With just one win from the first five rounds, West Gambier needed to deliver in the second phase of the 2021 Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League season and it answered with authority at Malseed Park on Saturday.
Coming up against East Gambier, a side the Roos have a habit of creating close encounters with, they made their finals intentions clear by emerging victorious by a healthy 27 points.
Heading into the battle 1-4, West Gambier coach Steven Wenman made no secret of what success in round 6 meant to his team.
“We knew it was now or never heading into the game,” he said.
“It is okay to just be competitive, but you cannot go too long without winning, so it was a very important game for our season.” The Roos were certainly pumped and thrived off the added pressure to kick clear of the Bulldogs in the opening stages.
For the first time this year, Ben Papps (pictured below) manned his position inside 50 after returning from injury, while Matt Waldron also added some potency.
A 22-point lead at quarter time was a welcome sight for Wenman, who identified slow starts as a major weakness of his men in 2021.
“We worked on our starts because I do not think we won a first quarter across our first four games,” he said.
“So we have put a real emphasis on coming out hard to set things up, but I actually thought East was beating us around the stoppages.
“But we had better play around the ground and were lucky to get the scores on the board.
“Our pressure created a lot of turnovers and we capitalised on our forward entries.” The dogs did manage to show some bite when play resumed and narrowed the deficit.
The likes of Jayden Eldridge, Jessie Fry, Giancarlo Cooper and Mark Rumbelow made sure East utlised its moments with ball in hand.
By half time just four points was the difference and another Roos-Dogs thriller was on the cards.
“We had a good chat at half time with a few of the midfielders because we thought we were down in that area, but to their credit, Lawrey (Bradley- Brown) and Jordan (Williams) stepped up giving us first use,” Wenman said.
“This opened the game up and with those two plus Tom Holmes swapping through the forward rotation, we had something extra.
“Our defenders did a great job again, but our midfield getting back on top was probably the difference.” West’s hard work created a four-goal lead at three-quarter time before it cemented the win by slightly extending the advantage before the final siren.
Although Waldron heads back to Adelaide after his five-goal performance, Wenman believes his team can challenge ladder-leader South Gambier on its home deck this Saturday after a competitive game in round 2.
Unfortunately, East suffered more injury trouble when Jesse Fry went down with a second achilles tendon injury in three years.
After three consecutive defeats, the Bulldogs will love nothing more than to return to winning ways be knocking over arch-rival North Gambier at home.