By Matt Fotia
Tackling pressure and a backs to the wall mentality has been the building blocks for Powelltown’s resurgence in the back half of 2019 and defender Tom Stokes says the Demons are going to keep riding the wave throughout the Gumbuya World Finals Series.
Powelltown overcame Gembrook-Cockatoo to reach the second week of the finals, running out 26 point winners over the Brookers, thanks to an impressive second half and a nine goals between Jack Garthwaite and Dean Roy.
Stokes said that the Demons identified that their tackling pressure was down at half time, something that they’ve been driving since the middle of the season.
“The major stat that Junior (Iacano) bought up during and after the game was the tackle count,”
“I think we had 30 tackles in the first two quarters and then 60 plus in the second half,”
“So the tackle pressure went up and we put them (Gembrook) under the pump and then we were able to convert our chances.”
The Demons identified tackling pressure at the halfway point of the Division Two season as one of the key areas for them to improve, and improve it they did.
“We pointed out a few things after our first half of the year and that was one of them that needed to lift,”
“Ever since the halfway mark we’ve been backs to the wall and putting in solid performances.”
The Demons backs were then put further to the wall when halfway through the first quarter on Saturday their captain and number one ruckman Ben Wratten was ruled out of the game with a dislocated knee.
But like the Towners in the second half of the year, back up big man Jason Walker played outstandingly when his team needed it most.
“It was really tough (losing Wratten) considering he’s one of our best players and gives our midfielders first use,”
“But we put it on Jason Walker and he had an outstanding game,”
“He’s got that part of his game now to just pluck the ball out of the air and get it forward for us, he’s been in good form recently.”
The Demons have been the form side of the competition in the last month and a half and Stokes puts it down to a fresh approach to each weekend’s game.
“We’ve been playing with a mentality of nothing to lose, just go out there, give it our all and put it on the line,”
“It’s just been building from there.”
Stokes also credited their recent form to the experience on their list, with players such as Rohan Nayna, Rhys Johnson and James Rohan helping to guide their younger core group who are yet to encounter everything that the game of football can throw at them.
“James Rohan has played in heaps of Grand Finals and won plenty of flags, so that experience counts for a hell of a lot – they’ve given us a level head going into that performance today,”
“We’ve got a few people like Josh Johnson, who haven’t played a lot of finals, so having those blokes with plenty of experience has been really helpful for us.”
The Demons now head into the first semi final against Kinglake, a side they dismissed by over 10 goals just three weekends ago, spurred on by a large wave of momentum and the confidence that they can take down anyone on their day.
‘We’re going to keep riding it (the wave),”
“It is good to know though that we can beat those top sides – we’ll go into next week full steam ahead.”