By Tyler Lewis
PULL QUOTE: “Personally, I thought the scoreboard flattered us… it was close to 10 goals, it could’ve been more.” Noble Park coach Steve Hughes.
Noble Park coach Steve Hughes was left irritated after his Bulls delivered an uncharacteristic performance on Saturday.
Six weeks ago, the Bulls dismantled Balwyn in the Queen’s Birthday stand-alone, trumping the Tigers 12.9 (81) to 7.9 (51).
It was a vast contrast this time around, with the Tigers overpowering the Bulls 14.14 (98) to 6.6 (42).
Bitterly disappointed, Hughes was direct and to the point in describing the main difference between the two matches.
“Our pressure wasn’t there, quite simply,” he said bluntly.
“No real defensive intensity around the ball, my comment to our players was ‘it was a have to, not want to’ attitude towards the tackle, chase and harass – which is how we want to play every week.
“There was that element, and then the other element was the way Balwyn played, they were outstanding.
“They probably flipped the pressure that we delivered to them six weeks ago back onto us and quite rightly gave us a significant touch up.
“Personally, I thought the scoreboard flattered us… it was close to 10 goals, it could’ve been more.
“They dominated for four quarters, they deserved to win.”
The tell-tail signs scream that Noble Park was beaten at its own game, receiving some of its own medicine.
Rarely do the Bulls score so little and concede so heavily, instead known to be a typically parsimonious outfit.
Hughes didn’t shy away from the out of character display.
“I would absolutely agree with that, I thought we had maybe two or three winners across the ground,” he explained.
“Look, it’s one that we’re going to review really heavily and call a spade a spade, call out the ordinary efforts and address it.
“It’s a collective, it’s not just players, it’s everybody, we all need to own a loss, no one likes them, but we have to front up to it, review it and hopefully get better.”
After suffering defeat to Balwyn, the Bulls now sit just one win and 6.38 per cent ahead of the Tigers in third and 8.34 per cent ahead of Doncaster East in fourth.
As the Tigers and Lions face off this weekend, a loss to the Hawks very nearly promises the Bulls the loss of that valued top two position with just a fortnight remaining in the home and away season.
There’s no denying Hughes is after a response this week, but he’s also under no illusions it’ll be a difficult task.
“I want us to get back onto the brand that served us pretty well over the first 14 or 15 weeks,” he said.
“The players are aware of it, no one is shying away from the way we operated on Saturday, so I just hope our players can respond in the way I know they can.
“It’s difficult to do (beat Rowville), because it’s only happened twice this year, I think we probably need to do a better job at stoppage than we did last time.
“The likes of (Anthony) Brolic, (Lachie) McDonald and (Alex) Frawley, that round one they nullified us at stoppage, we will do some work on that, watch some vision.
“It starts in the middle, our leaders stand up and show the way, and collectively we respond to what happened on Saturday.
“They’re a very good side, I think they’re underrated by a lot of people by the sounds of things… but I can’t see why.
“Their list has a huge amount of depth, a lot of VFL aligned players, good midfield, dangerous forwards – it’s a tough assignment, but I think we’re good enough.”
That aforementioned Rowville side had an indifferent lead into the massive clash, thumping the hapless North Ringwood unit, 22.14 (146) to 5.6 (36).
After going down in a nail-biter two weeks ago to Doncaster East, Rowville’s star midfielder Lachie McDonald has delivered two suave and unencumbered weeks of football.
He gleaned over 40 possessions and a whopping 22 clearances last week, before following that up with 38 disposals and nine clearances this week.
Hawks coach Ben Wise was pleased with his star on-baller, after a lean set of appearances.
“Yeah he had a couple quiet weeks and got Covid a month ago maybe,” he said.
“His last couple he is just really starting to hit his straps, he’s got his running power back and I thought the week before he was a bit unlucky.
“He didn’t finish with the goals he should’ve, he could’ve had 41 and kick three, he missed a couple… yeah mate he’s outstanding.
“Getting Spud (Alex Frawley) back into the side, it allows him to be more offensive, when you’ve got him Brol (Anthony Brolic) and Spud sharing the inside work, I can really use Ted (Tyler Edwards) and Wiz on the outside.
“He’s been really good, working really hard and getting some nice form.”
While the pressure isn’t as high for Wise’s side to win this week, the desire to secure a top-two finish is tremendously high.
“Yeah it’s really exciting,” he said of the looming ‘f ‘word.
“We set out at the start of the year to give ourselves a chance to play finals and we’ve ticked that box, now it’s to give us a better chance and tick off top two.
“This week is really important, because if we tick this week off, it’s going to be really hard for us to drop out of that.
“There’s a lot at stake, they’re (Noble Park) a good side and they’re coming off a loss, they’re always dangerous and tough out at Pat Wright Oval… the boys are super excited.
“I think it’s like most games; whoever gets on top in the midfield and gives their forwards better looks is going to win the game.”
In other matches across the Premier Division: Berwick suffered a grim 20.15 (135) to 6.11 (47) defeat to South Croydon, Doncaster East collected a 14.14 (98) to 11.8 (74) win over Blackburn to all but secure the top six. Norwood landed its sixth win of the year, with a 12.19 (91) to 5.10 (40) win over Doncaster and Vermont bounced back after a horror week last weekend to defeat Park Orchards in a thriller, 10.68 (68) to 9.10 (64).
TEAM W L % Pts
Rowville 13 2 145.83 52
Noble Park 12 3 148.92 48
Balwyn 11 4 142.54 44
Doncaster East 11 4 140.58 44
South Croydon 10 5 127.57 40
Blackburn 7 7 88.47 30
Norwood 6 9 95.71 24
Vermont 6 9 84.38 24
Park Orchards 5 10 97.85 20
Doncaster 5 10 68.45 20
Berwick 2 12 63.5 10
North Ringwood 1 14 47.57 4
FIXTURE – ROUND 16
Balwyn v Doncaster East
South Croydon v Vermont
Park Orchards v Norwood
Berwick v Blackburn
Noble Park v Rowville
North Ringwood v Doncaster