By Tyler Lewis
PULL QUOTE: “Yeah… 51… I don’t know what to say really, it’s not uncommon for Kyle.”
Impressed but not surprised.
While Steve Hughes has seen performances like Kyle Martin’s on Saturday before, he is still left star-struck by his skipper at times.
In Noble Park’s 13.13 (91) to 4.8 (32) victory over North Ringwood, Martin collected a scintillating 51 disposals, 16 clearances and capped it all off by kicking two goals.
“He is very intelligent; he knows where the footy is going next,” Hughes said of Martin.
“On Saturday, it wasn’t a pretty game of footy, he was just aware of what was happening so he doubled up on his possessions a couple of times.
“I saw it last night, I sort of thought it was in the 40’s, I didn’t think it would be as high as that.
“Put it this way, I am not shocked, it’s reasonably common for this to happen with him.”
Despite being Hughes’ ‘best player in the competition’, Martin is yet to win a Chandler Medal – the EFNL Premier Division league medal – and it’s believed to be as a result of his passion often boiling over.
However, Hughes revealed his star midfielder is improving that side of his game.
“We’re all biased of course… but I think he’s the best player in the competition,” he said.
“He’s probably missed a few medals along the journey because of giving feedback to umpires, which I genuinely think he’s improved on in that space.
“Because he is in so many combative contests where it’s 50-50, whether there is a free kick one way or the other, it might stand out a bit and he is so passionate.
“I think he is aware of it, he knows he can improve in that space, he is by no means there, but he has definitely improved.”
From a team perspective, the clinical display from the Bulls hasn’t left Hughes and his side believing they’re invincible.
In fact, Hughes is regularly bringing the group down to earth with a reminder of what they look like when they don’t follow the plan in place.
“Maintaining the same brand we want to play,” he said of his message to the group.
“I am a bit of a broken record with the defensive elements of the game that are important to us.
“I have said to the group a number of times: if we deviate away from the way we want to play defensively, we are a genuinely ordinary football side.
“I think they’re aware of that, we have probably displayed that from time to time, so that’s our challenge, for all players to continue to buy into the defensive elements and get better.
“We didn’t use the ball well on Saturday, we gave away 33 free kicks to 17… that’s another area we need to tidy up, there are lots of things we can work on.”
Along with Martin, Jackson Sketcher (32 disposals and two goals), Shayne Allan (two goals) and Ryan Morrison were all impressive in the Bulls’ eighth victory.
Noble Park travels to Vermont this week, with the intention to further swerve the Eagles usual path to finals.
An extremely green Berwick side has rallied to record its second win in three weeks.
Thursday selection was a waste of time for Clint Evans, as the Wickers were facing a perhaps new phenomenon on Friday afternoon.
“On Friday night we were saying let’s just throw a dart at a dart board and whoever’s number it lands on, that’s who is coming in,” Evans said.
With a long list of casualties during the week – beginning with Travis Tuck and Anthony Vella – flowing into Friday afternoon, Evans was forced to play four debutants – improving his tally of used players to 41.
And though the footy gods led Berwick to believe it wasn’t it’s week, the Wickers overcame the odds to defeat the fancied Park Orchards outfit on the Sharks home patch.
Berwick was impressive for the best part of four quarters, winning the first three, before a late charge made Evans’ head spin like it did last week against Rowville.
“Probably about the same, thank god they have a defib there,” he joked.
“They (Park Orchards) were always going to come, at the 17-minute mark of the last quarter we were 39 points up, I was thinking we should be alright, but then they kicked four real quick ones.
“Then I was like jeez, it couldn’t happen could it… but we then played some really good footy and with so many young kids we couldn’t play the way we did for four quarters.
“There was always going to be a time where they were going to get on top, we were just lucky it was in the last 15 minutes where they ran out of time.”
Though the old saying ‘one brings two’ seems applicable for the Wickers, given it took eight rounds to find win one, but just two to find win number two, Evans revealed it’s hard to believe as a group, when it’s never the same group.
“I think because we have been in so many games, we know our best isn’t too far away,” he said.
“In saying that though, if we had continuity and were picking the same guys every week you would say yeah there is belief there… but every week we’re making four or five changes, so when you’re trying to get games into kids but they’re not all playing together, it takes time for them to gel.
“The boys aren’t getting together (for long periods), you get guys going in and out every time, if we were picking 24 of the same every week it would be perfect.
“The belief is there, but it’s more about working out where our best is.”
The upset win now surges the Wickers 10 points clear of current relegation favourite North Ringwood, and while Evans confessed there is a sense of relief, he is eyeing off some more scalps throughout the remainder of the year.
“It’s a bit of relief,” he said.
“Knowing we can compete with these other sides, you always hope you can grab a couple of other wins.
“Now that we’ve done that with who we’ve had out, hopefully now the last eight games we can steal a few.
“Eight of the 10 games we have been in until the last quarter, it’s not like we’ve been absolutely smashed, hopefully that is the belief the boys have, because now they have to back it up against another top four side in Donny East.”
Rowville, meanwhile, is nudging closer to being mathematically secure in the EFNL finals.
The Hawks win over Vermont on Saturday was in many ways an eight-point match, as the Eagles – now seventh – are sitting outside of the top six and 16 points adrift of first seed Rowville.
Rowville made light work of the Eagles, restricting them to just 3.8 (26), while slamming home 12.13 (85) itself to record the 59-point win.
Hawks captain Anthony Brolic led his side brilliantly with 24 disposals and two important goals.
Kurtis Flakemore, Josh Clarke and Tyler Edwards were also named in the best for the Hawks.
In other results across the Premier Division: Balwyn defeated South Croydon 13.9 (87) to 11.13 (79), Blackburn overcame Doncaster 5.17 (47) to 4.11 (35) and Doncaster East belted Norwood 12.11 (83) to 6.8 (44).
LADDER: Rowville 36, Noble Park 32, Balwyn 28, Doncaster East 24, South Croydon 24, Blackburn 22, Vermont 20, Park Orchards 16, Norwood 16, Doncaster 12, Berwick 10, North Ringwood 0.
TOP-FIVE GOAL-KICKERS: C Haley (Balwyn) 35, J Wilsen (South Croydon) 27, K Viccars (Doncaster) 26, J Lisle (Balwyn) 26, C Hickey (Park Orchards) 24.
FIXTURE: Berwick v Doncaster East, Blackburn v Rowville, Norwood v South Croydon, North Ringwood v Park Orchards, Doncaster v Balwyn, Vermont v Noble Park.