McTaggart boots seven as Chelt routs Bentleigh
Winning and setting up the season.
A few knocks. A bit of pain. Some exhaustion.
Cheltenham coach Des Ryan spelled out the day’s mission on the whiteboard in the changerooms before the Anzac Day match against Bentleigh at the Jack Barker Oval.
Two-and-a-half hours later his Rosellas had the prize, four points. And they paid a price in the form of a hit to the ribs to stalwart Tom Donnell and a knock to ace recruit Myke Cook’s knee.
But otherwise they did it easily over a disappointing Demons, 20.18 (134) to 6.4 (40), in ideal conditions and before a terrific crowd.
The Rosellas missed the finals last year, but it’s clear they have taken bold steps forward this season.
In his fourth year at Chelt former Richmond defender Ryan has fashioned a team with a mix of experienced and emerging players, and he has what all coaches desire, good big men.
One of them, Will McTaggart, had a day out with seven goals from full forward, one a gift in the form of a deft tap-on in the third quarter from ex-Sydney Swans tall Sean McLaren.
A charity free kick in the third term helped him on his way to a bag, but it made up for a snap that went through in the first quarter, only for the goal umpire to rule it had been touched.
The Rosellas had the best of the first quarter but didn’t put it on the scoreboard.
They set that right in the second term, scooting away with eight goals to two.
The best came when Bentleigh’s Tim Massey, looking to pass the ball inside the 50m arc, kicked to Cheltenham first-gamer Kai Owens, listed with Sandringham VFL.
The Rosellas swiftly took the ball to the other end, and Cook capped the passage with a goal from close in.
It was a highlight to compare with Jack Davis’s spectacular goal from the boundary line early in the first quarter. Davis finishes like Mr Sheen.
The home team kicked the ball well — often over 50m — ran relentlessly and was unceasing in its effort. Even late in the last quarter the Rosellas were putting the squeeze on Bentleigh, Dylan Weickhardt bringing down Massey to prevent a shot at goal.
Kyle Parsons set the example when it came to what Chelt measure as “pressure acts’’.
The appearance of four young players was an encouraging element of the victory.
Luke Garnaut (on Sandringham Dragons’ books this year) and Cameron Blitsas were composed in defence, Anthony Malamas was busy around the ball and Finn Ryan (son of the coach) moved well across half forward, just as Sam Hayes did across half back.
For Bentleigh, ruckman Mitch Smart and centre half back Jack Firns battled hard, Balwyn recruit Sam Van der Haar showed strength around the ball and classy Matt Troutbeck (two goals in the last quarter) was a standout in an ineffective forward line.
To go with the loss, the Demons lost former AFL player Jed Lamb with a hamstring injury.
“Big day, great crowd on Anzac Day, we respected the day and played very well, put our bodies on the line,’’ Ryan said after the match.
“I thought our on-ballers were good. Smart was good in the ruck for Bentleigh and Rich (Ryan) battled hard to compete with him. But it was about what happened after the tap and our boys got on top. Our forwards worked really hard and our backline was super.’’
Bentleigh coach Peter Pirera said the Demons had “a day to forget’’ but would quickly put it behind them and look to turn things around against Highett.
“We fumbled, couldn’t hit a target all day and defended the ground poorly,’’ he said.
“Chelt were brilliant and capitalised on every one of our turnovers all day.’’