Chasing the Bush Premiership V

After sitting 2-0 on top of the ladder the Imperials went into their 3rd round clash against the reigning premiers and other Murray Bridge side, Ramblers, full of confidence.  We had some key outs but the general feeling was there was enough depth to cover that and we’d give a good account.

I was named on the bench.  We were a ruckman down so I was to do a fair share of the rucking and my time up forward looked as though it was going to be limited.  It was my chance to really cement my spot as a key part of the team.

We had another big key forward due to return to the side after Easter and I knew that my spot would be on shaky ground if I played ordinary so I needed my a-game.

Things were disastrous from the start.  We were very flat and the Roosters jumped to a 7 goal to zip first quarter.  Skills on our part were woeful, intensity was down and the talk was non-existent.  It’s sometimes amazing how easy things can fall apart when you’re not properly prepared for a game of footy.  We were systematically taken apart by a good side.

Despite the fact we improved a little more as the game evolved it wasn’t enough as we were handed a 17.12 (114) to 6.10 (46) hiding.

My game was pretty ordinary too.  I didn’t assert any influence in the ruck whatsoever and really should’ve as I was up against a kid 10 years my junior.  I probably had the better of him but I only shaded him, no better than that.  I managed a few disposals and used them OK but didn’t do anything that suggested I was going to help pull the Blues out of this slump.

The coach was livid after the game and justifiably so.  We claimed we were spooked by the encounter and he didn’t want to hear any talk about how much the rivalry meant to us because we clearly didn’t show it any respect today.  Ouch.

In 1931, 80 years ago, the Murray Bridge Football Club split.  Half the club moved across the road to form the Imperial Football Club, the other half remained and formed the Rambler Roosters FC.  In Murray Bridge you’re either one or the other and whilst many friendships exist between players of both clubs, each club is programmed to hate the other, even if they don’t know why- much like some Eastern European state.  At a job interview at the local council I told my interviewees I was suiting up for Imperials for the 2011 season. The interviewer grimaced and despite my impressive credentials, I didn’t get the job.

A fortnight later I got the tap on the shoulder from Collo at Thursday night training.  I was to be omitted from the side.  It was a balance thing.  He said it wasn’t going to do me any favours to play half a game several weeks on end and erode match fitness.  I was to go to the ressies and run out a full game in the ruck.

I copped it sweet.  There wasn’t much I could do, I hadn’t done a heap wrong to date but nor had I asserted myself.  I was making way for a key forward who had some SANFL experience so it was probably a logical choice.  I’ve played senior A grade footy every season since 2005 and I’ve been dropped from senior A Grade footy every season since 2005.  It’s my lot in life as a fringe big man.

Against Mypolonga at Mypo I suited up with the ressies who were fairly pleased with my omission.  The blokes in the 2nds are really a good bunch of guys and they’ve won the last 2 premierships so it’s not like I was being banished to hell or anything.  The ressies were basically shithouse the first two games and managed a good win in round 3 and today we had the undefeated top side at home standing in our way.

From the start we had control of the game but were unable to put them away.  We held them goalless for 2 and a half quarters and at 3 qtr time led 4.11 to 1.3.  Straight kicking and it was all over.  The last quarter provided some anxious moments but we held on to win 4.17 (41) to 3.5 (23).  Yes you read it right four goals seventeen behinds!

I personally had a great game.  I dominated the ruck, took a few grabs and managed a few possies right across the ground.  The senior coach personally sought me out at half time and said he thought my attitude towards the omission was excellent and that I’d made a statement by coming down and playing well.

I’ve got to hand it to our senior coach.  He is probably the best coach I’ve played under in 12 years of footy.  Shane Collins has coaching experience in the Adelaide Hills and worked as an assistant under Andrew Jarman at North Adelaide.  He’s relatively young for a non-playing coach and has a great ability to inspire the players to believe his vision on how he wants us to play.  Every message from him is clear, direct and easy to understand.  Every training drill is explained as to why we do it and how it links into our game style, every Tuesday we meet and discuss the game from Saturday in a club meeting and he is inclusive and open to the star of our club right through to the battler who struggles for a game in the 2nds.  He’s funny and approachable off the track and serious and intense when it’s down to business.

I’ve coached Under 18s before and have ambitions to give it a proper crack when I give the game away.  His style of coaching is exactly what I’d want to be as a coach and I’d copy his style in a heartbeat.

The senior team tackled Mypolonga after the ressies game and the coach did a pretty good job at getting us back to our best.  Mypolonga were 2nd and we were 3rd after our drubbing but by the time the final siren went Imperials were back on top.  In a game that was expected to be close the seniors did what the 2nds couldn’t do (kick straight) and go onto win 27.7 (169) 13.7 (85).

It was tight early but the relentless pressure and tackling from the senior team proved too much for the Tigers as their lighter and younger bodies struggled to hold up.  They’ll be a good side, they have some good young players, they just need some extra experience under the belt.

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