Match Reports Rounds 13-16

Round 13 vs Parade

We went into round 13 treating it like a elimination final, only 2 games out of the four and playing a contender for 4th spot in Old Parade. Intensity and focus at training was heighten and we had club legend, life member, ex Captain, ex Coach,  senior games record holder, best and fairest, all time leading goal kicker and Bull Ant through and through and St Kilda player Dean Mathews say a few words to the lads after the teams were read out on the Thursday night. I asked him to talk about the Bullant journey of 1999, and in particular the time when after a shaky start of four wins and four loses we got on a winning rolling that took us to the big dance. Kenyan was captain and at the peak of powers and he delved into a epiphany he had. It was in the rooms before the Old Carey game and Pat Benatar’s ‘All fire up’ was playing in the background. For some reason or another on this particular day some of the lyrics rang true and had a profound effect on him , ‘for everyone there comes a time’ , and for him it was to fully give himself to the team, to be selfless for the team in whatever role was needed. And there in lies the distinction, the epiphany, he was a great club man, he was captain, he was a gun, he loved the club, he was passionate about the club, but in this moment he took ownership that there was a individual element to his game. The Geelong premiership era comes to mind, they were a team of superstars but the glue to their success was each and every player gave themselves to the team. And that’s what Kenyan did and the ripple effect was a Bull Ant juggernaut for the second half of the 1999 season. As a young Bull Ant playing my second season of senior footy in the back pocket I remember the feeling before the game and on the track, you could taste it in the air, it was magic, it was like being on a ground swell gaining momentum. I felt the that feeling again in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and to a lesser extent 2006 and 2007. This year we’ve flirted with that feeling, we’ve captured it at times but haven’t been able to hang onto it. I get goosebumps when we do, I get so excited for the lads when they do because the feeling I had when I was a player and apart of a Bull Ant groundswell are some of the best of my life.

The Friday before the came I immersed myself in the song and more of its lyrics rang and sang true to where we are at.
‘Where everything falls in line’ rang true, this season has been a continual process of working and improving on the fundamentals, and it felt like it was all going to come together and fall in line.
‘We live and learn from our mistakes’ also rang true and we have learnt from our mistakes , we have learnt from our loses.
‘The deepest cuts are healed by faith’ also rang and sang true, the narrow loses have hurt us, they’ve cut deep, so many people have put in so much work, invested a big chunk of their lives , invested hard yakka, invested passion and emotions , and when you fall short , tantalising short it hurts. As true as that is is the fact that the belief and faith lives, we are a sleeping giant and it is dawn but we haven’t quite woken up yet. And the alarm is buzzing and the question was as we ventured out to Bundoora, were we going to fully wake up or press the snooze button on one or two of the fundamentals.

We welcomed back Luke ‘the Tornado’ Stacker, Joseph ‘the bouncer’ Paolucci and giving us the chop out, our assistant coach, life member, 1997 best and fairest, 1999 grand finalist, 2008 premiership player, the evergreen Jarrod ‘the Smooch’ Prior.
We fired up ‘all fired up’ and the lads went out all fired up to give ourselves to the team and play selfless team footy.

In arctic conditions and kicking with the swirly wind Parade came out strong and dominated the first couple of minutes, they’ve got some very dangerous on ballers and a couple of gun forwards but we settled and got the game on our terms. Going against the wind the wind was in our sails with some fantastic run and carry and handball chains and we peppered the posts and kicked 1.6 to their 3.2. In the autopsy of the loss we had 13 shots on goal to their 5. Out of bounds, marked on the line and 1 smothered make up those 13 shots. To be fair the wind was like a washing machine, it was tough, we missed 3 tough ones, kicked 1 of 4 getable ones , had 2 bad misses, had 2 half chances we didn’t take and were unlucky twice.
We had the momentum and we had the wind in the second and kicked 3.4 and kept them scoreless without a shot on. The autopsy read 23 shots on to 5 for the first half for a 14 point lead.
We were great, we were selfless, everyone gave themselves to the team, we just didn’t cash in, as a collective we didn’t finish our work and although we didn’t know it at the time on a subconscious level all that work for little reward deflated us, it took the wind out of our sails and we lost our edge, the winning edge , the ‘take the game on’ edge, the run and carry and handball chain edge and in the 3rd we couldn’t break through their press and then we got exposed on a couple of transitions and they were up and about and we weren’t. We fought on and tried, we persisted, we looked for a spark, we never gave up but momentum can be a powerful thing, they over ran us and we went down by 4 goals.
Standouts for the day were Billy Wilson, Leigh Wallis, Jack Cowell, Brodie McLaughlin , Anthony Lucisano, Billy Tourogianis, Luke Stacker and Terry Harrisou.
The loss hurt , the dream of finals is gone , but I’m still so excited about the rest season and getting the most out of it, we’ve been good , just not quite good enough, yet.

A shout out to Nick Nassios who injured his shoulder, thankfully no surgery is needed but is out for the rest of the year, Nick’s still young and is building into his football and Jumma and I were impressed how he was coming along this year and was showing some great signs. Nick loves the club and I reckon he’s going to be a 200 game player and I look forward to watching him play for many years to come.

And a shout out to Steven ‘Rexy’ Janev.  He suffered a knee injury, thankfully no surgery but he will be out for the rest of the season. Rexy is a beauty and has become a cult figure of the club. He came down for pre season with the Sugar Art cafe crew to get fit and to check it out. A very good high level soccer player in his own right , Rexy had never played AFL and had barely kicked a Sherrin. To his credit , Rexy that is a big ball of energy was like a big sponge and keen to learn and develop the intricacies of AFL. And it was great to see many Bull Ant’s offering tips on how to kick the footy and his skills have come on leaps and bounds. He was loving the challenge of the game and took a liking to our club and decided to play. Through soccer he displayed great game sense and became one of reserves better players. Rexy tells a great joke at training and has a cheeky smile to match, he’s really gotten behind what we’re all about and is a passionate Bull Ant.

Round 14 vs Melbourne High SOB

Going into the Melbourne game training was predominately goal kicking. Set shots, running shots, snaps, with pressure, without pressure, getting more familiar with the little pockets you find yourself when taking a shot in congestion or running on a angle or both. And getting excited about kicking a goal, getting the taste, our mission is to find our goal kicking mojo.
We welcomed back Burridge and Tribuzio. We were back on the TAJ and for the second week in a row we were playing in swirly windy conditions. We came out firing with McLaughlin wreaking havoc at half forward kicking all 3 of our goals for the 1st, we were up and about, 3 goals to  2, but we lapsed in accountability, and Melbourne kicked 3 unanswered goals to see out the term.
The second was a arm wrestle with the unicorns managing to grind out 2 goals and they went into the sheds at half time 4 goals up. Billy Wilson had a huge first half and helped keep us in the game with 19 possessions, 6 tackles and 3 signature side steps.
We re grouped and re set at half time. Our Co Captain Anthony Lucisano’s start to the 3rd term was special, it was top shelf, he went clunk, bang , clunk , bang , and in 2 minutes it was a 2 goal game and game on. We were all over them with some scintillating passages of play ignited from the likes of Edsall, J.Cowell and Dakin with McLaughlin and Lucisano continuing to mark everything. We kicked 4.5 to 1 goal for the quarter and at 3 quarter time it was a 2 point game. I bumped into Rob ‘Waxy’ Williams my old half forward partner in crime at Greensborough plaza a few days after, he was at the game but left at 3/4 time, he said I thought you guys were going to win. It’s a interesting comment, Waxy knows his football and has a astute feel for the game, but somewhere along the line from 3 quarter time we lost something, Melbourne kicked the first and we lost that same something some more , and so on with the 2nd and third. We fought on like we have in 9 of 10 of our losses, we kicked a couple and we never gave up but we fell short, we were good, just not quite good enough on the day. It’s a interesting feeling when you loose but feel like the side has done enough to win but don’t. And I’m really encouraged by that feeling, we’re almost there. We had 30 shots on goal to Melbourne’s 25. We kicked 2 of 9 tough ones, 1 of 2 easy ones,  didn’t take any of the 2 half chances and kicked 6 of 17 getable ones. When we get those getables ones up to 60-70% conversion rate instead of 30% we’re going to be in business.
Other standouts for the day were Wallis, Burridge, Tribuzio, Harrisou and Tourogianis.
And another mention to Wilson who is becoming a real accumulator of the ball and McLaughlin who first up in the position played one of the better games I’ve ever seen at half forward.

Sadly Jimmy Dedes did his shoulder in the second quarter and will be out for the rest of the season. It totally sucks because he’d just found his groove coming back from a broken leg and was starting to really enjoy playing again. I believe it’s nothing too serious and he should be right for the start of next year.

Was great to see Ricky DeMarte at the game and in the sheds at half time.

The Bull Ant cocktail shindig was a ripper night at the Carlton brewery. To the lads credit they were upbeat, and although we are in relegation zone after the loss it was far from doom and gloom, we’re doing so much right but were just not getting the results. We had a great turn out from the ladies team. For a club function there
was a whole new dynamic with the ladies team there, it feels more rounded, it’s better, it’s awesome, they’re our Bull Ant sisters. Appreciation and thanks to Kristian Mattizzo for organising the night.

And the day before, the Friday I popped my head into the TAJ for the annual Club 100 luncheon. They had Fev guest speak and the place was going off, I didn’t recognise 80% of the crowd , there were a few legendary Bull Ants like Pete Bone, Smythey, Moose, Boydy, Tosca, Johnny Mathews, Gordy Stott floating about but it was mainly business associates. Keasty, Murph, Nippa and co do a amazing job and the money they raise takes the edge off and gives flexibility in for example buying equipment or putting on a pizza night or subsidising the pre season camp costs.

Round 15 vs Glen Eira

We all took responsibility for the Melbourne loss, we shared the loss, me included and we all individually went over our games in our heads and were our harshest critics. I let the lads know where I thought I went wrong, where I thought I did a clanger and where I thought I was not good enough on the day, equally I let them know where I thought I did well as well, that’s just as important, when your straight out honest with yourself , when you truly look at yourself in the mirror it leaves a space for you to learn and grow, and if we all learn and grow a little that’s going to add up to be allot. Leith Wallis and Rob Edsall gave their own critiques on their games to the group on the Tuesday training, which was fantastic and the group got to hear from a elite player and triple best and fairest be honest on his performance. And I feel it helped the collective engage in the thought process of ‘ perhaps I could have done that better, I was a bit slack there, that clanger costed us a goal, that high tackle costed us a goal’ and taking ownership of where you went wrong holds you in good stead for the next time that scenario comes around. And as I said with that its equally as important to acknowledge to yourself
what you did well.

It’s been a interesting few weeks for myself. Ultimately it’s my responsibility and duty as coach for each and every player to enjoy their football and enjoy the club. And although throughout the course I’ve always done the best I possibly could with pure intentions I really had to face up to the facts that I could have handle a few scenarios better and I had to acknowledge that , apologise for them and to get them back on track.

There was allot on the line for the Glen Eira game, a loss would have them go 2 games clear on 3rd bottom with 3 games to go. We’d be staring down the barrel to Division 3, a division we have not been in for 39 years. I was mentally preparing for that scenario. To help our cause it was the coldest training week of many a year, there were many injuries and the reserves where barely hanging by a thread in getting a team together with talks of a possible forfeit on the Tuesday night. The excuses we’re lining up nicely for doom and gloom but although we had low number a on the track it was anything but, training was upbeat and we continued as a collective to work on our goal kicking.

We ventured out to Glen Eira and for the 3rd week in a row we had windy and swirly conditions. We welcomed in M.Cowell, Agius, Lambropolous, Caridi, DeKeizer and making his senior debut Anthony King.

My pre game touched on Nick Reiwolts retirement speech, how he said words to the effect of how by playing football you get to show on a week to week basis what your made of, you get to show your ticker, you get to show your mates how much you care and the lads had that opportunity against Glen Eira when the club we all love needed it most. This was our grand final, this was the club’s biggest , most crucial game in 5 years.

Michael Pace after a successful shoulder surgery was on running duties and said some last minute words to the lads on the ground which I’m sure would have helped.

Kicking into a blustery 3 goal wind we came out playing tight accountable football. We unleashed the Spanish Bull Kristian ‘Toota’ Mattizzo into the midfield who threw his weight around and did a fantastic smoother early in the piece which forced one of many stoppages until a handball chain opened up for Considine to swoop onto a ground ball and bang it forward to DeKeizer with Billy Wilson gathering a front and centre and he kicked truly.  Our second goal came from a contested rebounding mark at half back from Edsall who dished to a running Wallis who dished to a running Wilson who drove the ball long and hit up a leading Considine who went back and slotted a tough goal from long range into the wind. Great start! Glen Eira got their game going but we stood strong with some fantastic last line defending from M.Cowell and Palumbo playing at full back on their giant and barometer Waras Carstensen.  They missed a tough one from long range then a couple of getable set shots before jagging a tough snap from the pocket. Our 3rd shot on and 3rd goal came from a stoppage, a quick kick from J Cowell ,a contest and tackle from McLaughlin with Brancatisano to get to the ground ball and innovate some space in congestion to give a clever little dish to a running Agius that thoughtfully kicked it into space for Lambropoulos to mark. Spiz went back and kicked it like the seasoned professional he is. Our next shot on started from M Cowell winning a tough contested ground ball in the middle , he dished to Dakin who dished to a running J Cowell who continued to run and carry and then hit up De Keizer who turned and hit up McLaughlin who went back and finished the fantastic passage of play with our 4th goal. Our 5th goal came from Mattizzo following up some ruck work with a quick kick onto the boot and McLaughlin marking strongly and kicking truly. The scoreboard read at the 22.20 minute mark GE 1.4 10 BT 5.0 30. Rocket and I looked at each other and thought ‘how good is this.’ I won’t lie , it was a bloody good feeling, I would have been happy with 3.2. It was a even quarter of general play but the lads had taken their chances, they’d honoured and finished the great work from up field with great finishing, they’d laid foundations and set themselves up for the day.
Glen Eira came out strong in the second and kicked the first two with some good passages of running football. Considine countered with a great shot at goal from a contested stoppage. Glen Eira kicked the next and it was a 1 point game. We then got our game going with McLaughlin, Rogers, JCowell, Brancatisano and Moio all prominent and we had the next 6 shots on goal for a 4 goal return and gained the ascendency. Tourogianis was doing a great job on one of their gun forwards in Erwin Ross who carved us up last time. For general play it was a even half with each side having 15 shots on. They kicked 1 of 5 tough ones and 4 of 10 getables. We had a great return of 2 from 4 tough, 7 of 8 getables , 1 from 1 easy and we didn’t take 2 half chances. Although even in general play the scoreboard read GE 5.8 38 to  BT 10.5 65.
The 3rd was a arm wrestle with Glen Eira using the wind and holding sway and it was probably a combination of our relentless focus on accountable football and putting pressure on the ball carrier  with the foundations of scoreboard pressure that saw them miss 5 getable shots and a easy one. They had nine shots on and we had 4 shots on for a goal a piece for the quarter. Wallis, Rogers and Brancatisano were prominent with tough running football.
We came out strong in the 4th with Cherbakof taking a strong clunk and going back and kicking truly, Tourogianis followed with a great snap. Lambropoulos was rewarded with a free kick from some great forward line pressure and he went back and kicked gun barrel. Burridge kicked a superb running goal from down town. Wallis got in the action and skilfully kicked one from a congested stoppage. Our next was all class from Brancatisano who unloaded a running long left boot between the big sticks and Spiz kicked our 7th and final goal for the quarter with a explosive running goal from 30 out and we were 69 point winners.

With our backs against the wall and so much on the line it was one of the better Bull Ant wins I’ve ever seen. Each and every player played with true Bull Ant spirit , grit and determination, and did themselves proud and when the chips were down they went went all in and backed themselves. The autopsy read a more even team contribution which is really exciting, 95 tackles which is outstanding , other than that we played how we have been playing with the key difference being kicking 13 of 17 getables compared to 6 of 17 the week before. And that says volumes of the lads ticker collectively, our goal kicking was clutch, and that to me shows tremendous strength of mind and character to turn it around.

Big Terry Harrisou had a another really solid game in the ruck, McLaughlin had another special game, and as a Bull Ant fan it was great see Spiz so dynamic in the front half with 4 goals.

Unfortunately Joe Caridi did his wrist in the second quarter and will be out for the rest of the season, I love how Joe has a crack with no nonsense footy and has ability to back it up and I look forward to him getting better and better in the years to come.


Round 16 vs St Leos
We welcomed in Lucisano and Galapi and for the 4th week in the row we had windy and swirly conditions. We welcomed a in form St Leos coming off 3 wins onto our beloved TAJ. Going over the game and our win against them in round 1 and how we played then to how we play now, in some areas the contrast is stark, there’s been Bull Ant evolution. That win was on the back of a spirited team effort and some individual brilliance. But how we set up that day looked more like a picnic. And now how we set up is anything but, the lads have not only bought into a defensive mindset but before the game on Saturday they took a mortgage out on it. We up’d the ante and the focus was to lay the foundations from the first minute and each minute after and not let the day get away from us. Kicking with a 3 goal wind towards the Bone Hill end the lads started well, Harrisou took a nice clunk with those huge mitts of his and went back for a set shot, just out of his range he dished to a running Wilson and for the second week in a row snagged our first. A good omen. McLaughlin was busy from the outset with Robo standing next to me joyous, marvelling at the young jets feats. How he flys for a mark, the timing of front and centres, extracting contested ground balls, the come from nowhere punches, the smothers, as I said he was busy. Palumbo set the tone for good day with a couple of golden fists defending from the square. Aguis and Brancatisano showed their intent with 3 tackles a piece for the first term. Was great to see Lucisano finally flying freely after a couple of injuries from early in the season he had been carrying which had clipped his wings. He took 11 clunks on the day with one of them on the goal line for our 3rd and final goal for the 1st term. We had 9 shots on goal for a 3.4 return, St Leos against the wind had 3 shots on for 2 goals straight. It was game on!
We threw caution to the wind and Jack Cowell onto the ball managing a hamstring strain. What a quarter !! Simo our stats man had him on 14 disposals for the term, he was everywhere willing himself to the contest, doing the hard stuff and doing his signature quick kicks from packs and linking up on handball chains and treating the likes of De Keizer on the lead. Chatting to Scotty at training on Tuesday about the great combo bond/relationship/awareness they’re developing, he’s like he puts them out and up nicely into space that you can run on to. I used to love that as a forward, Mark Pietryk used to treat me, Rusty is another that springs to mind.
Terry Harrisou had a fantastic start to the quarter and really imposed his strength around the ground and brought others into the play with some great handballs to running Bull Ants. We were up and about and full of run into the wind, from 5 shots on we’d kicked 3 of 4 getables and Spiz took a half a chance and snapped truly from a contested ground ball. It was a 7 goal to 2 game. It was shaping up to be our best quarter for the year but we let ourselves down and St Leos back into the game with a couple of clumsy free kicks and undisciplined 25s that followed and they kicked a couple of difficult goals late in the quarter for it to be a 7 goal to 4 goal game at half time. This little period would prove to be a key moment in the game. It gave the animals a sniff, we showed vulnerability, we showed cracks. I have no doubt if we had of kept them goalless kicking into a 3 goal wind there would have been more doubt than hope swishing around in the back of their minds at half time.
As a player I never bought into or engage in the mumbo jumbo of disputing a umpires call. I was thinking ‘where’s the ball? where’s it going? Where do I need to be? We have addressed this ongoingly  since the Melbourne away game in round 6 and we have improved in leaps and bounds, hopefully this was just a hiccup, we definitely can’t afford any of this against top placed Prahran this week. And that hiccup didn’t represent what we’re about, each and every player cares about this club, they want to win, they put their bodies on the line. To use Cherbs as a example, playing on one leg, playing in pain, playing because he knows a loss on the day would still have us in relegation zone with no buffer but percentage or worst case a game behind.  The hiccup wasn’t consistent and didn’t represent what we are about.

We reset and refocused at half time and came out playing some good ball. Leith Wallis was doing a great job on their gun and one of the premier players of the comp in Beluszar whilst getting plenty of his own ball and using it superbly, a trademark of his. Mattizzo the Spanish Bull tagged their playmaker Baranello and made him earn every kick, it was a good tussle. Our first goal of the term came from a great mark on the defensive goal line from Dakin, and then we went coast to coast through Palumbo, J Cowell, Considine, Wilson and Cherbakof who snagged a difficult one from the boundary line. Our second saw Edsall punch a St Leos kick in into open space and Bull Ants swooped in. Our 3rd from a Palumbo punch at half back followed by a handball chain and Lusianco running into a open goal.
We had 7 shots on and kicked 3 goals for the quarter, 0/2 half a chance, 1/2 tough, 1/2 getable and 1/1 easy. St Leos had 5 shots on for no goals, 0/2 getable and 0/3 tough. One of the tough ones initially was a getable one with a St Leos player running into a open goal but a determined Chris Galapi pushed over and put late pressure on him and he kicked it out on the full. Fantastic !!
At 3 quarter time it was a 39 point game but we felt we still had plenty of work to do with St Leos last quarter form line of 4,4,4 and 5 goals over the last month suggesting that with the fact they have a knack of winning the close ones.  To help them and their cause the wind really picked up and they came out up and about and kicked the first 2 from difficult long range set shots. We steadied the ship  with some Bull Ant class coming to the fore in McLaughlin, J.Cowell, Wilson, Lucisano combining to find Cherbokof 20 out. Cherbs went back and kicked truly for our only shot on for the quarter. St Leos would have the next 11 shots on goal. Momentum is one word for it , avalanche is another, we were gallantly hanging on for dear life and there were some inspiring acts of play from many. Palumbo, M.Cowell and Tourogianis were the standouts thriving in the pressure cooker of deep defence and we repelled many attacks into the vacuum but it kept coming back, every little bit of resistance added up to us hanging on by 10 points and it was a ripper win! For the day we had 22 shots on, 6/8 getable, 3/6 tough, 1/1 easy and 1/7 half a chance. St Leos had 5 more with 27. 4/11 getable, 3/13 tough, 2/2 easy and 0/1 half a chance. Perhaps we were lucky but the way I see it is that we set ourselves with 3 really solid quarters to have enough the runs on the board to withstand a fast finishing St Leos. Super well done to the lads!
A big thanks to Chance who has had no continuity in his game as he has been selflessly thrown in many roles throughout each game week to week.

Was great to see Rocket and Mal Prior put on a G grade reunion with lots of familiar faces rolling up and reminiscing the golden G grade days of the 90s and enjoying the win with us.

The Ladies team wrapped up their season playing a touring USA B side at Bulleen park last Tuesday night. It was a fantastic spectacle, a close game and a great turn out. The USA A side was there and cheered on loudly in great spirits. It was awesome , it was great, it was unique and fantastic. I heard the TAJ rooms were full with lots of laughs and great banter after the game.

And was great to see Vergs and Pete’s colts side play in their second semis on Sunday. Both games had a solid senior player turn out and both teams played with lots of Bull Ant spirit!
It’s been a big week of Bull Ant footy!

See you at the game