Greater Western Victoria Rebels have ended their TAC Cup season with one of their strongest performances of the year, a 27-point victory over rivals Bendigo Pioneers.
The Rebels made the most of a significant wind advantage at Mars Stadium on Saturday, establishing a 33-point lead in the opening quarter while keeping the visitors goalless.
While the Pioneers came as close as seven points in the second term with four majors in the first 16 minutes, the Rebels regained control and kept Bendigo goalless for nine minutes of wind-assisted time.
Rebels coach Gerard FitzGerald said starting the match with the wind advantage had allowed the team to dictate the terms of the game, while the opposition chased, but it was also crucial to be able to play against the wind.
“I thought we were able to actually control the ball for really long periods of time late in the second quarter,” FitzGerald said.
“We outplayed them in the second part of the second quarter and that went a long way to winning the game.”
FitzGerald said the major contributors for the Rebels had been the inside midfielders, especially with their tackling pressure.
Rebels player Jordan Johnston ended the game with 18 disposals and 11 tackles, Tom Morrish with 10 tackles, Callan Wellings with 27 disposals and nine tackles, and Lochie Dawson with 25 disposals and seven tackles.
“I thought those blokes worked hard without the ball to put pressure on the opposition when they had it and try to create secondary stoppages,” FitzGerald said.
There was one injury concern for Greater Western Victoria with Portland-based player Aaron Shepherd suffering a mild concussion just before half time and not returning to the ground.
FitzGerald said the players would benefit “enormously” from their strong finish to the season, which would provide momentum going forward for those who will remain on the list next year.
“What I was pleased about was we played a really good brand of football, particularly in the way we moved the ball and defended,” he said.
“I’ve felt that these boys have really given it a good shot in this final phase of the year… when they realised the finals were out of their reach, they didn’t change how they went about it and I admire that.”
FitzGerald said he did not want to be part of a team that allowed the season to get away when not winning.
“You respect the game, the competition and those who work with you and for you, and you repay that respect by playing at the best of your ability every week,” he said.
The Rebels conclude the 2017 season with five wins, 12 losses and one draw to sit one position above bottom-placed Bendigo.