ALBURY put a full stop on one of the toughest fortnights of its long existence with a comfortable 57-point victory over Wangaratta Rovers at the WJ Findlay Oval on Saturday.
Injured player James
McQuillan listened to the game from Melbourne and earned a tribute from co-coach Daniel Maher.
“We’re a proud footy club and to be put in that position was unfortunate for James,” Maher said.
“It was a freak accident but we are actually getting strength from James at the moment, the way he’s going and the way his family is responding to the accident.
“We extend our thanks to the O and M community, to hear they’ve raised $2000 here today from gold coin donations is fantastic.”
It was Albury’s evenness that was the difference in a contest where the Hawks matched it with their opponents in most facets.
They probably had five of the best eight players on the ground and Daniel Archer was unstoppable.
Archer saw off three opponents on his way to 22 disposals, 17 marks and a return of 4.3.
His only let down was missing a couple of gettable shots in quick succession when the Hawks were launching a concerted challenge in the first half of the third quarter.
Ruckman Shane Gaston was simply magnificent for the home team.
Gaston dominated the taps and around the ground against Luke Wells and Setanta O’hAilpin, although the latter was a solid contributor with two goals.
Sean O’Keefe had 13 disposals in the first quarter on his way to 30, while Lachie Dornauf (two goals) was magnificent and Tyson Hartwig had the better of Albury spearhead Andy Carey, conceding just 1.3.
But from there it was hard to find many more winners as the Tigers cruised home.
Wangaratta Rovers’ biggest problem was
vision — on several occasions they were guilty of handballing to a teammate in an impossible position, with the resulting turnovers costing them goals.
Albury was at its most dangerous when given the space to run and carry, with at least four goals coming from coast to coast runs on the back of lightning-fast transitions.
Dean Polo was their best with a quality display patrolling half back to keep the Rovers from getting any momentum, while unheralded defender Andrew Dennis blanketed star youngster Alex Marklew.
Brayden O’Hara started slowly, but worked his way into the game and was dominant by the end, finishing with 30 disposals and two goals, while captain Luke Packer was outstanding in the last line of defence and Joel O’Connell kept Sam Carpenter from having any real influence.
Chris Hyde and Lonnie Hampton kicked three goals each, Matt Munro (two goals) produced an excellent display after being a late inclusion for John Mitchell, and Josh Maher, Bryce Carroll, Justin Carey and Aisake O’hAilpin were impressive.
Both teams were left with injury problems, with Albury’s Matt Shir (leg) and Rover Hayden Lowe (Achilles) unsighted after quarter time.
Maher was happy with the performance on what is traditionally a tough road trip.
“They gave us a scare here last year so we know how tough it is to come down here on their home ground in front of their crowd,” Maher said.
“They always put up a good fight and it took us four quarters to shake them.
“Andrew Dennis has been a bit part player for the last couple of years but we put him on Marklew today, and he didn’t give him any time or space.
“Sam Carpenter is their general so we had to nullify his influence today, which I thought Joel O’Connell did really well.
“We’ve obviously included a few more guys this year from outside the area, but certainly Brayden has really gelled with the group and he’s flying.”
The Hawks’ coach Paul Maher was happy with aspects of the game, but disappointed his team allowed Albury to spread at times.
“I thought the first three quarters we were within reach and coming home with the wind and we had some players who were on top all day like Archer and those sorts of blokes,” he said.
“I thought we had a chance.
“But they’re a class team with their overlap and their run, and their key players such as Hyde and O’Hara showed us how to play in the last quarter.
“I’ve been pretty happy with all Gatto’s (Gaston’s) games this year, including the pre-season — he did get over Wells.
“But we didn’t respect the hard work he was doing enough by making the most of the ball use when we got our hands on it.
“Some of their kick ins today, they were able to take it end to end — if one man is unaccountable to a man it throws the whole process out of kilter and they were able to clear it a little too easily.”