By: Daniel Kelly (@Ukurrie)
Photo By: Highflyer Images
The Northern Bullants couldn’t keep pace with a powerful Southport side, falling to a 82 point loss a week after registering their first win for the 2023 VFL Premiership Season.
The Sharks dominated possession during the Round 6 encounter and made it count on the scoreboard, winning 18.20 (128) to 7.4 (46) at Fankhauser Reserve.
Southport’s Boyd Woodcock (41 possessions, one goal) won the Alex Aurrichio medal as the best player afield.
The memorial medal, created by Bullants board member and close friend of Aurrichio, David Zonta, honours the whole hearted American who represented both teams and touched many lives.
In an emotional gesture, Woodcock then passed the medal to fellow Shark leader Tom Fields, who had an unbreakable friendship with Aurrichio.
The Bullants hung tough during a high scoring first quarter and trailed by 13 points at quarter time. However, after four first quarter goals, they failed to kick another until midway through the final stanza, by which time Southport had added 12 goals themselves.
After quarter time, the Sharks stopped the Bullants run out of defence by not allowing any wide free runners on the wings and flanks from coach Brodie Holland’s emerging side. Southport also removed the centre corridor as a path to goal for the Ants.
All of which resulted in the Preston side needing to kick to contests wide which broke down their ability to enter attacking 50. With the Sharks not short of tall men, this forced a contest and didn’t allow the Ants to flow.
As is always the case during the cooler months in Melbourne, the relatively more humid conditions in Queensland could have also been a factor in sapping run on the larger Fankhauser Reserve ground.
Unusually for the Ants, they lost the clearance count (-15), and were well down on their early season average. The Sharks converted their clearance wins into a dominant 133 additional possessions compared to the Bullants.
Jackson Barling returned to the side and Mitch Jorgensen, a versatile athletic tall, hailing from Dimboola and the Greater Western Victoria Rebels previously, made his debut. Paul Pascu and Ben Hurley did not feature.
Jean-Luc Velissaris (27 disposals, nine, marks, five tackles, five clearances, one goal) led from the front again and Brandon Ryan continued his eye-catching form with three goals, all in the first quarter.
Patrick Fairlie continues to be a valuable off-season addition as he added 28 possessions and six clearances.
Spencer Johnson and Matthew King were busy in defence, given that the ball lived in their area mostly and that they are the primary choices for kick out duties. With the Sharks scoring 20 behinds, they had plenty of opportunity to reset the Ants.
Johnson (six tackles) and King (eight marks) finished with 27 and 22 disposals respectively and, along with Saad El-Hawli (20 possessions, one goal) and Baker Smith (18 disposals, 11 marks), were the main source of the Ants 44 rebound 50 entries.
Jake Parente kicked a goal and his influence on the game was more than what was recorded on the stats sheet with his run and pressure.
Last week’s debutantes, Cam Wild (19 disposals) and Ben Ham (12), followed up with another consistent performance in their respective inside midfield and wing roles.
Will Sexton kicked a goal late for the Bullants but his brother, Jack, kicked four for the Sharks.
The Southport Sexton was matched by fellow Shark Jed Foggo with four goals. Big man Fraser Thurlow kicked three, Jay Lockhurt two, and the Sharks had multiple single goal kickers.
Ants Leading Lights
Whilst patience is required for team wins, the individual quality the Ants possess is already on show.
Ryan continues to put himself in contention for the Frosty Miller Medal as the VFL’s leading goal kicker. His 16 goals in five matches has him one goal behind the league leader – Southport’s Thurlow – who, like Ryan, kicked three in this matchup.
Velissaris, who received a perfect ten coaches votes for his display against Sydney, is fourth in the league in total kicks (95) and eighth in disposals overall (150). Fairlie’s 131 possessions rate him 13th in the league.
Roaming across centre half back, Smith is sixth in the league for marks (42).
The Bullants return to Genis Steel Oval for a tough match up against the Box Hill Hawks. The Hawks who suffered only their first loss of the season against reigning premiers, Casey, during Round 6, sit fourth in the league, with the fourth lowest points against average.
First bounce at 2.05pm, Saturday 6 May.
SOUTHPORT: 6.2 9.12 15.13 18.20 (128)
BULLANTS: 4.1 4.2 4.4 7.4 (46)
Southport: Sexton 4, Foggo 4, Thurlow 3, Lockhart 2, Woodcock, Shannon, Law, Fields, Edwards
Bullants: Ryan 3, Velissaris, Sexton, Parente, El-Hawli
Southport: Woodcock, Foggo, Sexton, Dawson, Thurlow
Bullants: Velissaris, Fairlie, Johnson, King, Smith