SOUTH Mildura coach Ben Dalton’s three-quarter time address was all about finishing off the job and building percentage to ensure the Bulldogs could strengthen their hold on a top-four spot.
But he forgot to tell Robinvale Euston about those plans, as the Eagles found new life in the final quarter to almost pull off an unlikely victory at John James Oval.
The Eagles piled on the last five goals to cut a 33-point margin to just three points, and with the ball in their forward line as the siren went.
Dalton, however, was still happy that the hard work by his troops early was enough to bank the four points.
“A win’s a win, and you’ve got to win ugly sometimes. That’s the important part of starting a game well.” Dalton said.
“Each team had times where their momentum swung their way, and with a three to four-goal breeze going across the ground we probably utilised that better earlier in the game to put ourselves in a position to win.
“It was nice to hold on and get the four points.”
Fears that losing gun recruit Matthew Spencely back to Waikerie would hinder the Bulldogs’ finals hopes appear to be diminished, with Dalton entrusting local talent to fill the void.
“The biggest improvement has come from the blokes already at the club who have gone through the hard times, with Nathan Nolan, Jayden Cogan, Deklan Loveridge, Tyler Curtis and (the injured) Dom Scullino all playing career-best football,” Dalton said.
“They’re probably the ones who have driven (the rise up the ladder) this year as well.”
Cogan’s phenomenal work to nullify Ricardo Liparota’s scoreboard impact was crucial in helping South Mildura build their buffer; so much so that Liparota was moved into the midfield in the final quarter.
While not throwing in the towel was a major positive, Eagles assistant coach Vince Iudica echoed the heartbreak and disappointment of the group, lamenting what might have been if earlier turnovers and scoring inaccuracies did not occur.
“We didn’t take the opportunities early on, we missed a lot of goals clearly right in front, and we turned the ball over out of our back half a couple of times.” Iudica said.
“You add all that up, there’s probably anywhere from three to six goals that we’ve either leaked or we haven’t kicked that we should have.
“That forces you to chase backsides all day, and although it was good that the boys didn’t put the cue in the rack and we finished with a wet sail, not too many teams are good enough to continually miss open shots at goal and then recover from it.
“It leaves you with that thing where ‘oh, we just missed’, which put ourselves in a horrible position.”
Iudica sang the praises of reserves ruck turned seniors full back Noah Foster, who was superb in shutting down Bulldogs spearhead Matthew Min.
Min’s two goals did not come from any one-on-one contests with Foster, and it was the first time he has failed to kick three or more in a game since round 1.
“Noah’s has had a fantastic past month for us,” Iudica said.
“He’s played on the best forward every week, and you’ll be lucky to find if he’s had five goals kicked on him in that time.
“We think we’ve found someone in him, and he’s our gem in the rough, because five weeks ago he wasn’t in contention of playing seniors.”
SOUTH MILDURA 10.11 (71)
ROBINVALE EUSTON 9.14 (68)
South Mildura: K. McDonald 3, M. Fitzgerald, M. Min, N. Fitzgerald 2, J. McEwen.
Robinvale Euston: J. Mezzatesta, M. Bowden 2, M. Zappia, J. Neyland, P. Kuma, J. Calvert, E. Gill.
South Mildura: J. Cogan, T. Curtis, N. Fitzgerald, N. Nolan, D. Loveridge, L. Wood.
Robinvale Euston: N. Foster, J. Neyland, J. Mezzatesta, M. Zappia, J. Calvert, R. Middlebrook.
Story & photos courtesy of Sunraysia Daily