AN UNDERMANNED Kerang held off a gallant Balranald at Greenham Park on Saturday.
The 10.15 (75) to 6.14 (50) contained some interesting subtext for both sides.
Fans of the young and improving Roos would have been pleased to see the side run out the game to the final siren, never dropping in endeavour or failing to be hard at the contest.
But for a couple of costly third-quarter errors that resulted directly in Kerang goals, Balranald might have been even closer at the finish.
The second win of the season to Josh Richards’ side has them a game clear in ninth and with a vastly more competitive percentage than in recent seasons.
Most pleasingly is that Greenham Park has retained the services of a number of young stars whose development is a big key in the improvement seen so far this season.
While the return of the likes of Dane Fitzgerald, Josh Giansiracusa and Luke Giansiracusa, and the recruitment of players including Bryce Delmenico, has been important it is the continued improvement of young guns like Ryan Middlebrook and Raven Jolliffe that has been just as crucial.
Middlebrook was the Roos best on Saturday, while Jolliffe managed a clever third term goal after the Roos had unsuccessfully peppered the goals much of the term.
Not only have the Roos claimed two wins to climb off the bottom of the ladder in the first half of the season, they’ve also been more competitive in their losses — particularly in games against similarly placed sides — a key point of difference from last year and the year before.
But there is more to this result than meets the eye for the Blues.
While usually noticeable players like Luke Cotchett and Brad Pay, Kerang’s best, stood out again, others were conspicuous in their absence from the still-strong line-up.
A thumb injury kept Ryan Gillingham side-lined and his presence in the midfield would have been telling for Troy Coates team.
As well, Jon Murphy’s versatility would have been handy at either end for the Blues, on a day when the ball often came to ground at either end leading to scrappy play.
On the plus side was Travis Matheson’s return, although the assistant coach appeared to remain somewhat underdone, having a relatively limited influence in a return of just one goal.
The forward combination of Matheson and Troy Thamm looked strong early for Kerang, and certainly gave the visitors a sense of greater potency going into attack.
A free kick and goal to Thamm had the Blues off and running, with supporters cheered by Matheson’s first mark inside 50m and subsequent goal only minutes later.
Thamm and Troy Coates added to the scoreboard for the Blues before quarter time, while the Roos managed one goal through Luke Giansiracusa.
The 28-point margin was to script at quarter time, with most anticipating a relatively comfortable Kerang win.
In swirling conditions, however, things went awry for both sides in the second term.
Giansiracusa managed his second for the home side, but it was the only major for the quarter.
Both sides managed six behinds for the term and would be left to rue their inability to convert chances.
With four goals to one in the third term, the Blues finally pulled away and appeared to have the game on ice.
The first of the quarter came following a typically strong mark to Thamm on a tight angle about 40m out.
The second followed a Tom Mattarazzo dropped a mark in defence, which led to Troy Coates scoring a major that could have been raffled by the coach, Mark Walter and Marc Reiffel.
The third followed a desperate Matt Coates smother of a Jesse Pridham kick at half-back, resulting in a goal to Reiffel.
When Mark Walter scored the Blues’ fourth major of the term the visitors found themselves seven goals up late in the quarter.
Yet with most expecting the Blues to pull away from there, the home side did not take a backward step.
The Roos continued to fight hard for the ball and attack each contest with vigour, but the situation started to get desperate with Balranald missing a number of shots on goal.
They finished the term with four behinds to Kerang’s none.
It was thanks to a conversion from Raven Jolliffe that they were not quite out of reach at three quarter-time.
Goals to Jarryd Stead, Ben Fuller and Fitzgerald saw the Roos bring some spark into the last quarter but they were never close enough to be a genuine threat.
A major to the Blues was a steadier, but it was only really required to appease the most nervous of fans.
The last quarter fade-out will be of some concern to Troy Coates, particularly after a similar situation the previous week against Woorinen.
Next week’s bye couldn’t come at a better time for the Blues, who desperately need to recall some missing players.
They will hope that Gillingham and Greg Dickson at least will be right to go against Lake Boga at Riverside Park following the break.
The Roos travel to Boga in Round 12.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.