The Dragons earnt a much-needed win on a windy Saturday afternoon at RSEA Park, with a hefty third-quarter blitz damaging the Knights 112 to 41.
After two consecutive losses after the four-week break, the pressure was on this week for the boys to turn it around on the field.
The line-up featured four debutants, with Lachlan Voss, Luke Lloyd, and Ted Clayton in to play their first games, along with Cam Saultry, a late inclusion following Angus McLennan’s late exclusion with illness.
Hugo Birks and Mackenzie Allen were two big inclusions to the Round 9 side, both pivotal components to the win.
The first quarter started inaccurate for the Dragons, creating forward entries, however, multiple shots on goal failed to record a score.
After five minutes, some hard-fought physicality on offensive transition paid dividends for Ashcroft (36 disposals, 8 tackles), who was awarded a high free-kick, which was converted into a goal with a terrific contested mark in the goal square by Rousakis (2 goals, 4 marks).
The Knights bounced back five minutes later, with some indiscipline action by the Dragons giving the Knights a 50-metre penalty, guaranteeing a goal.
Birks (3 goals, 5 marks) found himself in creative positions early on, marking uncontested from 35 metres out to kick his first goal from a set shot.
With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Crowe (12 disposals, 6 kicks) sparked his assisting brilliance, driving through the centre square to kick in deep to forward 50, eventuating in an O’Leary (2 goals) snap from 20 metres out.
Heading into the second quarter with a 13-point lead, the Dragons upped the intensity, playing a structured transition game that caught the Knights off guard, no pun intended.
The first goal was cultivated by Crowe for the second time, who was able to find space through the corridor and find Rousakis on the lead with another strong, contested mark.
O’Leary played the sneaky small forward role, positioning himself effectively behind the ball to run in our second of the quarter.
Hempel (1 goal, 14 disposals) showcased his magic, receiving the get-and-go from 55 metres out, running around the man on the mark to caress the ball through from 50, extending the lead to 31 points, eight minutes into the second.
After 10 minutes, Northern was able to stem the flow of Dragons goals, kicking one back from a well roved boundary throw-in.
Crowe had his third assist of the game, finding the debutant Lloyd (3 goals) who added to the collection of contested marks inside 50. He slotted back the set shot from 30 metres out on a tight angle.
Allen (1 goal, 15 disposals) got his name on the scoresheet late in the second, snapping from 30 metres out to take the Dragons into the locker room with a 38-point lead.
The third quarter saw the Dragons blitz the Knights in the last ten minutes of the quarter, piling on seven goals in ten minutes.
Clarke (1 goal, 7 tackles) worked his magic along the boundary line to present Lloyd with another set shot opportunity, which was converted two minutes in.
Dragons held the majority of possession for the next two minutes, however, inaccuracy was creating difficulties.
Birks kicked his third at the fourteenth-minute mark, off the back of some hard contested work from Saultry (13 disposals) who was able to hit up Birks on the lead, 30 metres out.
Some unlikely goal scorers burst onto the scene in the last ten minutes, with Macnab (1 goal, 18 disposals) weaving through opponents running inside forward 50 to go back and slot a goal from 35 metres out.
Key defender James Creighton (1 goal, 4 tackles) was the most unlikely scorer in the game, running off half-back to roll-off 50 metres and slot a goal on the run.
Goals to Lloyd, Benton, Clarke, and Birks broke the Knights’ defensive unit down to pieces, extending the margin to a game-high 78 points, 103 to 25 at the final break.
Fatigue set in for the Dragons in the fourth quarter as the Knights held the possession for the majority of the last.
Some impressive and consistent efforts stood out from debutant Ted Clayton (9 disposals, 5 tackles), who caught coach Cripps’ eye.
Sheezel (37 disposals, 9 marks, 7 tackles) after playing most of his game in the midfield, pushed forward into his natural half-forward role.
Voss (1 goal) kicked the Dragons last goal and his first goal on debut, letting the wind sway the ball through the big sticks.
The Dragons ran out 71 point winners over the Knights, sitting seventh on the ladder with a 4-3 record.
They take on the Western Jets in Round 10 after a competition bye this week.
Versatile half-back Lochie Benton (30 disposals, 7 marks) spoke with Dragons Media after the game on the win, commending the boys on the bounce back following two tough losses.
“We wanted to play in front and be really aggressive with our defence on all three lines”
“I think it was a really good team performance, guys like Lloyd presented really well”
“The midfield worked great as well, Sheezel, Ashcroft and Jake Johnson in the ruck were working really well in there”
There are a couple of things in football that are no good, the cold, rain, and the worst, wind.
RSEA Park certainly provided a swirly environment, a first for the boys this season, testing out their accuracy in front of goals.
The Dragons kicked 11 out of 17 goals going with the wind, kicking 11.6 with the wind and 6.4 against it, an accurate display.
Voss and Lloyd demonstrated what the wind can do, kicking goals from quite acute angles, two for the highlight reel!
600 Second Surge
It took ten minutes for the Dragons to extend the lead to an unreachable amount, tallying seven goals in ten minutes to finish the third quarter.
Team football stood out in these ten minutes, with a real focus on intensity and effort to create open spaces in transition and forward 50 entries.
The Dragons had eleven different goal scorers this week, the most evenly spread the stats sheet has read this season.
A goal from Creighton was certainly unusual, but we’re not complaining, it’s a good day when a key defender is kicking your goals!
The famous Brian Taylor commentary line would have stood up immensely in this game.
Luke Lloyd made his presence felt in the side, kicking three goals on debut, equal top goal scorer on the afternoon.
Lloyd matches himself with Rousakis as first game standouts, with both providing focal points inside forward 50.
With a knack for contested marks and a hunger for goals, Lloyd will be looking to create an impact looking forward.
Big wins are typically down to terrific forward structure and composure.
Down back, Ben Andrews played his best game by far this season.
Andrews was a key lockdown defender, keeping Northern quiet on the offensive end.
His intercept marking ability stood out, with three of his four marks coming from intercepts.