Roller coaster ride for Tigers
Rochester’s record against teams in the Goulburn Valley League top six this season now stands at one win and eight defeats after Mansfield left the Tigers for dust in the second half of Saturday’s Round-13 match at Moon Oval.
Mansfield kicked nine goals to the Tigers two after the long break, stretching a half-time advantage of 11 points to a final winning margin of 52 points.
The mountain men’s leading goalkickers, Will Foster and Cameron Arnold, kicked 10 goals between them in the win, Mansfield eventually taking the match 17.10 (112) to Rochester’s 8.12 (60).
After half-time the Tigers had only seven shots on goal and remain in seventh position with five home-and-away rounds of the season remaining.
After losing, at least on the scoreboard, to Echuca and Kyabram, in the opening two rounds of the season the Tigers faced five teams outside the top six.
Since round eight they have lost to top-team Echuca, sixth-ranked Seymour, Euroa (second), Mooroopna (fifth) and now Mansfield (third).
Fortunately, in the final five weeks of the season the Tigers have no teams inside the top six.
The draw should allow the club to finish the season with 12 wins, which should be enough to qualify for a September 3 elimination final berth.
One piece of the missing puzzle returned on the weekend when gun North Melbourne Kangaroos recruit Shaun Atley returned to the Tigers’ line-up.
His return was a major coup for the team, having not played since the round-six win against Shepparton Swans on May 14. The Tigers were, however, missing both his younger brothers Joe and Jacob.
It was as if the AFL 200 gamer had never left, a consistent ball winner for the team through the mid-field and particularly effective in a second quarter surge.
Rochester trailed by 19 points at quarter time after Mansfield kicked six goals from 10 scoring shots. The Tigers outscored their more-fancied opponent in the second term, but that was where the charge ended.
Coach Steve Stroobants and mid-field star Christopher Jansen, along with winger Lachlan Harper and teenager Hugh Hamilton supported Atley in his attempts to cause an upset.
Stroobants kicked four goals, his second-best haul of the season, the only multiple goalkicker for the team in the defeat.
Key defender Hamish Hooppell was still not back in the line-up, his long-term absence a major factor in the Tigers inconsistency during the middle part of the GVL season.
Without Hooppell and Jackof Atley in the back half Foster and Arnold had an arm-chair ride, Foster taking his season’s tally to 30 with five against the Tigers.
Arnold has kicked successive bags of five against the Tigers and Shepparton United.
Mansfield VFL star Corey Rich was best on ground in the win, playing his first match with the Eagles while Williamstown had a bye.
Another of Mansfield’s VFL recruits, former Port Melbourne star Dirk Koenen continued his brilliant season. He has played six matched with the Eagles this season and been among its best on every occasion.