LOY Yang B Gippsland Power bounced back onto the TAC Cup winners list with an 11-goal victory against the Bendigo Pioneers on Saturday.
The return of Tim Membrey, Nick Graham, Wil Hams and Ben Kearns from injury and state duties added to the Power’s ability to get back to their more positive play.
Paul Pattison was brought back into the side after earlier appearances, and Matt Schreck and Andrew Nelson came in to make their debuts for the Power.
Regular Gippsland players Tom Muir played with Casey Scorpions in the Victorian Football League and Anthony Tipungwuti was representing the Northern Territory in the under 18s national championships.
A downside for the Power was midfielder Tom Fusinato who was out after suffering a neck injury in last week’s loss to the North Ballarat Rebels.
Fusinato received a knock to the head during a contest and was taken to the Ballarat Hospital after the game.
It was revealed he had fractured his C5 vertebrae.
He may miss the rest of the season but is on the way to a complete recovery.
The Pioneers opened the scored, but great ball use by Wil Hams, Nick Graham and Liam Nash resulted in Graham kicking the Power’s reply.
Hams then intercepted the ball to kick a goal from an acute angle.
Another piece of poor manning up resulted in a Pioneer goal following a free kick and the Power replied long and direct through Simon Deery and Matt Northe who found Josh Scott who goaled.
Northe then became the goalkicker after marking on 50 metres and receiving a 50m penalty.
By the time the term ended, the Power were 13 points up after a shaky start but played better later in the quarter.
The second term opened with some tight play and Jack Johnstone worked hard to find Deery who kicked truly.
Some quick hands by Membrey and Deery helped Paul Pattison to a fine running goal and then a typically long and direct forward entry by Nate Paredes allowed Deery to score his second for the term.
Debutant Matt Schreck used some vision and skill to find Membrey who converted truly.
The Power were applying excellent pressure across the ground and created another goal after more long and direct play by Josh Cashman allowed Northe to kick his second.
Just when it appeared the Pioneers were out of the contest they scored a goal from a free kick, but excellent ball use by Hams and Shannen Lange set up Daniel Jackson for a nice goal on the run.
The Pioneers scored another after capitalising on some sloppy Power handballs in the midfield but, once again, Gippsland hit back through Hams, Scott and Johnstone, who combined well to give Northe his second for the term.
By the long break the Power had extended their lead to seven goals and had eliminated most of the slack manning up that had been so costly in the first half against the Rebels.
Conditions were starting to deteriorate as the game progressed and the Pioneers capitalised on a slack start by the Power to kick the first for the quarter.
A long and penetrating kick by Northe found Scott who returned momentum in the Power’s favour.
Both sides were working hard in the contested issues in the midfield and limited each other’s forward 50 entries as a consequence.
It took some inspiring hard work by Hams and Jackson to set up Membrey for his second for the game and by the last change the Power had extended its lead to 54 points.
Several of the Power’s key state players were rested for much of the last term and the Power bench rotated the newcomers into more prominent roles.
The Power worked hard across the ground but struggled to convert their forward 50 entries to goals as the conditions continued to deteriorate.
Some tough work by youngster Jack Leslie resulted in Membery kicking his third for the game and then Leslie capitalised on some excellent ball to kick a goal.
By the final siren the Power’s lead had increased to 66 points but the coaches were happier with other aspects of the win.
The Power had gone back to their hard-hitting best in the contests and had recorded more than 100 tackles for the game.
As a consequence the Pioneers were rarely able to capitalise on the rebound as the Power worked hard to find opponents when the ball was in their hands.
Even when the Pioneers did win possessions, the Power continually forced them wide and often regained the ball because of the pressure applied.
This week the Power return to Melbourne to take on the highly rated Murray Bushrangers at Preston Oval.