A tactical masterclass from Numurkah co-coaches Chris O’Dwyer and Lucas White helped their side pip Barooga by just two points on Saturday.
On two separate occasions at the Numurkah Showgrounds the Blues’ coaching staff swapped magnets with outstanding results to quell the Hawks’ firepower and turn the match.
After Barooga co-coach Tyrone Downie roared out of the blocks with the first four goals of the game, the McKeowns were shuffled and Luke was sent back in place of captain Beau.
‘‘We got our match-ups wrong early, Beau was getting lost in the air, so we swapped Luke back onto him,’’ O’Dwyer said.
‘‘Downie didn’t hit the scoreboard for the rest of the game, so that was outstanding.’’
Midfield bull Ricky Thomson was also integral in a 26-point lead for the Hawks at the first change, but once new Blue Brad Vassal was sent to him his influence was curtailed.
‘‘Vassal had a really tough battle with Ricky Thomson, we had to try and shut him down at the stoppages,’’ O’Dwyer said.
The Blues still had to dig deep in the final term after trailing by three goals at the last change, but were able to get the job done in the end.
‘‘It was probably more relief than anything,’’ O’Dwyer said.
‘‘It was a nail-biter in the end, but really rewarding.’’
Barooga did not go down without a tactical fight of its own though, with full-back Tim Brooks thrown forward late to snag a goal and bring the margin to its final resting place of two points.
‘‘Both sides threw things around and did what they had to do to try and win,’’ Downie said.
‘‘We just thought we needed more up forward at the end there and he was lucky enough to snag one.’’
A wasteful third term of 2.4 for the Hawks contributed to their first defeat for the year, but Downie thought the loss could not be put down to one period of the game.
‘‘We started well and were on top, but we allowed them back into it and they outplayed us,’’ Downie said.
‘‘We definitely missed a few opportunities throughout the game, not just in that part.’’
Numurkah did not escape unscathed from the battle, with forwards Nathan Hicks (four goals) and Josh Evans (one) going down with hamstring issues.
‘‘Evans has done a string, but he is very professional, he’ll look after it and do all the right things,’’ O’Dwyer said.
‘‘Hicks pulled up lame, we don’t know if it’s tight or a tear, but he stayed out there and fought on well.’’
With 34 goals between them so far this season the Blues will certainly miss the duo, but O’Dwyer was confident his charges could step up against Mulwala next week.
‘‘Tom Buzza will be back and we will restructure,’’ he said.
‘‘It will give others an opportunity though, so we will try to turn it into a positive.’’
The Hawks will take out their collective frustration on Rumbalara before reassessing during the interleague bye.
‘‘We have plenty of work to do, there’s still improvement there,’’ Downie said.
‘‘We’ll go back to the training track and hopefully put in a good performance next week.’’