MENTAL health awareness may have been the aim of the day, but hearts could have done with some support at Kenny Park as well.
Merbein and South Mildura have impressed all to start 2021 and the sides played out a thrilling draw in front of a raucous crowd in a game that could have gone either way on multiple occasions.
Both teams missed gilt-edged opportunities in the final term, and the Magpies’ woeful inaccuracy probably cost them overall in an entertaining arm wrestle that, despite its lack of highlights, was a contest of monumental proportions.
It is the first draw in the SFNL since June 1, 2019 when Robinvale Euston and Irymple finished equal, while previous to that there were two ties in the 2013 season.
Joe Cavallo and Tyler Curtis were the two outstanding players from the ‘It’s Okay, not to be Okay’ contest, with a coin toss required to decide the votes. There were no passengers for either side as they attacked each contest with almost reckless abandon and no fear for their own safety.
Merbein co-coach Paddy Irwin said it was a match of contrasting styles.
“South used their uncontested footy really well and I thought we were able to hang tight and crack in and will ourselves into some contests,” he said.
“Goal kicking is the most important pressure act in the game. I think we had six more scoring shots and I even think in the second half we missed three from 30 metres out. If you get that right maybe the result could have been different, but history tells us it’s not.
“You can’t spend too much time looking back out the rear-view mirror. We are both sides that are hoping to be there later in the season. We’ve got a couple more challenges coming up that we have to get ourselves ready for. You can’t dwell on it.”
Bulldogs co-coach Ben Dalton, who was outstanding at half-back, said it was a sombre feeling post-game.
“Both teams probably had an opportunity to win the game at points, especially during the last quarter,” he said.
“It was a dogfight all day and we knew it was going to be contested, but it’s one of those ones that hopefully doesn’t come back to bite you later in the year. That’s probably the thing we’re dwelling on at the moment, hopefully it doesn’t come down to two points at the business end of the year when you’re fighting for finals spots.
“Merbein are a really good one-on-one contested team and at times we probably got caught in the trap of playing into their hands, and when we could move the football the way we wanted to we got on top. It was one of those kinds of games where we played into their hands at times and we didn’t execute as well as we would like.
“I think for us the bye was a bit of a momentum killer for us. You rock up on the Tuesday at training and you should be fresh and up and about, but we just probably weren’t good enough on the track. We just need to make sure again that the energy and intensity is there and that’s the good thing about football, we have another 10 rounds to go to bounce back and hopefully we can put this one behind us and play better football next week.”
Merbein’s Sam Brinsmead looks like the major injury concern, going down with a hamstring late in the game.
Nathan Nolan was tasked with quelling Josh Carmichael, who has been in outstanding form to start the season. And perhaps outside of the first and last 10 minutes, the Dogs defender did the job. Co-coach Ben Dalton said Nolan’s ability to play attacking and defensive footy made him the ideal stopper to shadow the Magpies star. It could also be the blueprint for other teams to combat Carmichael going forward.
MERBEIN 7.17 (59)
SOUTH MILDURA 8.11 (59)
GOALS: Merbein: J. Kennedy 2, A. Rowe, A. Coluccio, J. Buckley, J. Carmichael, J. Cavallo. South Mildura: M. Min, H. Kiel 2, A. Gauci, T. Stevens, N. Fitzgerald, J. Anderson.
BEST: Merbein: J. Cavallo, A. Rowe, J. Buckley, V. Rodi, A. Arden, M. Rix. South Mildura: T. Curtis, B. Dalton, N. Nolan, M. Spencely, T. Stevens, J. Cogan.
Story & photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily