THE Alberton Football Netball League senior team fought hard to take back control of their interleague clash with the Riddell District league last Saturday before going on to record a thrilling 12-point win.
Alberton had started better in the match, and were leading six goals to four at quarter time but the fleet-of-foot Riddell team started to capitalise on a winning ruck combination and an open forward line to look marginally the better side through the second and third quarters.
But it was ‘game on’ at three quarter time with Riddell leading by seven points.
Coach Mark Lafferty kept his message and motivation simple at the final huddle, urging the players to cut back on the handballs and short kicks and go long wherever possible.
Fortunately it was Alberton which turned up the wick at the start of the last quarter, straight out of the centre after the resumption and Brad Tagg taking a shot within seconds. He missed, only to see Riddell respond.
Alberton’s defenders forced the ball back and this time it was Tom McDermott and Kael Bergles combining for a point.
The danger was that this early effort might be wasted but Alberton persevered and finally Danny Reid led up strongly, marked and goaled. It was only a point the difference and the two teams then fought it out all the way to the line.
Riddell actually kicked the first goal of the day, through Tom Ellard but Alberton’s leading goal kicker, Kael Bergles responded quickly.
The Alberton defence, including Dylan Clark, Mark Griffin and others were on top and just as it was struggling to find an opening on the forward line, Jake McMillan came off the bench and banged one through.
It was goal for goal in open play; Bergles with another, Riddell’s danger man Jon Kent leading up strongly and goaling before Tom McDermott bombed long, with Jake McMillan shepherding two Riddell players away from it in the square.
A great passage of play involving Bergles and Danny Wells set Jaymie Youle on his way and they had a handy lead.
Goals by Haydn Ross for the opposition and Nick Connellan for Alberton after some tear-away running and following up by Dylan Clark and Alberton finished the term in front but knowing they were in a contest.
In the second quarter, Riddell took over at the stoppages through the agency of a winning ruck combination and some fast and tough onballers.
They banged on four unanswered goals with lead-up forward Kent especially dangerous and it was all the AFNL could do to hold on and try to limit the damage.
Killy-Bass captain Chris Endres was leading by example in the packs and down back and he combined with Rhett Moor to get something started out of the back half.
Luke Manders got on the end of it, setting up Kyle Kirk for a run on goal.
Riddell got the reply after Danny Nolan was allowed to mark on the line but Alberton was starting to get the ‘one percenters’ right – the tackling, smothering and pressure – and it paid off when Toby Mahoney stuck a great tackle (after missing a shot for goal). He linked up with Endres and Jake McMillan for a much needed goal.
Riddell’s pace had worried Alberton during the quarter but there was only two pints in it at half time.
The game really tightened up all over the ground in the third quarter. Kirk on the social club wing and Wells on the outer wing were going well, Callan Park and Dylan Clark off half back and Chris Endres around the packs were notables.
Alberton added only one goal to Riddell’s two, through Kyle Kirk, on the end of a good build-up through Endres and McDermott, and there was still only seven points in it at the last change.
Coach Lafferty hadn’t been afraid to ring the changes on the ball and off the beach and it was a credit to the players that they adapted because it may well have contributed to the AFNL’s fresher legs in the run home.
As mentioned before, Alberton drew first blood through Reid, and then some fantastic defensive work by all of the back six, with on-ball helpers which stopped a Riddell response for a lengthy period.
Kainen Schrape was having a purple patch, combining with Clark, Tagg and others to start the attacks. When Callan Park snapped truly, the home side hit the front.
Kent led up strongly for Riddell but missed badly and Kurt Thomas, Endres, Clark, Reid and others combined to return fire.
The pivotal moment in the match came when lively Riddell defender Chris Burkett looked to switch play at half back. He hesitated and was mown down by Brad Tagg who made no mistake from the resulting free kick, 35 metres out directly in front.
In a low-scoring game, Alberton was now 11 points in front.
Two goals by Riddell and they were right back in it again. Alberton eked out a couple of points in the final minutes to get the lead to six points and it was McMillan to Tagg and then Manders for a goal which delivered the coup de grace.
Alberton blanketed the stoppages from that stage onwards and secured a glorious 12-point victory.
But the truth of it was that there wasn’t a lot to separate the two sides. Best players were hard to distinguish. All of Alberton’s players contributed and they all came through the match unscathed.
Final scores: Alberton 14.13.97 to Riddell 13.7.85.
Alberton FNL 6.3, 8.6, 10.9, 14.13 (97)
Riddell District FNL 4.1, 9.2, 11.5, 13.7 (85)
GOALS, Alberton FNL: Jake McMillan 3, Kyle Kirk, Kael Bergles 2, Bradley Tagg, Callan Park,Luke Manders, Daniel Reid, Thomas McDermott, Dylan Clark, Nicholas Connellan 1 each.
Riddell District FNL: Jonathon Kent 5, Haydn Ross 3, Daniel Nolan, Thomas Ellard, Rex Hickman, Benjamin Said, Jack Mills 1 each.
BEST, Alberton FNL: Dylan Clark, Nicholas Connellan, Mark Griffin, Callan Park, Chris Endres, Daniel Reid.
Riddell District FNL: Brandon Kilty, Brent Swallow, Haydn Ross, Timothy Walsh, Jonathon Kent, Matthew Burkett.
More Interleague reports in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.
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