Zebras get on the board against an undefeated Williamstown
After a rocky start to the season, the Sandringham Zebras were finally able to get their first win of the season on the weekend, as they defeated a previously unbeaten Williamstown by 9-points in Ross Faulkner Round Five action at WSTBBO.
Photos by Tony Vella
The sun shone brightly over Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval, but heavy rain overnight had made the ground soggy underfoot and a blustery wind added to the tough conditions.
Coming off the bye week, the Zebras were looking to start well as they quested for their first win of 2021, but it was Williamstown who opened the scoring.
Sandringham were kicking into a strong headwind, but were moving the ball well by foot as they applied early forward pressure.
The Zebras soon had their first of the game, as a wayward kick inside 50 landed fortuitously in the lap of Luke Dunstan who was able to finish with a set shot.
The Zebras physicality — led by Jarryn Geary with some strong bumps and aerial contests — was noticeable from the first bounce which would please the supporters and coaches.
The Zebras continued to move the ball well in windy conditions, and a lovely switch and quick kick forward led to a Goy Lok goal for their second.
Unintimidated by the undefeated Williamstown, the Zebras had come out with confidence, and a Mason Wood snap soon gave them their third.
This was followed in quick succession by a strong mark and goal to Shaun McKernan, as the Zebras opened up a 2-goal lead.
An untimely Sandringham high tackle allowed Williamstown to get one back through Luke Meadows which was followed by another goal against the flow, as the margin was cut to just 1-point at the quarter time break.
The Zebras were kicking with the wind in the second quarter and came out of the gates quickly as they put on back-to-back goals within the first 7 minutes of the quarter.
Another push forward was picked up by Dunstan who was able to snap his second over his shoulder to open up a handy 3 goal lead for the Zebras halfway through the quarter.
Chris Carey was presenting well, and a contested mark and precision kick forward allowed Wood to run in for his second.
The Zebras were well on top, and Carey was soon rewarded for his effort as he followed up with a crafty set shot goal of his own.
The Zebras continued to overpower their opposition in the middle — Lok and Dunstan led the way— but Williamstown were able to claw one back with an important set shot finish.
The pressure was building as the Zebras looked to maintain their lead, but a dubious finish from the goal line gave Williamstown another as they began to work back into the contest.
Dunstan was finding the footy with ease, and a penetrating kick forward and was marked by McKernan who was able to give the Zebras a steadier.
Unfortunately for the Zebras, another costly free kick deep in defense allowed Williamstown to peg one back as the score was cut to 23-points at the main break.
The Zebras came out of the break strongly and quickly extended their lead as Shaun Mckernan was able to put through his third.
Captain, Dan Coffield followed up with a goal of his own to give the Zebras some breathing room as they again played well against the wind.
Oscar Clavarino and Durrah Joyce were rebounding well from halfback and pressing the ball forward where the Zebras forwards were looking dangerous.
Sam Dunell was showing young legs, as he got his involved across half-forward, but Williamstown were able to get another goal through a costly free kick inside 50 — their third for the day.
Williamstown were able to gain some momentum as they pushed for goals, but they were wasteful with their opportunities as the Zebras defense held firm.
The wall eventually broke, and Williamstowncut the margin to just 13-points going into the final change.
Williamstown started the fourth quarter with gusto as they kicked the first to bring cut the lead to one straight kick.
The Seagulls were threatening to come home with a wet sail, as they began to move the ball with confidence and continued to apply the pressure in front of an anxious home crowd.
Lok was working hard around the contest, as he looked to inspire his side with several clearances and contested possessions.
Carey was able to kick a steadier for the Zebras halfway through the term as a first win felt within reach, and although Williamstown continued to play hard right till the final siren, the Zebras were able to come away with the hard-fought 9-point win — their first for season 2021.
Zebras coach, Jake Batchelor said the win was very pleasing for the group to get some reward for the work the hard work the team has put in over the preseason and opening rounds.
"We've been in this situation for the last two games and took some really good learnings from that," he said.
"This week it all came to fruition and to get that (win) for the boys — it was pleasing for all the work that they've done."
Batchelor highlighted the importance of Chris Carey and Mitch Riordan who were handy additions to the side.
"Chris is a real barometer for us and it's been really tough to leave him out of the side for the last few weeks — he brings a great contest."
"We brought Mitch Riordan in for his first game and he was great — he won the ball forward for us and put on immense pressure and there's confidence for him that he'll be a really good footballer for us going forward."
Captain, Dan Coffield spoke about the confidence boost for the side.
"Hopefully it gives us some confidence to know that we can beat and compete with the good sides for four quarters," he said.
"We know how to win now, and it should give us the belief now and hopefully propels us forward."
Coffield also spoke about the excitement of playing with his brother, Nick.
"Obviously he was a bit disappointed to be playing VFL footy as an AFL listed player but it was exciting to be playing together."
"It was good to interact with him and understand the way he plays and it was a lot of fun."
The Zebras now move to 1-3 for the season and sit 17th on the ladder, but Batchelor is confident in the side and their ability to win games and match it with the best.
"I think the first two or three games our best footy has matched it or been better than the opposition, so today was just a really good way to consolidate that when we do it for longer amounts of time then we're going to be in every game."
Next week the Zebras travel up north to Queensland as they get their first taste of interstate football when they take on Aspley.
Batchelor said it's an exciting prospect for the club, but it would be business as usual this week.
"It's really exciting to fly together as a team and I dare say it's probably the first time most of the players have travelled interstate to play football."
"It will be in and out in one day, but it will be a good experience and a chance to go up there and get the job done over four quarters which is what we have to do for the rest of the season."