WODONGA broke a five-match losing streak with a hard-fought 12-point win over a wasteful Wangaratta Rovers at John Flower Oval on Saturday.
The Bulldogs’ experience shone through when it counted as they recorded their fifth win of the season to move within percentage of the top five — and they will regain their place if they repeat their round 3 win over Yarrawonga this Saturday.
In a free-flowing start, the Rovers earned a six-point quarter-time lead on the back of a dynamic display from Alex Marklew, who has found his niche as a running ruck-rover, with his hard running and quality delivery into the forward line setting up several scoring opportunities.
Dylan Wilson was impressive across half-back despite battling the flu, while Shane Gaston was excellent around the ground and Coen Hennessy played one of his best senior games as his back-up.
Wodonga kept itself in the game for the first half through the experience of Jarrod Twitt and Ben Hollands, whose footy smarts were crucial as they delivered bullet-like passes into the forward line, with only the quality of Tyson Hartwig in his last game of the season stopping Daniel Bradshaw (three goals) kicking a bag.
Sam Livingstone made a welcome return for the Bulldogs after two weeks out with a tight hamstring, and he produced a best-on-ground display that also included a rare goal, while John Pratt was important and Tim Kindellan shut out Sean O’Keeffe.
The visitors looked the goods when goals to Marklew and Dan McCullough gave them an eight-point lead seven minutes into the third term, but they could only manage eight behinds from there as Wodonga’s pressure took its toll.
With the match in the balance in the last quarter, big Bulldog Matt Seiter, who had been good but probably shaded by Gaston, took it upon himself to win the game — planting himself inside defensive 50 as an immovable shield, with Zach Jones snapping the sealer to break the Rovers’ hearts.
“It was hard work, a slog, it was just who could use the footy better,” Wodonga coach Dean Harding said.
“The pressure we built up and the areas they were trying to kick goals from were tough — if they kick them from there that’s a bonus.
“It’s been really tough for these kids in the past month, they’re a great bunch of kids and they’ve worked their butts off and their preparation, training standards and recovery has just been outstanding, we just haven’t had the success on the field.
“Hopefully this creates some momentum.”
Rovers coach Paul Maher was disappointed the win got away.
“We came in very confident that we had the capacity and the players to beat them and we were disappointed that we didn’t,” he said.
“Even though we’re a young side, we try hard, but we have to value our possessions and capitalise on our opportunities, but we didn’t do it.”