By: Matt Fotia
There was only one game to choose from across the Eastern Football League last weekend with traditional Queen’s Birthday weekend rivals Balwyn and Noble Park doing battle at Cherry Road. Here’s five things to emerge from the Division 1 clash.
Before Saturday’s game Balwyn’s Kris Pendlebury had kicked just five goals in his Balwyn career. By quarter time on Saturday he’d booted three as the deepest forward in a new-look Tiger set up.
Kris Pendlebury in action. PICTURE: Mark Dadswell
Pendlebury’s strong jump, which sees him soar through the air, beautiful kick and footy brain makes him just as dynamic up forward as he is down back.
It might not be a permanent move though, Pendlebury was swung down back whenever Noble Park showed signs of getting on top in the clash, however the Tigers may have just unlocked the ultimate EFL swingman.
Tall timber at Tigerland
In recent times Balwyn has struggled to hit the scoreboard, managing only six goals against Norwood and Vermont. So, it made a switch. The aforementioned Pendlebury and Port Melbourne forward Lachlan Waddell joined spearhead Jeff Gobbels in the Tigers’ forward 50 come the first bounce.
The small expanses of Cherry Road, which make it difficult for teams to get the loose number back in front of the key forwards, crossed with the high-kicking game that Balwyn deployed on Saturday meant that all three of these forwards had numerous one-on-one opportunities, which they all took with glee.
Gobbels kicked three as did Pendlebury whilst Waddell finished with two although it could’ve been many more.
Speaking of Jeff Gobbels
At three quarter time all the running was with the Bulls. They’d brought the game back to just two goals the difference and seemed to have the Tigers well within their sights. They were moving the ball quickly and repelling the previously slick Balwyn forward 50 entires with ease.
Four minutes into the last quarter and Gobbels out-bodies his opponent, wins a free kick and slots his second to give the Tigers a three-goal buffer. Still game on.
The next centre clearance finds its way into his hands, he kicks truly. Four-goal buffer, but the Bulls are still a sniff.
Two minutes later, a bouncing ball is up for grabs within the Balwyn 50. Gobbels bursts through a couple of tacklers, steps inside another before handball to O’Reagan who kicks the sealer.
Despite being nowhere near his best, Jeff Gobbels stood up when his side needed him, producing three minutes of class to ensure they get a much-needed victory and keep their season alive.
The most important Tiger?
With players like Gobbels, Pendlebury, Gilchrist (x2), Weatherald and Tregear roaming the halls at Cherry Road occasionally some players don’t get the spotlight they deserve. On Saturday Yarran Jaffer-Williams showed just how important he is to this Balwyn side, kicking a goal in a strong showing.
The Tigers’ ageing albeit classy list is in need of some speed and that’s exactly what Jaffer-Williams provides. Whether it be up forward at the feet on the big men and applying tackling pressure, through the middle breaking away from the stoppage or adding some dash off the halfback line, the Tigers’ number 11 is going to be integral to their finals aspirations.
If I were North Ringwood, Montrose or South Croydon I’d be thinking of putting some extra attention into the Tiger livewire when they clash in the next few weeks.
Bulls on the right path
“We’re young, we’re going to make mistakes, that’s okay.”
Those were the words from Noble Park coach Mick Fogarty at three quarter time on the weekend as he tried to inspire his side to a come-from-behind victory.
For all the plaudits heading Balwyn’s way this weekend you’d think Noble Park was outclassed, but this certainly wasn’t the case. For majority of the game the Bulls seemed to be in control of the match and were just missing that extra something.
That extra something is probably another season or two away. Players such as Brayden Haynes, Dylan Gordon, Declan Brunell, Bailey Lambert and William Collis are signs that the future is bright down at Pat Wright Senior Oval. With experience will come class and the silly mistakes that cost goals late in the third and first quarters of Saturday’s loss will begin to disappear.
It’s a bold move from the Bulls to strip back their list for season 2018, considering their supporter-base is one that is used to success. But if they’re ever going to be back up there pushing for premierships, this is the way to go. So stick fat Bulls fans, success is just around the corner.
All views expressed in this article remain those of the author and not of the Eastern Football League or its affiliated clubs.