The round five clash between Mulwala and Numurkah on the weekend would prove a decisive indicator of where Mulwala’s young group were tracking in their development.
Numurkah is a team that has been building for the past couple of years, blooding their juniors and working hard to get their own players back to the club.
The Blues were coming off a hard fought win over Barooga and the Lions off an unexpected win over highly fancied Moama on their own deck.
The contest opened up with the two ruckmen Hoskins and Price looking to give their midfield players first use and thus their forwards first opportunity to score.
Mulwala was first on the score board with dangerous key forward Ash Frout able to break the shackles of his opponent and get Mulwala under way.
The first term was characterised by pressure contests and two back lines that were standing up to the pressure well.
James Wilson was leading the way for Mulwala cutting off the Blues’ inside fifty moves and running the ball out of the danger zone with speed and his strength breaking tackles was proving important.
Jackson Gash was combining well with Sean Robinson and Ross Anasaldi to get Mulwala their fair share of clearances from the stoppages.
Beau Clarke was covering a huge amount of territory to provide a lead up target from the players clearing the back line. His marking under pressure was a highlight of his play and was causing headaches for his opponent.
Mulwala’s pressure in all parts of the ground was up which made Numurkah’s run and carry falter when going into attack. The game was evenly poised at the first break, with both teams having scoring chances but neither able to break clear.
The second term was a repeat of the first with both teams having periods of dominance and the back lines holding firm to make scoring difficult.
Josh Hammond was working in both directions, running hard in attack and his pressure going into defence caused turnovers that saved goals.
It was good to see Dale Powell back in the action at senior level after an extended period on the sidelines due to a wrist operation in the off season. He did a number of classy things through the midfield that showed he will be a real asset to the group when he gets some more match conditioning under his belt.
The second half and in particular the third term was certainly forgettable for the Lions, the Blues out ran, out worked and out hassled them.
It showed on the score board with six goals to two and if not for the solid work of James Wilson, Conner Sanderson and Dylan Robinson deep in defence the damage could have been far worse.
Numurkah was running riot through the middle of the ground and the ease with which they cleared the stoppages set their attacking moves up.
Mulwala’s intensity had dropped off substantially from the first half and when you do that against good sides they make you pay.
The game was in the Blues keep heading into the last term but Jackson Gash had other ideas as he worked overtime to lift his young team mates and inspire them to get back into the contest.
The Numurkah players had other ideas though and were able to maintain the lead throughout the final term.
Mulwala was able to wrestle back five majors to give a bit of respectability to the score line but didn’t look like bridging the gap at any stage.
The Blues deserved the win due to the fact that they were able to maintain their intensity throughout the game and build a winning score off their work rate.
The Lions have a week off due to the interleague competition where the Murray League take on Wimmera at Moama. They will then look to get back on the winners list when they travel down to Shepparton to take on Rumbalara.
The return of a number of players and a chance to freshen up will help the Mulwala playing group to get another important win in a season where development and experience win be extremely important.
The Mulwala reserves were under pressure from the outset, due to a long list of injuries and a large number of players unavailable.
To the credit of the players who pulled on the jumper they gave it a real crack against the odds.
The efforts of Jo and Charlie Magro showed that they are determined to give their best irrespective of the odds, they were getting support from Jason Sanderson, Craig Fraunfelder and the other legends like Lassie who stepped up to give a hand.
Mitch marks was back in the action, with his strong marks giving Mulwala a few opportunities to get a score on the board.
Jackson Weir provided plenty of run through the midfield with support coming from Lachie Rouel and Isaac Bond who tried hard all day but they just didn’t have the numbers in support them.
The break will be a good chance for the boys to regroup and get some of the injured crew fit and ready to play in the next set of games after the bye weekend.