The Gordon Eagles played host to an enthusiastic Skipton in round one of the 2019 season last Saturday. After a short, but hot preseason, cool conditions welcomed a large crowd to the recently renovated “Nest” in what promised to be an evenly played contest. The Eagles had a large number of experienced players unavailable due to the marriage of past best and fairest player Daniel James (congratulations Daniel and Cassie). Skipton had recruited strongly over the summer break and expected to improve under renowned coach Greg Middleton.

Making their debut as Eagle senior players were local Ben Frazer, along with recruits Brad Horsham (Geelong West) and Scott Nipress (Hamilton). Before the game each player was welcomed and presented with their new jumpers by Ty Murphy, Ron Watt and Mick Winter.

After the reserves kicked their way to an impressive win, recently appointed joint captain Adam Toohey led his charges on to the ground.

Immediately after the first bounce it was obvious the visitors were well prepared and had ‘come to play”. Skipton’s strategy of sliding a number of extra players defensively made scoring difficult. Gordon did most of the early attacking but were held up by a well drilled outfit prepared to defend and switch the ball with organised patience. When Skipton did venture forward the young Eagle defensive unit pressured strongly. Play seesawed between defences until midway through the quarter before Skipton kicked the first goal. Skill errors marred the spectacle as both sides tried to win the ascendancy.  Toohey’s leading and pressure in the forward fifty saw him rewarded with two first quarter goals. Brendan Sutcliffe continued on with his hard working form from last season and kicked truly after a perfect pass from ball carrier Zac Ryan. Brad Horsham kicked his first major and Gordon headed to the first break leading by 16 points. Scores: Gordon 4. 2 – 26 Skipton 1. 4 – 10.

Skipton’s attack at the ball and opponent proved they were not going to give up easily and as the quarter ticked away so too did Gordons lead. It took great defensive pressure by the Eagles forward group to produce two late goals. Sutcliffe slotted through his second before Ben Frazer kicked his first senior goal after receiving a handball from the classy Tay Wason. Skipton kicked a goal on the half time siren and Gordons lead had been whittled back to just one point. Scores Gordon 6.5 – 41 Skipton 5.10 – 40.

Speaking calmly and with direction Coach Ron Watt tried to extract the vexed question ‘why is it that we can be so focused one moment yet so distracted the next?” Allowing opponents to run free needed to be addressed and is not part of the Eagle style.

The third quarter was a torrid affair. Physical clashes were aplenty and tempers flared as both sides refused to take a backward step. Ruckman Zac May worked overtime around the ground with onballers Ethan Crackel, Matt Hoy and the impressive new comer Horsham lifting their work rate. The ball carrying and precise foot skills of Wason and Ryan stood out amongst the many ‘clangers’ witnessed by the enthusiastic crowd. Courageous defensive acts all over the field, from both sides, in this the first game of the season had to be applauded. As the scoreboard clock ticked to the thirteenth minute, momentum shifted Gordon’s way with Adam Toohey moved to defence. With an extra defender – and his direct opponent with him – the move seemed to unsettle the visitor’s mindset. It also created space in the Eagles forward zone which resulted in four goals. Two more majors to the powerful Sutcliffe and singles to the hard working onballers Matt Hoy and Brad Horsham. Just before the siren Toohey floated back into the forward fifty to kick his third which again frustrated his opponents.

Scores at three quarter time Gordon 11.9 -75 Skipton 9.11 – 65.

With a ten point lead the Eagles finished strongly. Like the first quarter the home side kicked four goals two behinds proving the players are fit and keen. Skills and decisions seemed to improve as Skipton throw everything they had at the young Eagles. The final siren sounded as Horsham kicked his third goal in a splendid first up appearance. Like the first quarter the margin was sixteen points. Final Scores: Gordon 15.11 – 101 Skipton 12.13 – 85.

The attitude and effort of all players was congratulated but there is much room for improvement as we set our sights on Bungaree at Bungaree next Saturday. Hope to see you there.

Go Eagles!!