Gray rips Magpies apart in Scott’s milestone win
A dazzling 44-disposal effort from young midfielder and Kleemann Medal contender Joel Gray has guided Mt Barker to a vital 28-point win over Denmark-Walpole at Sounness Park on Saturday afternoon, keeping his side’s slim top-two hopes alive in the process.
Gray was superb from the first bounce to the final siren, amassing one of the biggest possession tallies of the season, as the Bulls prevailed in a high-scoring affair to virtually secure a home final.
The 20-year-old was no more damaging than in the third term as he ripped the Magpies apart with clearance after clearance, his 15 kicks and one handball helping the Bulls kick five goals for the term — four of which came from veteran utility Dionne Woods.
Woods played a cameo that would normally be match-defining but his seven-goal haul played second fiddle to Gray’s three-vote performance that will again have him climbing up the Kleemann Medal leaderboard.
Woods booted six second-half goals to help the home side notch their eighth win of the season, 19.7 (121) to 14.9 (93), as they all but assured a top three finish and a likely home final.
The Bulls kicked the first three goals of the round 13 fixture, two courtesy of livewire John Lee, but the polish of raking left-footer Liam Park gave the Magpies an eight-point lead at quarter-time.
Park kicked 3.1 in an impressive first term before the class of Lee and Nic Chidgzey gave the Bulls the lead back after the first two plays of the second term.
Again the Magpies responded but their lead was short-lived as the home side gained the ascendancy with three unanswered goals heading into half-time. The Bulls extended their 11-point buffer to 22 points after the entertaining third stanza before a six-goal last quarter ensured a win in Steven Scott’s 150th league game.
Gray and Woods were dominant forces in the win while Lee (three goals), Chidgzey (21 possessions) and Darren Humble were also among their best.
Bulls coach Brad Hook was impressed by his side’s highest score of the season.
“Their transition football was sensational but we knew if we could stop that we could get control,” Hook said.
“We got the win and worked hard for it, every time we’ve been beaten we’ve responded the next week.
“It was our highest score of the season and we’d put the pressure on Joel a bit to really get back into some form which he absolutely did and Dooper (Woods) is such an enigmatic player, we just kicked it in his direction and something happened.”
The Magpies got within four points in the third term and twice in the final term reduced the margin to nine points but their inability to stop Gray was the real problem. Not until the final term did they place any heavy attention into Gray at stoppages but the damage was already done.
The absence of injured pair Shayne Zanetti and Codey Baxter was telling for the Magpies while Ryan Gaerth (13 disposals) was well held by Bulls skipper Peter Taylor. Jaden Guidi finished with 18 touches but lacked his usual potency.
Veteran Simon Barker booted three goals and was one of the Magpies’ best contributors along with the hardworking Tyler Stone, Park and Brody Hickey.
Magpies coach Matt Candy said their failure to stop the rampant Gray was costly.
“We were a bit flat and loose in the midfield for a while and we let that carry on too long,” he said.
“We had Joel’s number on the board but no one wanted to go with him.
“We were a bit undisciplined too, gave three 50m penalties away.
“We are not out of (finals) but we are not in it either so we’ve got to focus on Railways now and keep persevering.”
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