Old Brighton Grammarians comfortably defeated Old Scotch at Camberwell yesterday, in a performance that confirmed the improvement in its young players that the Club had hoped for when the season began. Staggered by the loss of so many experienced players, the young Tonners were always going to take time to forge their new identity. With only two wins from our first ten games, the Tonners were staring relegation in the face after failing to convert good starts in most of their games. Forced from our ground a month ago by heavy rains and failed drainage, we desperately needed the players to make a stand and turn our fortunes around. They have responded magnificently and this fifth consecutive win now has some people looking ahead at a possible finals birth that has never been in this correspondent’s considerations. We have certainly been boosted by the return of several players, the tragically unlucky Harry Cannon not the least of them. No sooner had Harry stiffened our defence with Coach Hutchison’s inspired decision to send the key forward to full-back, than his knee has failed him again and he was forced to watch his mates surge away from the Cardinals yesterday. With three games to go, the Tonners’ fate is in our own hands, and with the compressed nature of the Premier B ladder which has the five clubs from third to seventh, separated by only six match points, the finals’ race is still wide open. The Tonners face Monash Blues (5th) and Old Haileybury (9th) at home in Rounds 16 and 18. Round 17 at Beaumaris, offers the boys the chance to put right their first-round demolition at the hands of the ladder leaders.
Yesterday the game was again at the mercy of a strong, swirling wind that compromised play at the grandstand end to which the Tonners kicked in the opening stanza. Our tackling was fierce and the pressure we were able to keep on Scotch all day emerged as the telling factor in the match. Scotch was held to two goals with the breeze, and Andre Olivier’s goal into it looked invaluable. Hamish began well in the ruck, Fisher, Mariani and Delaney were strong in close, and the defence, led by captain, Dylan Verney, Andy Dewar and Tom Larkworthy, combined skilfully to thwart most of the home side’s trips forward.
Harry Hill levelled the scores as soon as play resumed with a long drive from the garage doors but our progress was stalled for most of a disappointing quarter in which play became congested and choked any chance of fluent movement into goal. Though most players crowded into our half, we didn’t help ourselves and it was almost predictable that when Scotch eventually found a way out, they goaled into the wind. From the bounce, Harry’s tackle on his opponent, rotating him the full 360 without any attempt to dispose of the pill, was not rewarded. The ball eventually dropped free without any correct disposal visible, Scotch gratefully swept up the spill and goaled again, a temporary disaster that was thankfully halted late in the term when Dan Anthony and Ben Jakobi both goaled splendidly to give us a narrow halftime advantage.
Without the Pocket Rocket, forced from the field in his 100th, we needed to increase our endeavour around the ball in the second half. The boys’ third term was outstanding and set up the win. Scotch was held to a paltry three points with the wind as all Tonners hurled themselves into contests and regularly worked the ball into our scoring zone. Our defence held firm and we were able to attack around the edges where Stuart Hooy and Ben Jakobi held sway and found targets like young Andre Olivier, who converted another chance. As time ran out for Scotch to score on the wind, The Minstrel, with speed and ingenious anticipation, charged at a ball held up in the breeze, marked it and steered it through to give us a 14 point lead at the final break.
Scotch had no answer to the Tonners determined efforts to rip the game from their grasp. With a clear edge in the ruck and in the air, the cream came to the top. Michael Dewar, whose main contribution since his return has been to add toughness and shape to the forward line, now returned to his trademark skill, and with measured preparation drove an enormous goal home from well out on the flank. Marking in the same spot shortly after, Dan kicked his third with an equally splendid long bomb that blew any Scotch resistance out of the water. Hamish almost made it three when his shot surprisingly dropped a metre short, but it was academic. The Scotchies were fortunate that Harry was off target as a volley of shots either hit the post or just missed. The Tonners were pounding home. Ben Austen drifted down and sealed everything with his own nostalgic bomb before Michael Dewar, having also hit the post, snapped a final goal to register the Tonners’ 38 point victory. The Tonners have come a long way in a short time, and after the break next week, they will be eager to tackle the three remaining games with an enthusiasm that may still result in unexpected rewards before the season is over.
OLD BRIGHTON GRAMMARIANS: 1.2 4.5 6.7 10.15.75
OLD SCOTCH: 2.2 4.2 4.5 5.7.37
Goals: Anthony 3, Olivier 2, M. Dewar 2, Hill, Jakobi, Austen.
Best: Mariani, Fisher, Graham, M.Dewar, Verney, Anthony, Hooy, Larkworthy, Delaney.
ROSCOES LIFT THEIR PERFORMANCE
With a number of players available to boost the ranks, the Roscoes provided a vastly improved performance yesterday, and had they not been compromised by the late withdrawal of regular on-baller, Seb Zaia, they may have caused a huge upset at Camberwell yesterday. The Roscoes looked a great chance at the final break when they had the strong breeze to help them make up an 11 point deficit. Scotch managed to hold us out with an edge in experience and the strength of a couple of blokes who kept the ball in their forward half for too long. We should have been able to score with the breeze, but the fitness of the few who have missed too much football, became an issue. Will Bardoel was again a stand-out and he competed strongly all day. The bloke who ripped off Will’s jumper and threw it over the fence, couldn’t get a kick in a barn.