Reigning premier continues to improve with triple-figure triumph

North Gambier continues to improve week by week and brought its form to new heights by smashing Casterton Sandford by 107 points at Island Park on Saturday. 

The catfight turned into a bloodbath pretty quickly as the Tigers roared from first bounce. 

Despite the home side winning the first clearance, the visitors quickly set the tone by tackling hard and a one-step snap from Sam  Stafford put the reigning premiers on the board inside the first minute. 

From there the Victorians struggled to match North mix of youth and experience and suddenly an eight-goal lead was on the scoreboard before quarter time. 

With Casterton Sandford making a habit of fighting hard early and the Tigers struggling to race away in recent games, this was a big statement from the yellow and black. 

North co-captain Brad Stafford said a fast start was on the of the  key objectives in the round 6 clash. 

The main focus this week was the first five minutes because we have been a bit slow starting and wanted to turn that around,” he said. 

“Against a side like Casterton, you must start well because they are very competitive and we were able achieve that which is what we wanted to do. 

“Being first to the footy and strong in the contest was the main thing. 

“A couple of their midfielders are quite strong bodied, so you cannot let them break tackles, so we had to nail those tackles early which we  did reasonably well. 

 “They did match us in the clear- ances for the first two quarters and  then we broke away from there.” As the Tigers dominated with slick movement from Stafford, Nick McInerney and Nic Blachut  around the stoppages, the lead con- tinued to grow. 

Dillan and Justin Carlin offered some glimmers of hope for the Cats, but they could only score multiple majors in the third quarter. 

One of North’s big focal points in 2021 has been the development of the youngsters and Joel Griffith took his game to the next level with a personal-best haul of three goals. 

However, the unmistakable figure inside 50 was the bright yellow sleeves of Justin McConnell. 

The playing coach was at his inspirational best, leading hard at the ball and slotting goal after goal. 

He finished with eight majors to ensure the Tigers never slowed down on their way to the 143-36 win. 

Stafford said the significant triumph is the latest step in the right direction for North after the side completed its recovery from Anzac Day. 

“After that brutal loss to South, we set ourselves a challenge to get the next three wins on the board, so we have ticked that off and will reassess,” he said. 

“We have also got some more game time into the young blokes and that middle group has shown a lot of improvement, so we are in a much better space than a month ago.” With Nic Moretti returning for this weekend’s big game against arch-rival East Gambier, the Tigers have plenty of reasons to be excited, while the Cats face the long road trip to Millicent’s McLaughlin Park.

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