DOGS CHANGE IT UP
If it was a theatre production, the Central District versus West Adelaide SANFL clash at Elizabeth would have been billed as ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.
Yes, a brilliant second half saw the Bulldogs triumph by 20 points in the end, but, hands up those who felt like going home in the long break after what was a below par effort by the home side?
In the early going Central had plenty of opportunities but were wasteful – dropping marks, missing getable goals and generally playing periods of undisciplined football.
Westies on the other side of the ledger were making the most of opportunities and taking marks that had to be taken, kicking goals that were within range, and generally playing a good team-oriented style.
The first quarter saw the Dogs attack a lot more than West, and have more scoring shots, but trailed 1.6 to 3.3 at the first break.
And the second quarter seemed to be all the Bloods, as they kicked six goals without a miss, to build a 9.3 to 2.8 lead by half time.
Besides the wayward kicking, the number of easy dropped marks was almost unpalatable for Central’s supporters to watch – and some were sitters on the chest, a skill that seems to be lost in the modern game.
Many in attendance contemplated an early trip home, and lamented the fact that it was another long season ahead, similar to 2021. But to those who faithfully persevered, the rewards were worth it.
There seemed to be an air of change coming as the second half began, as Central seemed to lift a gear around the ball and in the way players hunted in packs.
When Blake Launer booted a goal two minutes into the half, it seemed to lift hopes, but West managed the next major six minutes later.
Then Jarrod Schiller snapped a wonderful goal, followed by a couple more behinds, before Launer won a contested ball and kicked long and accurately, just as time on began.
When West booted a major 24 minutes into the third term, all the hard work seemed to be for naught, as Central trailed by 28 points and the final break was just around the corner.
An exquisite piece of work by Kyle Presbury, when he ran out of defense, booted the ball out of the danger zone, ran past for a handball and delivered the footy into the hands of Ethan East for a goal, it opened the door for a last quarter fightback.
But still, another goal, when Bailey Reeves cleverly soccered a loose ball in the goal-square at 30 minutes, which saw the Bulldogs go into lemons trailing by just 17 points, 7.12 to 11.5.
Another committed effort in the final quarter would give Central an unlikely victory, but as history has demonstrated, no-one should count their chickens before they hatch.
When Billy Iles cleverly intercepted a backward pass in the goalsquare and pinched a goal three minutes into the final stanza, the Dogs trailed by 11 points.
Then an under-pressure goal-square snap, for goal of the game from wingman Oliver Shaw nine minutes in, saw just four points separate the sides.
With momentum on its side, Central was having the look of a team on a mission, and when Launer booted his third goal of the match, at the 14-minute mark, the Bulldogs were ahead for the first time since early in the opening term.
Relatively quiet through most of the game, Justin Hoskin then stepped up to ensure the win, as he kicked the final three goals of the match, in a nice cameo.
Travis and Jarrod Schiller continued to lead by example, while big-man Billy McCormack showed plenty of versatility with his work around the grounds.
Presbury got better as the game went on, and is reaching his peak form of last season, while Launer is shaping up to be an important on-baller – and goalsneak.
Height has been a problem for the past few seasons, as other sides seem to dominate the aerial contest against Central, which beggars the question, why don’t the Doggies attempt more spoils, especially in defense.
Well, they did in the second half, executing more successful spoils in a game than they have for many years.
And the Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde analogy? In the first half Hyde kicked 2.8 to West’s 9.3, while after half time, Jekyll booted 11.7 to the Bloods 2.4.
This Good Friday Central District travel to play North Adelaide at Prospect, which will offer a guide to where the Bulldogs are compared to last season.
Goals: Launer, Hoskin 3, Kendall, T. Schiller, J. Schiller, East, Reeves, Iles, Shaw 1.
Best: T. Schiller, J. Schiller, McCormack, Launer, Presbury, Montgomerie.
By Robert Laidlaw