East Gambier ensured its winning start to the 2021 Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League continued by repeating the form under lights against Casterton Sandford on Saturday night.
After recording a pair of hardfought wins in the opening two rounds, the Bulldogs were buoyed by a strong turnout at the “Kennel” on Saturday night to record their most convincing performance of the season.
The foundations for the 71-point victory were laid in the first half where the hosts effectively ruined any hope of a maiden triumph for the Victorians. The Cats were restricted to just two goals in as many quarters, while East raced to 63 points.
Despite facing a tall order after the sunset, Casterton Sandford started the second half positively and salvaged some pride. The Cats preferred to move the ball by hand and were the first on the board in the third term thanks to veteran Dylan Ayton.
Ayton had been seen working hard in the defensive 50, but pushed up the ground and converted a leftfoot snap from around 40 metres out.
The Victorians went on to outscore the Bulldogs in that quarter, but their momentum froze during the closing stages as the home side dominated the run home sensing a percentage-boosting win.
Jake Harrap and Todd Lockwood led the goal kickers with three majors each, but the most impressive part of East’s performance was each contribution made from all 22 players.
No less than 10 Bulldogs found the goals, while others impressed around the ground and coach Matt Willson said his men’s team work was the key takeaway.
“It was good to come away with the win because Casterton came out really hard,” he said. “We put a big emphasis on a full team performance, not relying on a couple players to do the work around the ground and on the score-board.
“So to have over half of our team hit the scoreboard is really pleasing and a lot of blokes rolling through the forward line is an area we are very happy with.”
Enjoying the added responsibility in his new co-coaching position, Jayden Eldridge took on the game by using his leg speed to keep up the Bulldogs’ constant pressure inside 50.
It was a special night for the Lock family in particular with young 16-year-old Sam stood alongside his older brothers Shaun and Nick on an A Grade football field for the first time.
But the biggest contributor was Harrap, who impressed with his silky skills, football smarts and composure to great effect in his first match of the year after sustaining an injury in a trial game.
Despite an undefeated start to the season, while missing six firstchoice players, Willson said there were still many improvements to be made. “There are still a lot of things we need to improve on if we want to match it with the best,” he said.
“We probably have not played four quarters of footy and allowed sides to stay in the game, so maintaining the effort and energy right through is the main one.”
The Bulldogs’ biggest test arrives in another home game this Saturday against a red-hot South Gambier Demons. The top-of-the-table clash will also be one not to miss off the field as players walk out in decorated guernseys as the club celebrates a Pink Ladies Day with an auction and three-course meal.
Meanwhile, Casterton Sandford travels to West Gambier in a bottom of-the-ladder clash.