Willaston made sure it remained in the Barossa, Light & Gawler Football Association finals’ race with a 62-point victory over an inexperienced Gawler Central, at Gawler Oval on Saturday - the Donnybrooks having a little more class.
For the Tigers it was almost like chasing their tails, as a bunch of youngsters are learning their craft the hard way, which was made even tougher with the absence of Clint Hill and Paul Bova, as well as losing Aaron King early with a hamstring injury.
Kicking with the aid of the breeze in the first term, Central battled hard but scores were even at the first change.
Willaston could smell blood at quarter time, and by kicking the only four majors of the second term, laid the foundation of its win.
Another four goals in each of the final two quarters, while Central only added two second half goals, saw the Donnybrooks pull away as the game progressed.
“We set it up in the middle, starting with Jimmy Jones in ruck,” Willaston captain Sam Walton said. “And the forwards finished the job, especially Ben Gordon with 9-1.
“At quarter time we knew we had the breeze to come and focused on not mucking around, and we took the game on, got the ball in quick, and then blew the game open in the second half.”
Jones and the Tigers’ Luke Howard had a good tussle in ruck, probably the most absorbing battle of the day, with Howard having a greater influence behind the ball.
Without Bova, Central struggled whenever it went forward, especially as its key target was youngster, 15-year-old Jackson Harvey.
For the Donnybrooks, Adam Pepe has been a revelation in recent weeks after having a slow start to the season, and led the way at centre half back, with his rebound and ability to be third-man up at the stoppages earning him best player honours.
Joel Campbell cleaned up everything at half back in the first half, playing loose, then worked his magic on-ball after half time, while Ash Fry hasn’t missed a beat since returning to the club.
Besides Fry’s inclusion, the Donnies are also benefiting from new acquisition Scott Klenner, who last played with Gepps Cross two years ago, and was a rock in defence on Saturday.
“Their best five or six players are equal to the best in the competition, and when they play well, Willaston tend to play well,” Tiger mentor Damien Herzick said.
“We weren’t bad in patches, but it has been adding up all season, as we struggle against the opposition’s tall players. Like 5’ 10” Jake Asher playing centre half back on Willaston back-up ruckman Richard Rosewall.
“For us it’s about the kids learning about positioning, and to be in the contest. Size and conditioning will come, but for now it’s about getting to the right spots.”
Kalon Heintze spent most of the game on the ball, with his fitness level allowing him to continue his good season form, to be the Tigers’ best.
Brad Hunt shadowed Sam Walton all game and picked up his share of possessions, while Jason Blakemore covered plenty of distance.