The march towards the top of the AFL Victoria Community Championships rankings ladder continued for the Goulburn Valley League on Saturday with a comfortable victory against Western Region Football League.
It means the purple and gold men of the GV will have the opportunity to win their way into the top interleague match next season when they battle likely opponent Geelong.
Brad Campbell’s charges were on from the first bounce at Werribee’s Avalon Airport Oval, with Kayne Pettifer slotting a major inside the first minute.
But from there it was a tight tussle to quarter-time — with the GV just three points ahead — before Campbell’s troops were able to find some breathing space.
‘‘It was a good, hard-fought game, a really contested game, which we knew it was going to be a little bit like that,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘Probably in that second quarter we were able to get a little bit of open ball and get some goals and good opportunities as a result.’’
Although captain and star Jason Cole was a late withdrawal before the match, the GV’s midfield depth was tantalising to watch.
From league newcomer Zac Keogh to stalwarts Brett Mahoney, Mick Mattingly, Jamason Daniels and Nathan Marrone, the Goulburn Valley was fierce at the coalface throughout the contest — helping the side find a run of goals in the second term to open a 22-point gap up at the main break.
The third term turned into a scrap as the pressure valve exploded, with space around the contest at a premium and spare time with ball in hand even more scarce.
It was there where the class of the likes of Mattingly, Lachie Smith and Ted Lindon really stood out — as it did in the final quarter where the visitors once again claimed ascendancy and ran with it.
After extending the lead by three points in the penultimate stanza, the Goulburn Valley piled on 4.1 to 0.9 in the last term to secure a 41-point victory in style.
Although the Western Region would have rued a number of easy missed chances at goal in the final throes of the clash, it was the pressure and cohesion of GV’s defenders — namely Brad Ryan, Lindon, Smith, Tom Holman, Mitch Brett and Patty Marks — which forced those errors.
‘‘I thought our backline was terrific once they settled in and got used to each other,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘It’s very hard in this sort of footy to just click straight away, so I thought our backline really grew in confidence and built up a really good chemistry as the game went on.
‘‘They just positioned themselves really well, the backs, and the pressure was terrific.’’
Harry Boyd and Zac Norris competed well in the ruck for the GV, while Pettifer (three goals), Brody Webster (two), Kyle Mueller (two) and Nick Warnock (one) entertained the big crowd with plenty of attempts to sit on opposition shoulders — with more than a handful coming to fruition.
The likes of Angus Byrne, Brad Whitford, Anthony Andronaco, Tom Preece, Nick Fothergill and Matt Shannon also rotated well through mostly the midfield and forward half to complete what was an all-round brilliant performance from the travelling outfit.
‘‘Our midfield had a good battle with Western, our boys were terrific with their contested ball work, they put their head over the footy and worked really hard all day,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘Our rucks were really competitive, it was probably an area I was a little bit unsure of (going into the game), but I thought they worked really well and got their hands on the footy first quite a bit which was good.
‘‘Our forwards had a lot of opportunities, some of them probably could have had really good days — we were a little bit wasteful — but we walk away with a pretty good win in the end, so we’re all pretty happy.’’
The triumph will likely rank the GVL fourth on the table heading into next year’s match — meaning the side is only another win away from playing off for top spot.
‘‘That’s something we probably did look at, it would be great to get back in that top four mix and have a shot at being one and two again,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘We’re a very proud league and whatever league you come up against at this level it’s good footy and it’s always tough, but we’d love to get back up there a little bit higher again.’’
Goulburn Valley League 1.4, 6.9, 7.13, 11.14 (80)
Western Region Football League 1.1, 3.5, 4.6, 4.15 (39)
Goulburn Valley: Kayne Pettifer 3, Brody Webster, Kyle Mueller 2, Nathan Marrone, Mick Mattingly, Patty Marks, Nick Warnock.
Tyler Maher’s Goulburn Valley best
Zac Keogh: Seymour’s boom recruit stepped up to the interleague stage in style, ripping through Western Region’s midfield like a bull in a china shop during the contest. Hard at it from siren to siren and Goulburn Valley’s forwards and outside runners reaped the rewards from his efforts.
Mick Mattingly: In a two-way battle with Keogh for the best afield honours, Mattingly did what he does best for Kyabram week in, week out — racked up a ton of the ball and used it expertly. Unlocked the key to the fat side of Avalon Airport Oval a number of times with smart switches.
Ted Lindon: All of the Goulburn Valley’s defensive six could have filled this list, but Lindon was the general who led the unit. Rocking some splendid purple long sleeves that made his arms look six feet long, Lindon went about using those arms to spoil numerous Western Region marking attempts and launch his side back into an attacking mode.
Brad Ryan: Also partaking in a long sleeve jumper, Ryan provided a great foil for Lindon down back. His ability to remain in a contest no matter its make-up — think flying high with a key forward or chasing down a fleet-footed resting midfielder — means Ryan is rarely beaten.
Brett Mahoney: Mansfield’s main man delivered on the big stage once more, combining with Keogh to give the Goulburn Valley plenty of inside grunt in the midfield. Found himself in space more times than he would be likely to at club level — with hard tags not in vogue in interleague matches — and made the Western Region pay when he did.
Tom Holman: Another defender in the bests, but Holman was super impressive across the half-back line — especially early in the contest. Threw himself at everything and stopped plenty of Western Region forays forward.