REIGNING West Gippsland premiers, Inverloch-Konwak, started the new season in sparkling form last Saturday when the pulled away from last year’s runners-up, Cora-Lynn, in the final term of what had otherwise been a tight, sometimes willing affair.
And they couldn’t have started the first match of the season in better style either, after initially lining up for the unfurling of the 2017 flag in front of the clubrooms and then running in the first goal of the day, through Harry McInnes and Tom Wyatt.
The season was off and running and the big Easter crowd was not disappointed with what they saw from two teams who are sure to figure in the finals again this year.
The only downside was an injury early in the game to utility defender Dylan Clark who reportedly broke his collarbone.
Cora-Lynn was giving as good as they were getting on the ball and around the ground but after blazing away and seeing the ball cleared, they opted to work the ball more methodically into the forward line and it paid dividends with their first.
In a well-worked passage from defence to attack, six players got their hands on the ball; Pullen, Payne, Johnson, Sparks, an unsighted player and the busy Woodfield before Dalton marked and popped through their opener.
It was a pattern they were to try and repeat throughout the day, trying to maintain possession for their scores, while IK adopted a more free-flowing approach to attack, built on a strong rebounding defence.
There was a lot to like about IK’s defence on Saturday with the likes of Xavier Hughes getting loose to provide good run and Shem Hawking, as ever, working hard in the transition.
But it was Cora-Lynn which had the early advantage with a slight wind to the supermarket end of the ground and here Travis Woodfield (14) was getting off the leash to give IK’s defence a headache.
He combined with Rout for one shot on goal, then buttered up soon after for a nice goal from the angle. IK was going to have to do something about him.
At the other end, IK looked to have the more potent scoring ability and a creative handpass out of the centre by Dale Lawton to Andy Soumilas and on to Toby Mahoney, on the lead, deserved better.
At the centre bounce and on the ball, Soumilas was being tagged by Brendan Pullen (50) but apart from being scragged at the bounce or ball ups, Soumilas was getting away from him.
When Daniel Houston was dumped in a crude tackle by his Cobras’ opponent, there was plenty of feeling in the contest as other IK team mates, including Corey Casey, came in to remonstrate.
It’s only just two seasons into the new West Gippsland comp but already IK and Cora-Lynn are building up quite a rivalry; the Cobras used to being top dogs in their former league and IK now coming through to assume that mantle.
The teams had two goals apiece on the board close to quarter time but it was Woodfield who broke the deadlock with a team-lifting goal right on the siren.
After the first break, Tom Wyatt and Will Hetherington both kicked majors to see IK take the lead but the match continued to see-saw, end-to-end in entertaining fashion.
Former Poowong ruckman Connor Cunningham looks to be the ideal pick-up for IK this year, initially taking a turn in the key defensive post but also getting a run on the ball in what looks to be a winning combination with Clint McCaughan this year.
Campbell McKenzie and Josh Purcell are others who showed early season form on Saturday but right down the list, there was plenty to like about IK and the side barely had a passenger all day.
With the scores tantalizingly close at the last break – eight goals each – it was to IK’s credit that they pulled away with 3.5 to Cora-Lynn’s inaccurate five points, making good use of the wind and exposing the tiring visitors.
So, it was the ideal way for IK to dispel any thoughts of a hangover after last year’s heroics and they seem to have a style of play that will be sustainable through the season, but with the potential to peak again as required later in the year.
But Cora-Lynn continues to be a worthy opponent, especially on their own or neutral grounds later in the year.
Also worthy of note is the new look of the Inverloch footy ground without the Cypress trees. It does look a little bare by comparison this year but there’s no doubt a bigger crowd was able to get up close to the action on the outer side and over time, it’s bound to be hailed a success.
They had to go, anyway, and a bit of beautification will work wonders.
Final scores: Inverloch-Kongwak 11.16.82 defeated Cora-Lynn 8.12.60.
Finally IK’s flag flies high
“INVERLOCH-Kongwak has ended its 31-year premiership drought with a staggering 95-point thumping of Cora Lynn on Saturday at Wonthaggi.”
So said the ‘Sentinel-Times’ in the aftermath of the first West Gippsland Football Netball League Grand Final last September.
That was the time to celebrate and IK made the most of it.
But Easter Saturday was all about the new season and there was no sign at all of a premiership hangover, even after the Sea Eagles gave an appropriate nod to the heroics of last year and honoured one of their stalwart supporters, Stuart Scott at the same time, when they unfurled the 2017 flag.
Both clubs lined up firsts, seconds and A Grade netballers to see the flag hoisted to the top of the grandstand and, without any further ado, it was on with the show.
IK President Bruce Clark said Stuart Scott was the ideal one, with the assistance of sponsor Bob Sutton, to do the honours.
“He’s a long-time supporter and helper, the ideal supporter really. Down here every Thursday night, at all the games and ready to lend a hand.”
After waiting so long though, Inverloch-Kongwak looks capable of going on with it if Saturday’s opening round performance is any guide.
IK Reserves finals material again
TO BE able to display such strong on-field resources as Inverloch-Kongwak did on Easter Saturday, in the Seniors and Reserves, augers well for another successful season ahead for the Sea Eagles.
And the Reserves showed the way in style for the senior training group when they put on nine goals to just two points by their opponents through to half time for a most emphatic start to the season.
The team was led up front by Lucas McMillan who looked in good nick kicking five goals in a return to footy.
He will no doubt straighten the team up going into attack this year and provide some of the goal-scoring power the Seconds lacked in the finals last year.
There was a lot to like about the contribution right down the list and despite the warm conditions, IK played the game right out, an indication of early season fitness and form.
The veteran Barry Withers was named best with the likes of James Sheerin, Tom Whelan, Simon Zammit and Todd Lomax also being named.
They won by 11 goals at the end of the day and look capable of providing some good replacements for the Seniors as required.