Magpie chicks doing the business for Kidd

Daniel Toner has made himself a mainstay in the Narre Warren senior side. 403702 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Marcus Uhe

Despite Narre Warren being forced to call on its deep wells of talent like it seldom has in previous years, the Outer East Football Netball powerhouse continues to add to the win column.

In Saturday’s 70-point win over Gembrook Cockatoo (18.17 125 to 8.7 55), the Magpies handed senior debuts to a trio of players from the under 19s, in Alex Nunziante-Sweeney, Sam Johnson and Jimmy Dwyer, while Kyle Wing played his second game at senior level after earning a debut last week.

The opportunities have been afforded through the absence of senior players to injury, such as co-captain Trent Papworth, and veteran midfielders Peter Gentile and Brad Scalzo, and as such come with the fluctuations in effort across the four quarters required at premier level.

On Saturday against Gembrook Cockatoo, the Brookers outscored the Magpies with five goals to four in the third term, shaving a point off the Magpies’ 46-point half time lead.

That would be as close as Michael Firrito’s side came to an upset, however, thanks to four Narre Warren goals to nil in the final term.

Narre Warren coach Steven Kidd believes Gembrook Cockatoo made a point of flexing their strength around the contest against his young side after half time, and reaped the rewards as a result.

“I think they came out and were a bit more physical with us, to be honest,” Kidd said.

“They tried going down that path and it took us a little while to get our composure back, a little bit.

“They kicked three in a row and then we steadied towards the end of the quarter.

“I think it’s probably the younger guys accepting that that’s all part of it and working our way through it.”

Dan Toner is one stepping into the void in a half-forward role, finishing as the Magpies’ leading goal kicker with four goals on Saturday afternoon.

Toner was a mainstay for much the Magpies’ home and away season in 2023 but returned to the Under 19s for the finals series, in which he was named the best player on the ground in the Under 19s grand final.

Should the Magpies be afforded the same chance at glory in 2024, it’s hard to envisage him missing selection in the senior side again.

“He had a really good preseason and dropped a few kilograms,” Kidd said.

“He’s been working really hard and we always knew he had it in him.

“This year he’s playing predominantly half-forward but he’s probably the same as his cousin Sam (Toner), he’s providing a lot of forward pressure.

“I just talk to him and Sam about that; we find that if they’re bringing that, that each week, or certain weeks, each of them will get the opportunity to kick a few goals.

“It’s been more his forward pressure and work rate that’s been exceptional.”

Five players kicked multiple goals and nine in total hit the scoreboard as the Magpies spread the load in the forward 50.

Spreading the scoring load makes them a far more dangerous side, and takes pressure off the shoulders of Will Howe, who’s playing a more selfless role to open the forward line for the smaller contingent of teammates.

The small forward line is impacting the defence too, with the Magpies having conceded the least amount of points of any premier division side through seven weeks.

“We talk about making the defender’s job easier by creating more pressure up the ground and it seems to really correlate and give the guys a chance,” Kidd said.

“They’re all working in really well, but if the pressure’s on up the ground, it makes it easier for them to win the footy and rebound from there.”

Gentile, Papworth and Scalzo are expected to return in the coming weeks while Dwyer will miss the remainder of the season after breaking his collarbone, putting a dampener on his senior debut.

Firrito kicked two goals on his return to the Gembrook Cockatoo line up after a quad strain, with Konner Allcott, Damien Volta and Patrick Snoxell among their best.

Elsewhere in Premier Division, Pakenham fell victim to an extraordinary performance from Mt Evelyn utility Callum Urquhart.

Urquhart kicked 12 of the Rovers’ 17 goals in the seven-point win, outshining Pakenham’s Jai Rout, who kicked seven.

The contest was a genuine shootout, the first in which both sides have kicked 100 points this season, with the Rovers prevailing 17.8 110 to 16.7 103.

Tom Gamble and Tyrell Bignoux returned from injury layoffs for the Lions in the loss that leaves Pakenham with only three wins to show for the first seven weeks of action, and in eighth spot on the table.

Wandin did enough to keep Upwey Tecoma at arms-length in a 22-point win at home, and Woori Yallock comfortably handled Monbulk at Monbulk, the only side yet to taste victory in 2024.