GVL ǀ Gallery ǀ Lions make it six on the trot with hard-fought win over Benalla
Seymour spoiled the party that was the homecoming of former AFL star Jarrad Waite, prevailing by 39 points in a gripping contest at Benalla Showgrounds.
Waite did not hesitate to give fans what they wanted early, kicking two quick goals inside 10 minutes to have Benalla fans on the edge of their seats.
But a well-tuned Seymour side, bolstered by the return of a number of key contributors on Saturday, wrestled the game back on to its terms to run away with a 15.10 (100) to 9.7 (61) win.
For Seymour coach Ben Davey, a precious four points was the main takeaway after a plucky Saints side gave his men a run for their money at different stages of the game.
“I’ve been saying all along, they’ve got a really good core group of players — the best ruckman in the league in Josh Marchbank leading the hit-outs, one of the cleanest players in the game in Will Martiniello and his brother Jim, who’s a hard nut and good around the footy,” he said.
“When you look at that on-ball brigade there, if you don’t come to play against them you’ll be in trouble, and we didn’t.”
Despite being unable to play the game fully on their terms, Ben Clifton, Nick Quigg and Ben Cooney all impressed the Lions’ mentor upon their return to the senior side, while debutante Tom O’Sullivan was also a standout with a goal on debut.
“Quiggy was really good, Ben Cooney was really good in his first game back for a long time, was good to get him through, and Cliffo as well after three weeks out,” Davey said.
“Tom O’Sullivan’s a really good young footballer as well. First game in the senior group, which is always a bit awkward, but he performed well.”
Speaking after the game, Waite said it was a great feeling being back on a field he hadn’t played footy on since he was a junior.
“It’s nice to be back. I’ve always loved the ground. It was a bit soft today but it’s really good to come back and have a kick and see some old faces,” he said.
A dominant opening term, spearheaded by Waite, had Benalla well and truly in the contest at the first change, trailing the Lions by just seven points.
However, the Saints’ surge was short-lived, with Seymour stamping its authority on the game with a six-goal-to-one second quarter.
The Lions’ on-ball duo of Rory Scopel and Ben Rigoni started to see more of the footy, while livewire Quigg, relieved of his Murray Bushrangers duties, was a particular standout across the ground.
“We went away from how we want to play in that second quarter. We had a bit of a talk about it at half-time. They’re a quality team with a really good structure,” Waite said.
“That second quarter let us down a bit today but there’s some really positive signs for the club after what’s been a tough year.”
Saints half-back Samuel Harris flew the flag for his side, getting himself up the ground to kick three, while Josh Marchbank was at his dominant best yet again in the ruck battle and collected best-on honours.
“We’ve got a little bit to work on, but overall I thought we had a fair dinkum crack for probably three quarters,” Waite said.
“Third quarter we came out and showed what we can do, so we’ll take that going into the game against Tatura.”
Waite’s presence made all the difference on Saturday, a key forward target a breath of fresh air for midfielders Chris Welsh and Will Martiniello.
Finishing his day with a handy five majors, Waite said it was just good being back playing footy with his mates.
“It’s always good to get hands on it early,” he said.
“Kicked straight early which was good, I haven’t played on this footy field since probably under-18s. I’ve been back a little bit over the years but this is probably the first time since then I’ve pulled the boots on.
“A couple of boys I played with are now playing in the twos, Cam Symes and Sam Little, who helped out coaching today.”
“I know the other boys through mates in Benalla — Wolfy (Jordan Wolff) and Webby (Brody Webster). It’s good to have a kick with all of them.”