By Matt Fotia
The Wickers have done it again.
An opportunistic left snap from mobile marking half forward Tim Gunn has extended Berwick’s stranglehold on the Battle of the Creek for another few months as they won a tight tussle by two points on a overcast afternoon at Holm Park in front of a vocal crowd.
Gunn roved the pack after an Ash Smith inside fifty was dropped by Jake Bowd and slotted home his third, mere minutes after Matthew Johnson kicked truly to give the Eagles the lead for the first time since early in the first term.
The Wickers started the better of the two sides with their experienced heads willing them forward with more success than Beaconsfield.
Defensively they were able to ensure the Eagles has no freedom to run from half back – which they had done with ease against Wandin the week before – by dropping their zone slightly deeper, allowing the Eagles the first kick to half back, but no space to run into. Ash Smith did as he pleased in the early stages, as did Madison Andrews whilst the returning James Magner showed his class hacking one off the ground to add to Harrison Money’s early major.
Former West Coast Eagle Smith spoke about the impact Beaconsfield’s win over Wandin in round three had on the Wickers preparation.
“(We were) very impressed with the way they moved the footy (last week), good kicks, young, confident side who took the game on,”
“It was really important that we applied good pressure around the footy especially up forward, we know they like to have a loose man in defence and switch the footy so the more the game slowed up the more it suited us.”
The Eagles adopted a more measured approach with their ball movement in the second term , relying on short accurate kicks to move the ball to the wing as North Melbourne VFL Listed midfielder Riley Verbi began to impart his ability on the game , impressing with his skills on either side of his body and running ability.
Inform ruckman Scott Meyer was limited to the goalsquare for the entirety of the match for undisclosed reasons, but Riley Welsh was an able replacement winning the battle against Young and Cirulis.
The second half bought some more open play as the two sides began to tire and the half back lines were allowed more freedom. Ryan Bromley and Jake Bowd began to find more space for Beaconsfield whilst Lucas Jellyman- Turner and the aforementioned Smith gave the Wickers some good drive.
The difference between the two sides was the link between the two lines, where Berwick’s ace in the hole began to arise in the form of Tim Gunn. Gunn provided options leading up at the football and hit the scoreboard kicking two goals in the third term, pure rolled gold in a low scoring battle.
Beaconsfield grabbed two goals late in the third thanks to Meyer, who due to both good defending from Joseph West and some less than desirable forward entries, had been held quiet. But he twice took the backspace and dribbled home from the top of the square to trim the margin to eight points at the final change.
A long left foot ball from Kyle O’Sullivan and some impressive forward pressure from Tylah Stokoe saw the Eagles take the momentum in the fourth quarter, finally hitting the front when Matthew Johnson kicked truly after winger Robbie McMillan showed great composure to steady and find a target inside fifty.
But from here the wise heads of Berwick combined to drag their side over the line. The experienced trio of Madison Andrews, James Magner and Ash Smith, the latter pair with 64 AFL games between them, lined up for the resulting centre bounce and like an Alistair Clarkson coached side won the crucial battle.
The next clearance was a combination between the three which ended as a boundary throw in on the Wickers half forward flank, thanks to a great smother from Stokoe. Smith’s speculative inside fifty from the stoppage looked to be marked by Bowd before the athletic backman lost control of the ball as he landed, allowing Gunn to rove and in one motion snap a classy left foot goal.
Not content with a match winning goal, Gunn went back to a crucial mark on right half back for the Wickers moments before the siren as they sentenced the Eagles to an undeserved 1-3 record to start 2019.
A number of Beaconsfield and Berwick players are in line to play in the Interleague match next weekend before both sides take on unfamiliar opposition in round five with Beaconsfield travelling to Upwey-Tecoma and Berwick hosting the undefeated Woori Yallock.
Smith praised the performance of Gunn and small forward Trent Thomas, as well as mentioning the learnings the Wickers had taken from their round one loss to Wandin.
“Gunny has always worked hard and quite often does the big things and Trent (Thomas) has grown year by year and is starting to become a really good player,”
“We’re all getting a little bit older and aren’t as quick as we used to be, so we need to grind it out a little bit longer rather than get into a shootout with teams especially on the smaller grounds, which we obviously aren’t used to.”