Round 9: A Bird in the Hand
Although the Cannons had comprehensively beaten the Magpies earlier in the season, the context of this, the final round of the home and away season, promised this game would be a test for the 15/2s.
Wests had everything to play for needing a win to make finals and give them the opportunity for back to back premierships.
The Cannons were guaranteed a finals berth, but a win would secure a top two finish.
Taking a cautious approach with injuries meant two late withdrawals so it was 18 Cannons who took to Wagener Oval against a determined looking Wests team with 22 names on the team sheet.
Coach Paul’s pregame address was in front of an surreal quietness from the Cannons. The usual joking and banter were absent, replaced instead with a steely determination that reflected the importance of the contest.
For the past few weeks the Cannons have dominated the first quarter but this week it was Wests who made the early statement. As Magpies notoriously do, they flew and swooped leaving the Cannons, like startled cyclists in spring, distracted and constantly looking over the shoulders for the squawking and flapping black and white birds. The Magpies kicked 2 goals 2 in the first quarter during which time the Cannons didn’t trouble the scorers.
Coach Paul was measured at quarter time. He didn’t ruffle feathers but made it pretty clear to the forwards that they needed to lift. The hard work done in the defence and midfield had gone unrewarded and players needed to be accountable.
It is not every day that young and impressionable 15 year olds will actually pay attention and listen, but that is precisely what the Cannons did. With increased intensity the Cannons took to the field in the second quarter and turned the game around backflipping the contest in a performance worthy of a gymnastic medal. They piled on 4 straight goals in a polished display of controlled possession footy to go into the main break with a 4 point lead. That intensity continued into the third quarter and the straight shooting Cannons had clearly found their range slotting through another 3 goals.
The final quarter proved to be a test of endurance as the September heat and lack of fresh legs on the bench worked in the Magpies’ favour. The Cannons showed true grit and defended doggedly conceding only one goal to hang on to a thrilling and well deserved 7 point win.
It was a season defining performance from the entire team and one where they clearly played with pride and determination. The Cannons were focussed on winning the footy and never once questioned umpiring decisions or let their concentration lapse. Killa, in a new role up forward, was inspirational on the lead as was Dallas as he played his season best game. He marked strongly and when his eagle eye spotted loose men up forward he was able to deliver to them with pin-point precision. A season best performance too, from Broadie, who was like a persistent Noisy Minor bird bravely putting himself in front of the big bodied Magpies. Woody is well known as a larrikin, but he left the galah at the gate and put in a mature all round performance and great goal kicking display at full forward. Kip and Luka were the pigeons feeding on the crumbs and maintaining the forward pressure. JB copped one on the beak and shed blood for his team while Stewy finished the game like a flamingo – only able to stand on one leg!
All over the ground there were stand out performances. Max, Rameez and Elliot all imitated the Peregrine Falcon with astounding speed while Lachie proved again that hard work gets rewards. Like a budgie released from his cage he darted everywhere delivering another outstanding performance running off the back line.
The back line were under tremendous pressure all game, particularly in the last quarter, but they held firm. Eathn continues to mature as a player getting on with the job and letting his actions do the talking. Like a canary in a coalmine he recognises the danger early and takes action. Cruisey was first to the ball and adapted the old adage “the early bird catches the advantage”… although I am sure he also caught a few worms while down on the ground in the heat of it too! Grechie, as he does each week, was calling instructions from the back line. He parroted the coach’s words to ensure they kept their shape and structure preventing the Magpies from ever scavenging an easy goal.
In any game the midfield is like a nest. It is the centre of any flock’s existence and its where all plans are hatched. All season Damo, Coops and Riggers have worked together to defend the nest, flying in formation all over the ground with a work rate second to none. They protected and defended each other and precisely delivered a constant supply of tasty morsels to the hungry mouths of chirping forwards.
The home and away season is now finished and the Cannons are perched comfortably in a well deserved second spot on the ladder. Coach Paul could not be more proud of this flock of players as they have accepted responsibility in the jobs they have been given. The return of seven straight goals a fitting reflection of the selfless play demonstrated by choosing the best options to goals.
The Cannons have found the right time to hit top form and proudly display the colours of their plumage. They are flying magnificent in formation and look ready to swoop for the first week of the finals!
- Stephen Grech