Eastern Edge Dragons in their first defeat of the season
By Nathan Sepe
Lessons to learn for the Dragons, going down to the Ranges in a game characterised by momentum swings and tactical domination.
The Dragons went into the game 2-0 for the first time in club history, whilst Eastern were also heading into the game one game unbeaten, coming off a rest from a Round 2 bye.
From the get-go both teams brought the physicality, with both teams fighting for midfield supremacy, however, the Ranges got off to a quick start, catching the Dragons off guard with their use of the wide wingers to penetrate forward 50.
A quick turnaround in tactical positioning for the Dragons helped shift the momentum back in our favour. Fantastic forward pressure work from Barbakos gave her a snap on goal to snag our first and minute’s later, great composure from Staltari found Hipwell who kicked straight for our second.
The Ranges held the possession for most of the quarter, transitioning offensively throughout the middle of the ground, however, were held up by the Dragons defence who were able to rebound effectively and convert down in their forward 50, taking a narrow five-point lead into the second quarter.
The second quarter started strongly for the Dragons, utilising their composure in the centre square to find hit-up targets inside forward 50. Coyne (20 disposals, 9 tackles) starred early in the second, dancing her way around opposition to chip over an easy finish for Thompson (2 goals) who extended the margin to 13 points.
Following the goal, the battle became contested and physical, with the likes of Sofia Hurley stamping her authority in the midfield, finishing with a game-high 16 tackles, placing immense pressure on the Rangers rovers in the centre stoppages.
The Ranges capitalised off the Dragons' poor defensive transition and pulled one back in the middle of the quarter, however, both teams held firm defensively and went into halftime with the Dragons up by seven.
The third quarter saw more of the same, with both teams unrelenting to concede midfield exposure. The summer sun hurt the Dragons girls again, similar to Round 2, with the fatigue levels hurting the Dragons in defence, who were unable to sustain high-intensity levels for some parts of the quarter.
The Ranges kicked two straight and hit the lead towards the end of the quarter, but much like the Dragons they too fatigued as the quarter went on, leaving the door open late on for Thompson to run into an open goal off some great kicking from Hurley. The Dragons headed into the final quarter with a one-point lead.
The fourth quarter set up a special finish and the start for the Dragons certainly implied a strong finish, with a quick midfield clearance within the first minute of the quarter finding Zielinski (3 goals), who snapped in our first of the quarter to extend the lead to seven.
Unfortunately, after this goal the Ranges gained all momentum, sweeping the Dragons off their feet, dominating the midfield and stoppages, kicking four unanswered goals in the space of nine minutes to sink the Dragons' hope of a comeback late in the quarter.
The Dragons wrestled back momentum late and kicked a late goal off an intercept mark from Zielinski, however, it wasn’t enough as the Ranges prevailed by 13 points, 9.5.59 to 7.4.46, in what was an intense, hard-fought, top-of-the-table battle in Kilsyth.
Dragons Media spoke to assistant coach Cheyne Webster and Dragons forward Pia Staltari post match, both of which were disappointed on the outcome of the match.
When questioned on the flow of the game, Staltari was positive on the girls’ intensity for the majority of the match, however commented on the momentum swing. “We were in it up until the end, I think they got they upper hand and in the last few minutes we dropped our heads, we weren’t able to pick up the pace.”
Webster was pleased on the tactical changes the girls had made prior to the clash, commending the girls for playing a pivotal role in creating momentum stoppages to give better opportunities going forward.
“We thought we made the most of our chances much better today than we have in the last couple of weeks. At the end of the day we just have to roll on, they were able to surge it inside 50 and put a lot of pressure on our backline.”
The first loss comes at a good time for the Dragons, heading in to the bye with much to improve before their Round 5 clash with the Western Jets. When questioned on their improvements moving forward, Staltari placed emphasis on connection moving through the midfield.
“I think the midfield needs a bit more connection with one another, to really flow together and get that transition a lot easier. I think if we nail that we will definitely be able to take on a few more oppositions moving forward”
Webster spoke about the importance of endurance going forward, highlighting the importance of the concept for ongoing success. “I think we’ve got to stay in it for longer periods. It’s a learning process for all the players, so for us, if we get back to training, continue to do the things that make us the team we are, I think long term we will be better for the experiences like today.
The Dragons have a bye this weekend and will return in Round 5 against the Western Jets at Trevor Barker Oval.