By Nick Creely
Noble Park and Berwick may well be in the early stages of its new-found rivalry in the Eastern Football League, and if Saturday afternoon’s season opener was anything to go by, it’s going to make for fascinating viewing in the coming years.
The Wickers – in its first game in the Eastern’s top-flight after crossing over from the Outer East – welcomed the Bulls to Edwin Flack Reserve in the highly anticipated Round 1 clash.
And there was almost no respite in the pressure and intensity with both south-east powerhouses desperate for the opening round scalp.
In the end, it was the Bulls that prevailed by just two points, 8.13 (61) to 7.17 (59).
But you suspect the two clubs will play out plenty more of these types of clashes.
Tough football treated the strong crowd as the Bulls took a six-point margin at quarter time, before the Wickers – courtesy of a three goal to two second term – reversed that deficit and went into the main break leading by just under a straight kick.
But in a vital third term, both sides just couldn’t convert on the scoreboard, with the Wickers kicking 1.4 and the visitors 2.4, but crucially the Bulls once again wrestled back the lead.
Despite once again struggling to convert on the scoreboard, the Wickers could have easily pinched the points in its Eastern debut, but the Bulls held firm in a frantic last term to bank the win.
In a gritty win, VFL-listed Josh Stern starred on debut, snagging a goal and being a constant presence, while Lachie McDonnell and Jordan Marson impressed. New recruit Harley Fairbank kicked two in a promising debut for the club.
Despite the loss, the Wickers will have taken plenty out of the clash as they look for a strong opening season in the competition.
Rising star Will Arthurson – listed by Frankston in the VFL – was in commanding touch, continuing on from his fine 2019 season, Travis Tuck was a bull as per usual and hit the scoreboard with two goals, while star defender Michael Riseley was excellent.
Berwick travel to Seebeck Oval on Saturday to play Rowville in the Anzac Day round, while Noble Park will play its first home game of the season when it welcomes Vermont.
In Southern Football’s Division 2, Keysborough banked a commanding win against Murrumbeena, 12.14 (86) to 4.9 (33).
Off the back of a dominant seven-goal haul to Matt Carnelley, and an equally excellent performance from Tim Werner (three goals), the Burras shook off a first half-challenge to kick 10 goals to three in the second half.
Hampton Park, meanwhile, impressed once again, running down a hefty deficit against Caulfield Bears, 12.13 (85) to 11.8 (74).
The Redbacks were in a spot of bother at half-time, trailing by 17 points but were actually down by 25 points at quarter time as they struggled to get its game up and going.
However, the Redbacks clicked into gear – courtesy of dominant performances from Peter Dye (five goals), Aaron Holden, Steven Stredwick and Cam Williamson – to slam on five goals in the third term to wrestle back the lead and take in a nine-point lead at three quarter time.
The Bears pushed hard in the final term, but the Redbacks did enough to bank the four points.
Springvale Districts were once again on the winners’ list, brushing aside Chelsea Heights, 11.9 (75) to 5.6 (36).
In Division 3, Endeavour Hills bounced back with a strong win against South Mornington, 17.15 (117) to 9.13 (67).
The Falcons were never really threatened but had an 11-point lead at half time, before slamming on 11 goals to five across the remaining two quarters.
In the remaining matches, Clayton was dominant against Doveton Eagles, 23.19 (157) to 3.0 (18), while Narre South Saints had the measure of South Yarra, 17.13 (115) to 2.15 (27).