Blues leave a bruise

August 14, 2017

Dynamic Duo: Nathan Hicks and Josh Evans form one of the most dangerous forward pairings in the Murray league and will go a long way to deciding Numurkah's premiership fortune.

Nathan Hicks.

Numurkah reclaimed prime position on the Murray Football League table with a convincing win against Mulwala on Saturday.

The Blues slammed home 10 goals to one after half-time to run away with victory after an enthralling first half.

‘‘I thought the final scoreboard didn’t really indicate the game, the first half was a cracking contest,’’ Numurkah co-coach Chris O’Dwyer said.

‘‘Everyone in the free world knows that top spot is huge and we’ve earned that right.

‘‘We think we’ve had one of the toughest draws in the competition, so it’s a small win for all of our hard work, but it is important that we capitalise on it, because it means nothing if we don’t.’’

Returning stars Ben Gunning, Nick Fothergill, Beau McKeown and Nathan Hicks (four goals) stood out in the triumph, with O’Dwyer praising their ability to hit the ground running again after a break.

‘‘It is a good sign I suppose when your top echelon of players are playing well,’’ he said.

‘‘It was great to see Ben slip right back in like he hadn’t missed a game, it was impressive on his behalf.

‘‘He’s been overseas for a couple of weeks, but reckons he came back fitter than when he left, which is a credit to how hard he works.’’

Hicks, along with Josh Evans (five goals), forms one of the most potent forward pairings in the league.

‘‘They complement each other so well because they’re completely different players,’’ O’Dwyer said.

‘‘We crucified Josh with the way we kicked the ball to him, I really thought if we had kicked more to his advantage he could have had seven or eight goals, he’s very hard to stop.’’

For Mulwala, an unfortunately timed bout of illness may have cost it a chance at challenging the Blues, but that is not being used as an excuse.

‘‘We had a few boys pull out, there’s some gastro going around the town,’’ coach Michael Tout said.

‘‘But they (Numurkah) are a very, very good side.

‘‘They’re the best team we’ve played against by far and are probably miles ahead of everyone else.’’

The Lions were able to match it with the ladder leader for much of the first half, but a lack of depth and experience meant they could not go with the home side when it put the foot on the accelerator after the main break.

Mulwala had four changes from its loss to Moama before the bye, with the difference in senior level matches this season between the two quartets large.

Harrison Crossley, Angus Shand, Tommy Tout and Tom Dow had played 50 combined games at the top level this year before missing Saturday’s contest, while their replacements (David Hand, Nathan Cook, Jayke Nicholson and Corey Lindsay) had just 16 appearances between them.

It is by no means panic stations at the Lions though, with finals action a certainty this year.

‘‘We were pretty positive after the game,’’ Tout said.

‘‘It was a big learning experience and we are still finding our way as a group.’’

Superstar forward Ash Froud drew to within two goals of his 100 with five, while Damian Cook, Sean Johns and Beau Clarke fought hard all day.

‘‘Froudy kicked three points in the last quarter, so he missed a few again,’’ Tout said.

‘‘He’s pretty sore still, but he knows how to handle himself, so he’ll keep pushing through.’’

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