Bucking Bulls blast Berwick

Jordan Roberts continues to hold the fort in Berwick's backline. 406517 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

A long and difficult season appears to be catching up with the young, spirited Berwick side as the Eastern Football Netball League Premier Division season enters its final third.

A pair of heavy defeats on Clint Evans’ brave and ambitious side in the last fortnight come with signs that the team’s inexperienced and exhausted bodies could do with a break.

On Saturday the Wickers conceded the first 12 of the contest and did not kick one themselves until Jai Neal made the Bulls pay for a risky turnover deep in defence, eight minutes into the final term.

Berwick kicked four of the final five goals of the afternoon to add respectability to the scoreline, but the damage had already been done in the opening three terms.

13.14 92 to 4.7 31 read the final score, on the back of an 81-point loss to Blackburn the previous week in which they also only managed four majors for the afternoon.

Lachlan Hollis, Majok Puok and captain Tom Brennan each found an avenue to goal in the final term, joining Neal on the scoresheet.

For much of the afternoon Berwick looked overawed by the physicality and pressure the more experienced heads of Noble Park applied to the contest.

While they held Noble Park goalless in long sequences, the Bulls’ ability to score quickly in patches was a major story in the outcome of the contest.

It took 16 minutes for the Bulls to open the scoring in the opening term, but they would kick the next five before the end of the quarter to outdo all of Berwick’s hard work earlier in the contest.

Berwick battled for any territory ascendency in the first half, outhunted in the middle by the Noble Park midfield crop of Jackson Sketcher, Luke Bull, Lachlan McDonnell and Chris Horton-Milne.

Without Ashton Williamson, serving the first of his three week suspension for engaging in unreasonable rough conduct last week for laying a high bump on a Blackburn player in the second quarter, the Wickers lacked the physical presence required in the middle of the ground.

Berwick’s tackling pressure came to the fore in the third quarter in a renewed and invigorated approach after half time, and once again they forced Noble Park into a long stretch without scoring, but Noble Park’s ability to score quickly came back to haunt Berwick, kicking four more quick goals to end the quarter.

On the back of other results around the competition in round 12, Berwick’s fate appears sealed, likely to play Division One football in 2025.

Doncaster East’s defeat of Norwood increased the gap between ninth and eighth to 12 points, while the Lions’ percentage remains far greater than the Wickers’, adding another layer of difficulty in climbing out of the drop zone.

The two will come face-to-face this week, in a chance for Berwick to cut the gap, but the Wickers will tackle Balwyn and East Ringwood in the following fortnight, currently first and second, respectively, on the table.

East Ringwood inflicted Balwyn’s second loss of the season on Saturday, winning by 17 points, while Rowville appears to be rounding into form at an ideal time, having beaten Vermont by 10 goals in a grand final rematch on Sunday.