Reported by Sean Cusick
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THE Northern Bullants lost just one home-and-away match for the entire 2006 season, but face one of their biggest tests today when they hit the road to face North Ballarat.
North Ballarat capped off a fine home and away season by winning their 11th game at a rain soaked Cramer Street Oval.
The skill level of the roosters was the difference between the 2 sides, with North Ballarat players often gaining more yardage with their kicks in a game were goals were at a premium.
Yet again the bullants tried very hard, but were unable to hold out North Ballarat. Aided by the strong breeze blowing towards the Cramer Street end of the ground, they kicked 3 goals in a match winning 3rd quarter burst.
Whenever the wind blows towards the Cramer Street end you know that it's going to be a bitterly cold day. At one stage in the final quarter all but 1 North Ballarat player was wearing long sleeves.
On a day when best players were hard to find on both sides, Brett Zorzi and Jon McCormick were fine contributers for the Bullants. Zorzi kicked the only goal of the day against the breeze after a poor kick in.
Down back Brett Maloney was almost unbeatable for the roosters. For a big man Moloney played the conditions superbly and never gave the smaller bullant forwards much of a look in.
The roosters spilt the game open with a brilliant snap goal from Garth Taylor and a solo effort from Nathan Saunders who was aided by opponent Murray Boyd slipping over.
Bullants coach Barry Mitchell blasted Boyd at 3 quarter time for his choice of moulded souls, with Mitchell saying that sometimes players have to put up with playing with sore feet.
Taking a 19 point lead into the final change Nth Ballarat were almost ensured of a win but the home side fought the game right out.
After scoring just 1 goal in their last 5 quarters, the bullants managed 2 in the last thanks to some clever work from Saad Saad. Saad kicking 1 himself and setting up another for David Clarke.
It was a long day for all but imparticular Saad as he played the first half of the reserves game. He came into the Bullants side as a replacement for Ricky Mott.
The Coburg Tigers have taken another step towards securing a top 4 position by defeating the Northern Bullants at a rain soaked Coburg City Oval.
Heavy showers marred the clash with the game becoming a slog as players faced some of the worst weather conditions of the 2004 season.
After half time the Tigers were first to the ball and just too strong for the depleted Bullants line up. Matthew Hyde and Mark Janz both made their debuts for the Bullants, with Hyde playing a serviceable game while Janz had little game time.
Of concern for the Tigers is the report of Mark Coughlan who was reported for striking direct opponent Josh Vansittart. Vansittart had the better of Coughlan but it was Coughlan who set the tone of the 2nd half with a soccered goal from 20 metres out early in the 3rd term.
On a brighter note Andrew Raines was very impressive. On a day when players could have been forgiven for slipping over, his ability to keep his "feet" was a highlight.
For the Bullants Callan Beasy worked tirelessly and several others tried hard but injuries have tested the Bullants depth. Testimoney to the club's long injury list was the sight of assistant coach Peter Dean wearing the number 60 out of the goal square in the early game.
Only 3 points seperated the sides at the last change but a superb running goal from ruckman Ben Marsh deflated any hopes of a Bullant recovery.
For what seems the upteenth time in the past few seasons, Box Hill has come from a seemingly hopeless position to win.
Trailing by 25 pts during the last term the Hawks stormed home over a weary Northern Bullants outfit who had given it their all during the first 3 quarters.
Ben Kane expoliting opponent Frank Raso's lack of match fitness, was a driving force behind the Hawks late surge, kicking 2 goals and driving several long kicks inside 50 to bigmen Clinton Alleway and Robert Campbell.
The Bullants were game and probably didn't deserve to lose the way they did after leading until the 28 minute mark of the last quarter.
Coming into the game a win and 8% behind the Hawks the Bullants burst out of the blocks to kick the first 5 goals of the game.
The Hawks responded by putting several men behind the ball in an attempt to suffogate the Bullants scoring power. In effect they turned defence into attack as they gathered momentum to trail by only 6 pts at the main break.
A tense 3rd term saw only 2 goals scored, both late in time on to the Northern Bullants. The lat quarter was played at a furious pace with the Bullants being the team to wilt under the finals like pressure.
The Bullants committment can't be questioned over the past 5 weeks but their depth remains a concern. Losing in form bigman Ricky Mott and Daniel Harford during the last term was too much for a Bullants side already somewhat depleted.
The Hawks look like playing in yet another final series, while the Bullants can look forward to 2005 with some optimism.
The Northern Bullants have moved to equal 8th after a solid 18 point win over Williamstown at Cramer St.
Celebrating Brett Zorzi's 100th game, which was against Tasmainia 2 weeks ago, the Bullants lead throughout with only a last quarter fade out preventing them from moving into the 8.
Up forward bigmen Ricky Mott and Michael Hooper teamed well to outpoint their undersized opponents.
Mott has been a revelation up forward for the Bullants since the mid season break, with his height troubling the smaller VFL defences. As his confidence continues to grow so does his marking, which was at its best for the season.
Brett Zorzi proved to be a handfull for Seagulls veteran Troy West. Zorzi is a hard player to match up as his overhead marking is often an underestimated part of his game.
Williamstown tried hard throughout but couldn't match the Bullants hardness and more potent forwards. David King had a big first half kicking 3 goals but went missing after half time. Heath Shaw also showed glimpses that he has a big future with a solid contributon across half forward.
For the 3rd week in a row the Bullants came out running after half time and put the game beyond doubt with a 5 goal to nil burst. This was possibly the Bullants best quarter of the season considering the state of the game.
Williamstown gave it their best in the last term as the Bullants stopped and mentally seemed to relax. The Seagulls inaccurate kicking snuffed out the remote chance that they had. Maybe coach Barry Mitchell can review his position on the use of the bench as the Bullants midfield was clearly tired and stopped running with the result being there for all to see.
The Bullants have the bye next week before taking on Box Hill in what shapes as a mini final for both sides.