The Northern Jets head into the back half of the season in outright fifth after a confident, and confidence-boosting, 28-point win over East Wagga-Kooringal at Gumly Oval on Saturday.
In an all-round display to warm the heart of any coach who’s ever asked for a full team effort, the Jets started well and finished off even better for a 14.6 (90) to 9.8 (62) victory.
After kicking the first three goals of the game, the Jets staunchly defended their lead. When the final Hawks’ challenge came, they rose to it, keeping the home side goalless in the last quarter.
The boys dug deep, they answered and kicked away. We hadn’t done that to a side so it was pretty promising and got a bit of excitement back.
“They (EWK) kept hanging on all day – we knew they would, they’re still last year’s premiers,” Jets coach Mitch Robinson said.
“They kept applying that pressure and in that last quarter they come out pretty hard but we responded really well.
“The boys dug deep, they answered and kicked away. We hadn’t done that to a side so it was pretty promising and got a bit of excitement back.”
They dug deep in every way – from pressure and persistence, to intensity and enthusiasm – to create run at every opportunity and try to make the most of their smaller-sized forward set-up of Jack Fisher or Chris Bell deep and the dangerous Alex Rogers and Paddy Bray (three goals each).
Sam Fisher in the middle was outstanding, particularly early, with 20 possessions before half-time. While Mitch Haddrill came into his own in the second half, playing through the midfield, pinch-hitting in the ruck, and going forward.
The Hawks weren’t helped by the loss of ruckman Nick Hull early in the second quarter, who cut a forlorn figure heading to the bench clutching at his lower back, just as he had started to hit his straps this season.
At that stage, the Hawks were only down by a goal but there’d been worrying signs with the Jets dominating a 10-minute period in the opening quarter for their three unanswered goals.
EWK kept coming, and were within a goal a couple of times in the second quarter, and late in the third.
But Haddrill put the Jets two goals to the good just before the last break and, after weathering a Hawks’ storm in the first 10 minutes of the last quarter, they went down the other end and kicked three goals in five minutes to seal their fourth win of the season.
“Obviously we were sitting on even points with them on the ladder and we’ve probably been a bit flat the last couple of weeks and knew it was a massive game for our chances to be playing finals,” Robinson said.
“It was a bit exciting today with two young Prentice twins making their debut and they brought a heap of enthusiasm to the team.
“I don't think today we had a passenger across the ground, where the last few weeks we have.”
For the Hawks, Joel Stankiewicz worked hard all day, particularly in the ruck after Hull’s departure. While forward Billy Carey was a handful, and tried to lift his team with physicality late, while Brocke Argus was continually dangerous.