EAST GAMBIER 15.11 (101) d KYBYBOLITE 8.2 (50)
ON a day dominated by the wind it was East Gambier which made the most of the conditions to run out comfortable victors over Kybybolite in the opening round of the Limestone Coast Football League on Saturday.
Despite a scoreless first term kicking against a strong breeze, the Bulldogs rallied and started to assert their authority in the second.
From there they held on in the third despite some strong play from the northern Tigers.
That set up a final-quarter burst where the Bulldogs banged through six major scores to run the game out in style.
Long kicks were the order of the day, but some quality ball use saw East spread wide across the ground to create space, even when pushing into the stiff breeze.
Some solid work in and around the ruck by Bulldog Kurt Rodis provided first use of the ball to his running players, but from the first bounce it appeared McDonald Park could provide the first loss of the newly-minted season to the home side.
Kyby came out with plenty of intent and used the wind well, creating and early break with the vast majority of inside-50s.
Their hard work was rewarded as Jamie Bittner found the first goal of the day.
Tom Kitschke then gave the Sherrin a ride on the wind from the 50-metre arc and split the middle to give the Tigers a lead.
Kyby added just the two goals in the term, plus a minor score, but did hold the Bulldogs scoreless.
Early mistakes from both sides reflected the long layoff between seasons.
The Kyby forwards used their opportunities, but were thwarted somewhat by the intense defensive effort by the home side.
As the second term started the Bulldogs kicked into gear with a goal to Jake Harrap in the opening minute.
Coach Matt Willson found plenty of possessions and used his foot and hand skills with aplomb to find his running players.
Deep inside the 50-metre arc Luke Thomson snapped a goal, while Todd Lockwood added another crumbed goal soon after and East began to find its groove.
By the long break the home side had banged on six goals while keeping the visitors scoreless to turn the game on its head.
The wind again came into play in the third term, with Kyby on top around the ground.
However, the Tigers were unable to haul in the margin as the Bulldogs continued to push forward and found three major scores, while Kyby managed five.
It set the scene for a big win as the home side used the wind in the final stanza and the Bulldogs never let their fans down.
While the game was in hand at the final break, East ran it out hard and claimed an emphatic win.
For Willson it was a good way to start the competition.
He said the opening term ran as expected, with the wind playing a big role and unforced errors allowing Kyby to capitalise and find the goals.
“Most of us have not played footy for nine or 10 months so we expected that lack of polish early on, but for us it was about our intent and the way we went about it, trying to achieve what we set out to do, with our mindset more so than the execution,” he said.
“We knew if we started to hit our straps that confidence would breed a bit more effectiveness with our skills and that came through later in the game.”
That confidence came early in the second term with a couple of major scores on the board.
But it was also the defensive effort Willson said played a major role in the outcome, with the likes of Jayden Eldridge, John Forster and Nick Lock leading the charge.
“Jayden, Nick and John are three of our leaders and are capable of playing mid-field or down back,” he said.
“I thought our whole back six was superb for the four quarters, especially when we were under the pump early on.”
In the end the Bulldogs ran away with the game, which Willson said was important.
“With a six-round competition every win you can get on the board is really important,” he said.
“We knew it was really important to get off to a good start and we knew Kyby was thinking the same.
“They have some good runners and big bodies and we knew they would challenge us, so we were really happy to get the win.”