Shark Attack gets the better of the Zebras in tough season opener
Sandringham's relentless determination was not enough to overcome a well-rounded Southport outfit on Saturday afternoon.
Photography: High Flyer Images
Despite a gallant effort across all four quarters, the Zebras were unable to break through the immense pressure of the Sharks - falling by 86 points at Fankhauser Reserve.
After conceding the first nine goals of the game - and being held goalless for the first half - the Zebs never stopped fighting, with Blake Watson kicking off our three-goal third term with a bang.
Additionally, Gown, Lohmann and Van Es were able to convert their opportunities during the second half, with the AFL-listed Tom Highmore (32 disposals, 2 tackles) also showing his class alongside Mason Hawkins (17 disposals, 2 tackles, 11 hitouts) and Oliver Lowe (16 disposals, 7 marks).
Will Dunne had an impressive debut, providing great defensive pressure including two immaculate spoils - denying the Sharks a goal opportunity on both occasions.
AFL-listed James Van Es (1 goal, 9 disposals, 4 tackles) also stood out in his first game for the Zebras.
Mason Hawkins (17 disposals, 2 tackles, 11 hitouts), Tom Blamires (8 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles) , Jordy Segar (4 disposals, 1 tackle), Isaac Wallace (7 disposals, 4 kicks) and Noah Gown (1 goal, 2 behinds, 9 disposals) all had solid debuts in the blue, yellow and black.
The Zebras began the quarter with a free kick to Max Heath, resulting in the first scoring opportunity for the day, with Ben Mansfield unable to convert. Despite his minor score, Mansfield was able to provide great forward-fifty pressure resulting in a major spoil at the nine minute mark following three Sharks majors.
The ball spent most of the quarter in the Sharks’ forward half, but Leo Connolly’s composure and Cooper Sharman’s defensive efforts allowed the Zebras to keep piling on the pressure and begin to balance the unfavourable flow of the game. This was compounded through the efforts of Tom Highmore throughout the first term, with the work rate of Oliver Lowe also proving a positive despite Southport continuing to bring the heat.
Combining with Mason Hawkins, Max Heath began to assert himself in the stoppage contests with the Zebras winning the hitout count for the opening quarter.
Tom Highmore remained dominant throughout the second term, with the Zebras’ defensive pressure lifting around the ground. Highmore’s composure, aided by strong bodywork from Van Es, Sharman and Hipwell enabled the Zebs to stop the Sharks’ flow of scoring shots. Dan Frampton began to impact the game as the loose defender and Jacob Lohmann worked his way into the contest.
A massive mark from Cooper Sharman during the twenty-fourth minute capped off a quarter full of improvement and promising signs from the Zebras’ defence, conceding only two goals before the siren sounded.
A composed passage of play into the forward half gave Watson the opportunity to collect the crumb and convert only two minutes into the second half, giving the Zebras a much-needed boost to begin the third term. Shortly after Watson’s drought-breaking snag, Noah Gown was able to capitalise on his immense pressure work which saw him rewarded with a free kick and set shot conversion at the three minute mark.
The Zebras continued their purple patch with an impactful intercept mark from our Captain, Anthony Seaton, allowing for a switch across the back half which resulted in another forward fifty entry and a free kick to Johnathan Haidon who recorded a minor score. Will Dunne was prolific with his spoiling ability and Dan Frampton provided immense pressure through his second efforts, however, the Zebras struggled to clear the ball after forcing turnovers in the Sharks’ forward fifty.
Our forwards continued to push through the Sharks’ strong defence, bringing the heat in their own forward fifty. Their unrelenting stoppage pressure resulted in a free kick to Jacob Lohmann who converted his set shot in the twenty-fourth minute to leave the Zebras with three goals to the Sharks’ four for the quarter - a statistic that reflects the determination of the Zebs.
Despite the leading efforts of Anthony Seaton - providing a forward fifty entry following a strong tackle at the ten minute mark - the Zebs were unable to continue holding off the Sharks, with the home team booting four goals from ten scoring shots in the final term. James Van Es was able to bring himself into the game, however, booting a brilliant snap in the twenty-eighth minute as a result of Gown’s relentless pressure acts as well as showing off his own defensive prowess with an assertive bump in the twenty-sixth minute.
Highmore finished the game as the Zebras’ leading performer, with his experience alongside that of Oscar Adams evidently an important asset to our developing team. With appearances from nine VFL development players and six debutants against the reigning premiers, the Zebras defence around the ground remained aggressive until the end, with notable pressure provided by Bayne, Lohmann and Heath in the final term.
A disappointing result ensued, however, the unrelenting pursuit and determination provided by the Zebs will be a positive takeaway on a tough day - eventually going down by 86 points in the Southport heat.
Final Score: Sandringham Zebras 4.8 (32) defeated by Southport Sharks 17.16 (118)
Goals: B. Watson, N. Gown, J. Lohmann, J. Van Es
Best: T. Highmore, J. Van Es, M. Hawkins, L. Connolly, M. Heath, T. Milne