A NEW-look Gippsland Power enjoyed a perfect start to its TAC Cup season on Saturday with a sound 55-point victory over rival Dandenong Stingrays.
Seven rookies joined 17 players with TAC Cup experience for round one, with those involved last season feeding off the confidence of a late surge in 2014.
“The guys gained a lot of confidence; the bottom age guys, from last year the way we finished the season and I think they’ve carried that through their pre-season and practice match series, so to get some reward for that in round one gives them a lot of confidence,” coach Leigh Brown said.
In ideal conditions at Morwell, the Power side began the year as it finished the previous one, playing attacking, hard-nosed team-oriented football.
From the opening bounce the home side put the Stingrays on the back foot and shut down the running game they are renowned for.
Brown said pressure football was key to the big first up win.
“The pressure and their tackling really stood out; it allowed us to put enough pressure on the opposition to turn the ball over enough for us to win it back,” he said.
“Our whole game was built on pressure at the weekend and the way they actually did it for four quarters was really pleasing; there were times last year where the opposition kicked a goal and it turned into two or three in-a-row and that didn’t happen at the weekend just through pressure and the defensive pressure.”
The Stingrays scored first after exploiting defensive indecision, before the Power hit back when forward pressure from Josh Patullo allowed Harrison McKay to kick his first TAC Cup goal.
Ben Ainsworth added to Power’s goal tally with a booming kick, and followed up with a second to give his side a six-point buffer at the first change.
The Power’s work rate was high, with 30 tackles laid by the end of the first term, and it was rewarded early in the second when continued pressure allowed McKay to open the scoring with a major.
Nick Argento kept the momentum going with a clever intercept and fine goal.
Nash Holmes won a well-deserved free kick and 50 metre penalty and extended the lead, before the Stingrays kicked their only goal for the term just before half-time.
Ethan Park popped another through for Power to finish the half with a 27-point advantage.
In the opening minutes of the third term some fluid ball use by Tate Marsh allowed Ainsworth to rove off the pack and kick his third goal.
First gamer Matt DeBruin then combined with Tom Papley and Patullo to allow key forward McKay to also boot his third for the game.
The Stingrays kicked a vital reply to stay in the game but more precise ball use by the Power resulted in McKay slotting through another major.
Connor Ambler’s late snap saw the lead blow out to 36 by three-quarter-time.
The Power dominated contests early in the last term, and poise from Brad Olsson allowed Ainsworth to open the goal scoring for the quarter.
More effective ball use by Patullo and Tom Hobbs helped Ainsworth kick his fifth for the game from outside the 50 metre line.
Deven Costigan scored his first Power goal just before the final siren to cap off a dominant performance.
The Power now tackles Murray Bushrangers at Morwell on Good Friday.