up the rankings to 24th and they will now face the 23rd ranked side in next year’s championships.