After struggling through the start of the season, the Power finally broke through and put a win on the table, beating the Naturals on the back of a strong third quarter. Two goals a piece by Mitch “Carl” Hooper and Rylan Phillips helped stretch out the Powers’ second-half lead and secure the team’s first victory of the PAFL season.
On a slightly damp Sunday at Northgate Park, the game started out incredibly close. For the first time this season, Northgate Park was a slippery and slightly muddy field thanks to weekend rains. Also for the first time as well, the two squads were full to the brim, with 18-a-side play throughout.
With the grand stage set, the sun was shining for the opening bounce and it led to a tightly contested first quarter. The footy bounced from one end of the pitch to the other, but the score at the end of 20 minutes was just 8-1 in favor of the Naturals. Stout defense and denial of opportunities led to the low score.
The close contest continued through to the end of the first half, but at least the scoreboard finally saw more goals. After putting one on the board in the first quarter for the Naturals, “Robbo” Robertson got a second. The Power added to the meager behind after one quarter behind Hooper, playing at center-half forward and working with a forward line that began to manufacture opportunities on goal. The half ended 18-17 and was anybody’s game.
The Power began to swell in confidence in a 26-point third quarter. Power ruckman Rylan Phillips scored his first two Aussie Rules goals, and Power captain Peter “Pele” Blundell matched those with two of his own. Crucially, the Naturals were shut out in the quarter, allowing the Power to stretch out a 43-18 lead that they would not relinquish.
That third quarter proved crucial, as the fourth was won 15-14 by the Naturals. Martin Coventry and Aaron Winkler got on the board for the Natties, while Power forwards Doug Bonham and Kyle Easton scored at the other end. The Power finished the 57-43 victory strong, withstanding late pressure to hold the lead for the victory.
Included in the full squads was a pair of first-game players, Lamar and Chris, and a pair of players down from the Seattle Grizzlies, Aaron Winkler and Dan Choate. Lamar and Chris established themselves throughout the game, with Lamar impressing as Naturals star Martin Coventry’s favorite mark target. Choate and Winkler were also impressive for the Natties, and Chris was solid for the Power as well. However, a tackle gone awry left Lamar out injured in the third quarter.
Another impressive cameo was made by Sean-Paul Henry, who has experience with Gaelic football as well as with Aussie Rules. He left his mark on the game in the second half, helping drive play from the Power half-back line. The other key players for the Power were Lance Brooks, who was crucial in attack all game; Ben Hargrave, a rookie who is developing into a solid defender; and Jacob “Kouta” Gawlista, who was always around the ball. Four different players scored goals in the forward line for the Power.
The Naturals fought throughout but came up short in the attacking third. Portland AFL stalwarts Martin Coventry and Will Sandman were their usual key selves, Sandman helping win the ball in midfield and Coventry seemingly everywhere. Lamar also left a huge impact in his first game, playing on the wing and taking many marks from Coventry. Robertson was also key in the middle for the Natties in the first half before flipping jumpers and playing the second half for the Power.
The next PAFL game is on June 5, when the Power hopes to build on its success in a rematch against the Brewers.
Power: 8.9 57
Naturals: 4.9 33
Peter Blundell 2
Mitch “Carl” Hooper 2
Rylan Phillips 2
Doug Bonham 1
Kyle Easton 1
Power Best on Ground: Sean-Paul Henry, Lance Brooks, Ben Hargrave, Jacob Gawlista
Michael “Robbo” Robertson 2
Martin Coventry 1
Aaron Winkler 1
Naturals Best on Ground: Martin Coventry, Will Sandman, Lamar Adams, Michael “Robbo” Robertson