CASEY suffered a nail-biting 1-point loss at the hands of Richmond on Saturday.
After a strong opening half that saw the Demons take an 8-point lead into the main break, a third-quarter malaise allowed Richmond to take control of the contest.
Trailing by a game-high 18 points heading into the last quarter, Casey’s experienced players including Jack Hutchins and James Munro lifted.
But the team fell agonisingly close, losing to a rushed Richmond behind in the dying moments.
DISPOSALS: McDonald 23, Gent 22, Munro, J. Wagner 20, C. Wagner 19
GOALS: White, Wale-Buxton, Keilty 2, Chandler, Hutchins
Liam Wale-Buxton stars in the ruck
Casey’s ruckman was stellar from the opening bounce, going up against AFL-listed Ivan Soldo for Richmond.
Wale-Buxton battled the VFL veteran all day, finishing with 33 hit-outs and booting two goals in his best performance in the Casey red and blue.
“Liam has come up against an AFL level ruckman every round this season,” Casey Demons head coach Jade Rawlings said.
“He is improving out of sight … He really wants to be good and his work rate week to week is showing that.”
Oscar McDonald might have earned his AFL reprieve
Oscar slotted into the side down back, and was among Casey’s best picking up 23 disposals, and challenging the Richmond tall forwards.
Pairing with Harry Petty they were able to contain the Richmond forwards for most of the game, with McDonald taking a number of key marks down the stretch.
Tom Freeman rebounded well
After a lacklustre performance in the exhibition match against the Australian Under 18s side, Casey Demons head coach Jade Rawlings challenged the young Freeman to make an impact in the match against Richmond.
The youngest responded with a solid performance against a side fielding 18-listed AFL players.
Freeman laid a number of key tackles to stifle Richmond attacks, and was driving a number of Casey attacks from the defensive 50.
A solid outing as Freeman continues his path to becoming a valued member of the team.
Keilty knocking on the door of an AFL call-up
Declan Keilty is another knocking on the door for the Melbourne team.
The strong marking tall is becoming a cornerstone of the 2019 team, kicking another two goals in attack, taking key marks in defence, and spending time in the ruck, and drawing the praise of his coach.
“We are really pleased with Declan’s consistency,” Rawlings said.
“He is starting to get pretty hungry to play … He has developed his game, developed his body, and developed his mindset.
“I like to think he will be in contention pretty soon.”
Third quarter malaise stings again
For the second time this season, a third-quarter malaise has seen Casey give up big leads to its opponents, leaving a challenge too great to chase down in the last quarter.
Against Box Hill in Round 1, Casey allowed four unanswered goals in a third-quarter surge.
Now it has happened again this week, with Richmond booting four answered in the third, to jump out to a big lead.
The area of concern wasn’t lost on the coach.
“We weren’t as ready as we needed to be after the main break,” Rawlings said.
“It left the mountain a bit too high for us to climb in the end.
“In the first 12 minutes of the third, we were ordinary around the ball, the backline felt the pressure, and they kick four unanswered goals.”
Escaped with a clean bill of health
Casey came through the match unscathed from injury, there were a few sore bodies after a few bruising hits delivered by both sides.
But Rawlings should have a full roster of players to select from for Round 5.
A word from the coach
“It was one of the best VFL games we have been in a little while,” Rawlings said.
“Their class was a bit too much at the start of the third quarter.
“It looked like it was going to be a blowout, but it does show the resiliency of this group.”
Casey is back in action this weekend when the Demons welcome the Footscray Bulldogs to Casey Fields on Sunday May 5 at 2pm.
With both teams coming off of losses in Round 4, the Bulldogs will be up for a fight.
Let’s get a big crowd down to Casey to cheer the boys to a needed victory!