Building belief at Upwey Tecoma sees Magpies’ first loss of 2024

Upwey Tecoma became the first side to defeat Narre Warren in 2024 on Saturday. 357902 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Marcus Uhe

Spectators at Outer East Football Netball Premier Division games on Saturday were refreshing PlayHQ in bewilderment reading the scoreline between Upwey Tecoma and Narre Warren.

The Tigers did what no side has done since last season’s grand final in downing the Magpies, 8.6 54 to 5.14 44, on the back of a five-goal-to-one third term, and a run of five unanswered majors, resulting in a 23-point lead early in the last quarter.

The question on everyone’s lips was simply, how? And what’s the magic formula?

For Tigers coach Stuart Hill, there was no inventive tactics or intuitive approach to the contest, the main ingredient was a simple staple every side needs in their back pocket – self-belief.

Recent strong performances against the division’s strongest sides, and a momentous win over Pakenham in trying circumstances the week before, fuelled the idea that anything was possible against the Magpies.

“We got done to Woori Yallock by three or four goals, then Wandin by three or four goals and felt like that type of distance against the best teams puts you within striking range – two games against the stronger teams weren’t 50-point blowouts, it was that three/four goal mark that means that you’re always a chance, and always within striking range,” Hill said.

“It was more that mindset; just be close enough to challenge and see what happens from there.

“The win against Pakenham the week before was pretty significant, we had never won there before as a club and came from 20 points down with two players on the bench.

“I think that aspect of footy resilience and having the courage to win, not just try and respectfully lose, but have the courage to win, was significant.

“We used that to help fuel the week for us.”

Conditions at Upwey Recreation Reserve were “pretty tough and pretty nasty” according to Hill, simplifying the game to a contest-by-contest approach.

A Daniel Waters shot on goal that died on approach and became lodged in the mud in the first quarter set the tone for a torrid afternoon, a stark contrast to conditions both teams have become accustomed to in 2024, and the Tigers worked the home ground advantage to their favour with a strong focus on winning the contest.

Achieving quick entries inside 50, rather than needing to shift the ball the length of the ground against the at times impenetrable press the Magpies so often use to generate their own scores, disabled one of Steven Kidd’s side’s greatest weapons, and altered the complexion of the game.

As far as a blueprint for other teams to follow, Hill feels the vision will offer more to opposition masterminds than the data.

“You probably take a bit out of the ferocity at the ball, competing on the inside and getting the ball moving forward.

“Statistic-wise it was probably a bit different to a dry weather day but I think in terms of how i’st viewed, I think that is something potentially clubs could use.

“You are looking at against the best all the time, you’re trying to find some little chinks in their armour and go from there.

“It was a bit of a territory game as opposed to a pristine, transitional-type movement as well.

“I think both sides would have struggled to get five or six possessions clean and clear in the moment.

“I think you had to win it at the source, drive through the legs and move the ball forward a bit more as well.”

The task of winning the ball at the source was made easier with the unavailability of Kurt Mutimer to injury, but take nothing away from the Tigers – Saturday’s result was one of the most significant for the club in some years, and will inject even more belief into the squad that is earning ‘threat’ status by the week.

“If you’ve got the runs on the board and something tangible to grasp onto, it’s less imaginative future outcomes, it’s more, we can do this, we did this on the weekend,” Hill said.

“That’s the plan, we wanted to be the team that can match it with some of the top teams.

“I think we’ve been decent at that, but at the same time I think we’re a pretty young group and pretty hungry.

“I like to think that there’s plenty more future-focus as opposed to just on the weekend, but it was great.”

For the Magpies, Sam Toner was held goalless for the first time in his senior football career to date, and poor kicking for goal ensured there were no multiple goalkickers for Narre Warren fpr the first time in 2024.

Unavailability and injuries appears to be taking a toll on the powerhouse, with a shaky three weeks post the King’s Birthday break indicating a drop in form after a blistering opening eight weeks.

Defenders Trent Papworth and Travis Callahan, and forward Daniel Toner joined Mutimer on the sidelines as a result of round 10’s battle against Woori Yallock, while another senior debut was handed to Luca Pascuzzi from the side’s Under 19s program.

Riley Siwes, Hayden Dwyer and Tom Russell were named in the Magpies’ best players.

Around Premier Division, Officer kept Wandin to its lowest score of 2024 in a 9.10 64 to 4.6 30 loss, while a poor first quarter in which they conceded six of the first seven goals was too much for Emerald to overcome, despite a strong following three quarters, going down 10.9 69 to 8.11 59.

Berwick Springs couldn’t manage a goal after quarter time in an 82-point loss to Monbulk, the Hawks’ fourth win in a row, and Woori Yallock held off Olinda Ferny Creek by six points.