Round 4 – The Long Road
It has been said many times that this season is like no other! Even though the Cannons are yet to play all the teams in comp, Sunday 16 August meant a long road trip to Penshurst for a Round 1 rematch.
When these two teams met in round 1, the Cannons were short on numbers, completely lacking pre- season game time and their fitness was best described as “developing”. This week’s game would be a good indication to see exactly how far the Cannons have come in only four weeks.
Things didn’t look good early with late withdrawals due to illness meaning only 16 boys fronted up against a confident looking group of 21 Panthers. Coach Paul knew that following the shaky start to the season the Cannons have turned a corner with their fitness, and that the previous two weeks had shown the quality of footy they are capable of.
Despite the Panthers starting with a strong but swirling wind, it was the Cannons midfield that ensured first use of the ball and started a relentless attack into the forward line. It was a fast paced but evenly matched quarter with the Cannons sneaking a point ahead at the first break. There was a definite sense of excitement at the start of the second quarter as the Cannons swapped to long kicking options to capitalise on the breeze. The Panthers were prepared however and their rock solid defence conceded only the two goals. At three quarter time Coach Paul reminded the boys that the third is the “Premiership quarter” and boldly predicted that whoever won the third quarter would win the game. Confidence is a big thing in footy and the Cannons went into that third quarter full of belief in themselves. Despite running into a strengthening breeze and with nobody on the bench they had twice as many scoring shots as the opposition to push their lead out to 15 points.
The final quarter would become a test of endurance, fitness and the ability to withstand pressure. The Panthers took it up a gear and although it was already clear how far the Cannons had come, the question became for how long could they hold on? As the minutes ticked slowly by the Panthers forwards flew forward, the Cannons defenders doggedly defended, and the stressed spectators speculated how long was left in the game? There was a real fear that the Cannons, like the daylight, were fading fast. 5pm on a Sunday is supposed to be a time to sit back and perhaps relax with a pre dinner snack and a drink, but for the supporters it was only nervous chewing of fingernails and parched throats from yelling encouragement! When the final siren blew after what felt like the longest 20 minutes ever the scoreboard showed the Cannons as victorious by seven points.
It was a collective team effort by every one of the 16 players on the ground. The midfield were on top all game with Riggers tirelessly rucking allowing Damo, Coops and JA to dominate the centre clearances. JB’s work rate in front of goals was outstanding and his second and third efforts provided crumbers Kipp and Husky plenty of opportunities. Rameez and Max were again blistering with their speed and tackling both in attack and defence. Stewy and Broadie both copped heavy blows but displayed immense courage to see the game out . When they were needed most the defence stood tall. Lachie, Eathn, Cruisey and Grechie withstood the pressure all game but particularly in the last quarter when the game was there for the taking. They were fully supported by the hard running midfield who dropped back to assist and this was never more obvious than late in the final quarter when Woody marked on the half forward flank and turned to see acres of space in front of him with only the goal umpire forward of the 50m arc!
As Paul had predicted, this game would be a good test of how far the boys had come in only four weeks. Their depth has been revealed, their fitness has been tested and their determination has been displayed. They have turned a corner and have come a very long way in four weeks. The point is though there is still a long road in front and the question becomes, how far can they go?
- Stephen Grech