CASEY fell to its third straight defeat on Saturday losing to Werribee by 35 points at Avalon Airport Oval.
Fielding a rather inexperienced team which include three Melbourne AFL-listed and two VFL-listed players making their debuts, Casey still fought and were in the game through three quarters. But were overrun in the final term.
The standout on the day was Steven May returning from injury with a stellar performance which should see his name thrown into the selection mix for Melbourne’s next AFL game.
DISPOSALS: Wagner 25, May, White 23, Gent 18, Munro 17
GOALS: Bedford, Chandler, Keilty, Kolodjashnij, Lefau, Munro, Quigley
Overawed by the bigger bodies of Werribee
The challenge with fielding a younger and inexperienced team is holding up to the bigger bodies of a standalone club like Werribee.
A fact not lost on the Casey Demons head coach Jade Rawlings.
“In relation to our AFL-listed boys, we had nine today and atleast four of them are first-yearers and two are coming off of injuries,” Rawlings told Melbourne Media.
“So, we haven’t been as strong across the board how we position players across the field.
“The standalone clubs have been able to wear us down over the course of four quarters.”
Port Melbourne, Williamstown and Werribee in consecutive weeks have eventually worn down the younger Casey players and overrun them in the second halves. But the coach is positive for the rest of the season ahead.
“Port Melbourne, Williamstown and Werribee three weeks in a row have been physically stronger and more mature over four quarters,” Rawlings said.
“I think our best football is ahead of us in the second half of the year.”
Steven May makes a successful return
In his first game back since suffering a groin injury in Round 3 of the AFL, May was Casey’s best player on Saturday, finishing with 23 disposals and hauling in nine marks.
May patrolled the backlines intercepting Werribee passes and starting the Casey counter-attacks all game long, with the impressive performance drawing praise from his coach.
“We thought Steven was sensational, we made a comment about him in front of his peers that his attitude all week towards playing VFL and playing was 10 out of 10,” Rawlings told Melbourne Media.
“We thought his performance was really strong… His marking, his kicking, his speed, it all really stood out.”
May settled in quickly after a few initial structure mistakes the coach put down to rust, but his remarkable skills and his attitude stood out on the day.
“He is a naturally talented person, that maybe gets lost a bit being a key back,” Rawlings said.
“But he knows how to mark it, he knows how to kick the ball.
“I was impressed with his level of team-first spirit, and how he got around young teammates who he didn’t know very well.”
Impressive debuts for VFL-listed duo
Saturday saw the Casey Demons debuts of Anthony Vella and Heath Briggs.
The pair had been banging on the selection door and rewarded their coach for his selection with two solid games, Vella being amongst Casey’s best on the day.
“We thought Vella was terrific,” Rawlings said.
“He really stood out to us with how he kicked it and how he was prepared to carry it at times.
“In what was a pretty tough game, to have one of our debutants emerge was really pleasing.
“Briggs is someone who we have been wanting to play for a while, but he has had an ankle injury and a bit of illness.
“He did some stuff today which made it look like he could be a VFL player.”
Mitch Gent celebrates his 100th game milestone
The loss also diminished the tremendous achievement of club stalwart Mitch Gent who played his 100th VFL game, all for Casey.
Gent as usual gave it his all in this one, finishing with 18 disposals and four tackles.
The coach praised the savvy midfielder after the match.
“We really made a big deal about our VFL-listed guys who can achieve that milestone,” Rawlings said.
“It shows a lot of commitment, durability and mental strength being able to be at an aligned club and play 100 games… It is a terrific effort.”
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A word from the coach
“We are right at the crossroads [of our season],” Jade Rawlings told Melbourne Media.
“It’s been a tough year… Anyone who has watched us has seen we haven’t been able to maintain the intensity of four quarters.
“We are really inexperienced, it’s just a fact.
“But I think our best football is ahead of us in the second half of the year.
“We’ve got Collingwood next week, and I think in the second half of the year you will see us perform much better.”
Next up for the Demons they welcome rival Collingwood to Casey Fields next Sunday at 2pm, in a VFL-VFLW double-header.
Collingwood has been another inconsistent side at times this season currently sit 12th on the ladder.
But the Pies have shown glimpses of brilliance, especially last round knocking off the premiers in Box Hill, so it poses to be another tough challenge for the Demons on Sunday.