West Gambier returned to the winner’s list and did so in grand style in the fourth round of Bendigo Bank Western Border football at Malseed Park on Saturday.
After falling short in the first three contests of 2021, the Roos bounced back to life by trouncing Casterton Sandford to the tune of 94 points. West coach Steven Wenman said it was a relief to get the club’s first victory since the 2019 preliminary final also against the Cats.
“It is always good to win the first one because it gives you confidence after a long three weeks,” he said. “Despite doing the right things the boys were struggling because wins are what you are credited on, so to get the first one on the board eases that pressure. “We had been working pretty hard, so it was nice to get some reward.”
Despite the overwhelming margin of victory, all results were possible at quarter time. With both sides desperate to get off the mark in 2021, there was a lot on the line and Casterton Sandford came to play. Hamish Mccrae took a nice mark going back with the flight before snapping truly around the corner to ensure the Cats snatched the lead.
But when the back-and-forth quarter finished, the ball was in Garret Ha’s hands and he converted a set shot after the siren to steal a slender advantage. The late strike stunned the Victorians and they struggled to contain West’s pressure highlighted by Lawrey Bradley Brown, who performed an elite smother and tackle in the same passage of play.
Tom Holmes demonstrated his impressive form in the midfield as the Roos opened their lead to 27 points before the main break. For the first half of the third term, Casterton Sandford appeared up for the fight and when Adam McKinnon blitzed through the pack to kick his third goal, a tight finish was on the cards.
However, the Victorians were soon exposed by West’s hand and leg speed outside of the contest in devastating fashion. In the blink of an eye the Roos’ lead exploded from 19 points to 55 by three-quarter time and kept growing as the startled Cats began to make poor errors.
West’s class acts around the ground ensured the visitors paid for their incorrect disposals with Ha and Josh Schapel both collecting bags of five goals. After 16 painful minutes, Casterton Sandford finally kicked a goal in the last term, but a lack of execution continued to haunt the visitors.
Only Jackson Gibbs and Diarmid Cleary offered a sustained challenge as the Roos charged home led by Todd Mcpartlan off the half-back line. In the last quarter and a half of football, West kicked 14 goals and previous scoring troubles away to win 150-56.
Wenman said he backed his side’s finishing strength to overcome the initial Cats’ onslaught. “To their credit Casterton was all over us, but we believed in our fitness,” he said. “We have been running out games well, so we knew if we stayed in the game for long enough we could run over the top of them.
“We started to get it a little bit more on the outside and once we got it out in the open spaces we could break them open, which we did.”
After a winless opening four rounds, the Cats now face the tall order of challenging an all-conquering South Gambier at Island Park, while the Roos hope to build momentum against North Gambier at Vansittart Park this Saturday.