The North Ballarat Rebels fell agonisingly short of victory in Sunday’s season opener against the Geelong Falcons, being defeated by just two points at Simmonds Stadium.
As expected, the regional rivals produced a heated contest, with momentum shifting back and forth between the two sides.
A brief lapse from the Rebels early in the second term – when the Falcons piled on four goals in quick succession – ultimately proved the difference.
The Rebels did well to tighten up defensively and prevent more goals from leaking, allowing them to get back into the contest before the main break.
However, despite controlling significant chunks of play in the second half, the Rebels failed to capitalise on their momentum and notch consecutive goals.
While the travelling side impressed with their ability to counter-attack from defence and produce exciting passages of play, too often they struggled to convert their forward thrusts into scoreboard pressure.
With some better skill execution and decision-making, it could easily have been a different result for the Rebels.
Coach David Loader said that some disappointing periods in the game ultimately provided costly, but was nevertheless encouraged by his team’s ability to respond.
“We had probably two or three times in the game where we just went away from what was working for us,” Loader said.
“For most of the game we were pretty good, but certainly a good side like Geelong hurt you when you give them opportunities like that.
“It probably teetered on the brink of going one way or the other there for about five minutes (in the second quarter), where we could have gone into half time six or seven goals down.
“But to fight back and be within a couple of goals again, it was a pretty good sign. That was really encouraging.”
Star midfielders Jacob Hopper and Darcy Tucker were both outstanding for the Rebels, collecting twenty-five disposals apiece. The duo also combined for six goals, reflecting their ability to push forward and impact on the scoreboard.
Utility Josh Webster was also terrific for the Rebels, providing impressive run-and-carry as well as terrific defensive efforts across half-back.
Unfortunately, the Rebels also incurred some potential injuries, with Todd Lawrence (ankle), Tom Schnerring (knee), Ben Lusbey (cork) and Matthew Johnston (shoulder) all to be monitored over the coming days.
North Ballarat Rebels
4.3-27, 6.3-39, 9.6-60, 12.9 (81)
Goal Kickers: J. Hopper 4, T. Schnerring 2, D. Tucker 2, E. Frank 2, S. Beks, Y. Eades
Best Players: J. Hopper, D. Tucker, J. Webster, M. Johnston, N. Hausler, J. Hutt
4.1-25, 8.2-50, 11.4-70, 13.5 (83)
Goal Kickers: M. Patten 3, C. Curnow 3, S. Holroyd 2, S. Presani 2, J. Bennett, C Farrell, J. McLachlan
Best Players: D. Parish, T. Doedee, L. McCartney, W. Sexton, M. Patten, N. Connors