The Port Melbourne women’s team played their first official home game at Adcon Stadium at the weekend, and despite their 45 point loss they were far from disgraced. In a trend that continues this season, the final score against opponents Cranbourne was not reflective of the intensity of the game. For the first three quarters of the contest the Borough dominated in clearances, tackles, and possessions, but their unfortunate inability to convert their hard work into a score proved to be detrimental to the result.
The Port Melbourne defence was put under pressure almost immediately, with Cranbourne pushing forward early. Harriett Weir, Vivien Leong and Natalie Scane continued their fantastic form in the backline, and worked hard to dissuade the oppositions attack, but a costly turnover in Cranbourne’s attacking zone resulted in the away team registering their first major within the first five minutes of play.
Not to be perturbed the Port Melbourne girls rallied and the leadership group of Belinda Ousley, in the ruck, Paige Holt, on the ball, and Mandy Seath, playing out of the forward line lead by example and encouraged the eruption of the Borough spirit. Jennifer Ousley was once again proving instrumental in creating opportunities around the play and with Tori Tonin, Lucy Adamopolous Kelly Nelson and Lauren Gibbs all ferociously fighting for possession the ball started to flow consistently to the Port Melbourne forward line, but scoring was proving to be difficult, and on more than one occasion the ball rebounded away from scoring distance before a conversion was possible.
An accumulation of aggression, commitment and determination by Port Melbourne saw an extended period of congestion on the city side offensive flank of Adcon. Mary Ann Cini, Tara Jasper and Amber Hardie were providing grunt, and Tara Goss, Megan Harrison and Tonin attempted to create pathways and options. In a deflating reversal of fortunes however a lucky turnover in favour of Cranbourne proved costly, when a goal resulted from their limited control of play.
Again the Borough rallied, and continued to dominate possession. Brittany McLaughlin started making a statement and powerful intimidating play by Holt, Hardie, Jasper and Ousley continued until the first term concluded. At the break, despite the 13 point deficit coach Harold Hetherton was full of praise for his troops, and encouraged them to continue the pressure they were exhibiting all over the ground. “It is a fantastic start”, he said. “Let’s build on this, let’s show them they are on our ground today”.
With the words of their leader still ringing in their ears the Borough girls continued to apply the pressure. Adamopolous, Holt, Nelson and Cini followed the ball with hunger and Ousley was unstoppable in her first, second and third attempts at creating opportunities. When the ball even came close to the Cranbourne forward space Gibbs, Scane and the backline were working tirelessly in defence and with Ousley a constant in the ruck Port Melbourne were dictating play.
The second term was a constant display of endeavour and commitment by the home side. When they weren’t in control of the ball the Borough were forcing stoppages and the pressure was undeniable. Seath and Goss were working hard in attack, with the backline of Weir and Scane holding the defence at the centre half back zone and making it impossible for Cranbourne to penetrate forward. Claire Groom was proving pivotal in the centre along with the support of McLaughlin and Gibbs. It was a hard fought offensive battle by the Borough throughout the second quarter, and despite their inability to convert themselves they went into the half time break clearly the dominant side.
With just over two goals separating the two teams on the scoreboard the Borough commenced the second half with the same ferociously as they departed the first. Harrison, Ousley, Holt and McLaughlin continued to assert authority and Seath and Hardy were ferocious in their attempts up forward to propel the ball forward.
The constant attacking flow, while encouraging was proving frustrating as Borough’s success in and around the ball was proving fruitless on the scoreboard. Gabby Correa was brought onto the field and her height and athleticism made an instantaneous impact, and the overall pressure by the home side saw them once again dominate the term in terms of possession, pressure and intensity, but the goals were still proving evasive as they went into the final break at a 14 point disadvantage.
The final stanza was a disheartening one. Kalia Catarino, Jasper, Osman, Ousely, Harrison, Hardie, Nelson and Holt continued to create obstacles for Cranbourne, but despite an overall and inspiring team contribution by all the Borough players, the game got away from them. After three hard fought quarters of dominance Port Melbourne were overrun in the final, but not without a fight. Their earlier superiority of play with little scoreboard reward proved to be the defining factor at the end of the day.
The improvement and the development of the Borough girls in their second year in the competition is undeniable. In a true testament to the evolution that has been cultivated by coach Harold Hetherton, Cranbourne’s coach visited the girls in the changeroom after the game and praised them for their enormous improvement from the previous season. This public acknowledgement was a special endorsement said Hetherton.
“To be acknowledged by the opposition and for the Cranbourne coach to say to the girls that he can’t believe how much they have improved from last year to this year and to state that publicly they should be buoyant by that”, he said. “The girls should take a great deal for that and it should give them some confidence that they are heading in the right direction”.
In analysing the result from the weekend, Hetherton was happy with the girls commitment, but is very much aware that you can’t win a game without putting a significant dent on the scoreboard.
“It was a good effort by the girls, but the obvious disappointment is not registering on the scoreboard”, Hetherton explained. “I thought their endeavour was fantastic, and their effort was fantastic, and they really gave 100% which is all we can ask for, but we let ourselves down in our inability to score goals and at the end of the day that’s what counts. We will be measured on wins, but again at the weekend the score really didn’t reflect how we played. We have a lot of work to do, but I am confident we are heading in the right direction, and the KPI’s we have been measuring the girls on have been improving each week and that is certainly encouraging but we have to put it all together for a full game”.
With the AFL South Eastern competition having a league wide bye at the weekend for the interleague competition, the Borough girls with have two weeks to further hone their skills and to perfect their game plan. Their competition will resume on Sunday 26 May when they play away against Mornington in their round 4 game.
Cranbourne 7.5.47 defeated Port Melbourne 0.2.2
BEST PLAYERS: P. Holt, J. Osman, N. Scane, B. Ousley, K. Nelson, K. Caterino.
Article: Sarah Manton.
Image: Emily Fraser-Ison.