Season opener a learning curve for young Penola Eagles

Dekoda Irvine, Jye Whitehouse Dsc 1813  TBW Newsgroup
BOUNCED BACK: The respective Kybybolite and Penola ruckman Dekoda Irvine and Jye Whitehouse go at the first bounce of the 2020 Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Junior Football League Senior Colts season at McCorquindale Park on Saturday. Picture: THOMAS MILES

Dekoda Irvine, Jye Whitehouse Dsc 1813 TBW Newsgroup
BOUNCED BACK: The respective Kybybolite and Penola ruckman Dekoda Irvine and Jye Whitehouse go at the first bounce of the 2020 Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Junior Football League Senior Colts season at McCorquindale Park on Saturday. Picture: THOMAS MILES

SENIOR COLTS – KYBYBOLITE 11.17 (83) d PENOLA 2.3 (15)

FOOTBALL players and fans were flowing through the gates of McCorquindale Park once again on Saturday for the opening round of the 2020 Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Junior Football League season.

Although Penola did not enjoy much success on the field, there were plenty of smiles around the venue, which hosted football for the first time in more than 10 months.

COVID-19 suspended the scheduled start of the KNTFL season and only eight teams will fight across two junior grades as a result.

A 2019 Senior Colts grand final rematch promised to be an ideal way to start the year, but Kybybolite proved too good for the Eagles.

With a strong breeze to the southern end of the ground, the Tigers locked the ball in their forward half.

But Penola’s defence stood tall and Kybybolite did not score a goal until the 13-minute mark of the first quarter.

Despite being well behind the eight ball, the Eagles remained a chance at quarter time after the Tigers missed eight shots at goal to hold a slim 14-point lead.

However, after Anders McShane kicked Penola’s opening goal, the visitors ran away with the contest.

Kybybolite opened up a 51-point lead by three-quarter time and the side’s momentum rolled through until the final siren.

Another four goals were scored in the last term by the Tigers, while Eagles’ captain Darcy Porter kicked his side’s second major.

But just 15 points were all Penola could manage on what Senior Colts coach Jamie Morton described as a tough day at the office.

“Unfortunately we were a bit off our game and they (Kybybolite) punished us,” he said.

“They started off with the wind and just dominated from the centre.

“They attacked all day and played really well.”

Although Morton struggled to find many positives from the season opener, he was impressed by his backline.

The Eagles defenders were put under relentless pressure by the Tigers’ forwards led by Brodie Pratter who kicked five goals.

“There were not too many positives, but I thought our defenders and on-ballers who pushed back did a sensational job,” Morton said.

“They worked hard, kept the pressure on and did not make it easy for them.”

Porter led from the front and was named as his side’s best.

He displayed his skills all around the ground to challenge his confident opponents before slotting a major after being moved to full forward in the closing stages.

Morton was also impressed by Lochlan Neale and Brad Gartner.

Neale has just moved up from Junior Colts and was resolute at full back, while Gartner began at centre half back before being thrown on the ball and did not give up.

These stand outs have given Morton enough confidence to believe his team can fight for the win next round against Bordertown.

“I think we will go a lot better this weekend,” he said.

“We will get another player back who will give us a bit more grunt around the contest.

“We just had a poor game to start with and we will be around the mark next week for sure.”

After looking at the bigger picture of what Saturday meant to the community, Morton said it was great to see families enjoying sport again.

“As a parent, you want to see kids back out playing sport,” he said.

“It also gives parents an outlet on a Saturday they have not had for the last few months.”

The Eagles sit seventh on the ladder and will play sixth-placed Bordertown away at 11.30am.

JUNIOR COLTS – KYBYBOLITE 13.11 (89) d PENOLA 3.3 (21)

PENOLA Junior Colts endured a learning experience in their opening Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Junior Football League clash against Kybybolite at McCorquindale Park on Saturday.

The young side struggled to keep up with the reigning premier and could only manage one scoring quarter during the 68-point defeat.

The Tigers raced out of the blocks and left the Eagles startled, holding a 54-point lead at half time.

But as the wind picked up, Penola found its stride and mounted a spirited challenge in the third term.

The Eagles kicked three goals and three behinds to outscore their fancied opponents by eight.

Unfortunately the home team could not continue its promising performance and did not hit the scoreboard for the rest of the game.

However, Penola Junior Colts coach Phil Gartner was encouraged by his young team’s performance against a dominant side.

“It was not too disappointing and I was really happy with the kids,” he said.

“They did everything and tried as hard as they could.

“Their endeavour and attitude was excellent, but they just came up against a powerhouse sort of club, which has been up there for a while.

“Kybybolite is a very good, big and quick team.

“We just had a really slow first quarter and after quarter time the boys played a lot better.”

After a difficult lead up, Gartner expected a slow start.

He said a gust of wind gave the team a much-needed boost.

“In the first quarter the boys were slow out of the box as I expected with the limited training and playing time,” Gartner said.

“But by the time the third quarter came around, we were kicking with the wind and the boys got back to playing some decent football, which was good to see.”

Gartner said a number of players led the third-quarter charge and displayed some impressive work.

“Thomas Currie was our best player,” he said.

“He is just a little machine and loves the contest.

“He gets a lot of the football and played a solid four quarters in the centre.

“Second best was Zac Zema who was our ruckman all day and had a big job.

“Kaleb Moulton and one of our younger players Johnny Gosse played down in defence and took some pretty good marks and tackles.

“The ball was hammered a fair bit in there, so they did well.”

After being forced to push through without an interchange to work with, Gartner looks forward to an improved four-quarter performance this weekend with a larger list.

“The kids were pretty worn out by the end of the game, but we will have six to eight players back this week, which will make a big difference and enable the team to spread out,” he said.

“The expectation is mostly to get a better start and hopefully we can be more competitive on the scoreboard.

“We are just looking forward to getting back into it and having another crack.”

Having performed a major role in Penola’s return to competitive football, Gartner said it was a sight to see and wished it continued into the afternoon.

“It was sensational,” he said.

“The biggest disappointment was that it finished at 1pm and not seeing the seniors run out, but the Kybybolite team was good.

“We had a great turnout from parents watching, so it was really good to be back.”

The Eagles sit seventh on the ladder and will travel to Bordertown to face the third-placed Junior Colts side at 10am.