McLarens Exorcise Their Demons
Willunga president Julie Clifton welcomed the large crowd to Willunga oval for the local derby between the home team and McLaren Vale. Both teams and the umpires lined up for an ANZAC Day presentation. Julie introduced ex-footballer and Vietnam veteran, Mos Hancock: he recited the Ode of Remembrance then ushered in a minute’s silence.
An unusual easterly wind blew across the ground as the opening siren sounded. The result was unusual too because the scores were never close. The visitors, McLarens, won every quarter and lead from start to finish.
The Crows won the toss and immediately went into attack. Mutton looked dangerous but his kick missed. A stalemate ensued. Willunga was running the ball out of defence with a string of handballs when Ellis stuck out a hand, intercepted the ball, ran to 50 and hammered home a long goal. Two minutes later Marr added another to give the visitors an early lead. Groves, Lawrie and McKay won lots of the ball but the McLarens’ forwards couldn’t capitalise. On a rare foray forward Willunga forced the ball to Nye who went back and kicked truly to bring the Demons within 10 points at the first break.
The second quarter was all McLarens: they kicked four goals to none. Mutton and Merrett applied forward pressure and eventually Grimley won a free kick and goaled from 20 metres. The Crows went forward again from the centre bounce and Moyle booted another. One of Willunga’s rare chances came when Renney ran free onto his left foot – he missed to the left. McLarens dominated possession and kept the ball in their forward lines. McDonald, L Scott and Mills were the stalwarts of Willunga’s defence but eventually McLarens’ Mutton took a well-judged mark in the swirling breeze and kicked accurately. Against the flow of play, Willunga’s Bekkers dashed clear and passed low and hard to Bass but his set shot stayed left. The next ten minutes was like a rugby scrum with both teams tackling hard and not allowing the forwards to run free with the ball. It was McLarens who eventually found space. Merrett marked and goaled to set up a 33-point lead going into the long break.
The third quarter was a scramble but again it was the Crows who were able to withstand the pressure then find a forward in space to shoot on goal. At the 15-minute mark Grimley and Merrett combined to kick the first goal of the quarter. In the next 15 minutes both sides kicked a goal apiece. McLarens kicked one through Groves then, with only minutes remaining in the premiership quarter, Nye kicked his and Willunga’s second to bring the three-quarter time margin back to 35 points.
Willunga went for broke in the last quarter, inspired by Haskett, but couldn’t find any flow. A Marr smother stopped a promising move by the Demons, then McLarens’ captain, Ellis, won a hard ball, side-stepped two Willunga players and passed to Grimley who kicked the first of his team’s four for the quarter. Rediglio, Hopkins and Groves won hard balls for the visitors. Willunga held the ball in their forward lines for several minutes but McLaren’s defensive pressure was sensational and eventually they forced a turnover. Three kicks saw the ball move from full back to full forward where Grimley marked and goaled. Standfield got it back for Willunga but the Crows streamed forward from the centre bounce and Merrett kicked his third. Willunga had few chances to score. The best opportunity came when Bekkers showed pace and poise and kicked to Bass but his set shot from 30 metres fell short. McLarens won by a convincing 58-point margin and remain unbeaten after three games.