The Northern Blues fell to Box Hill by 40 points in their practice match at the UTAS Stadium. (PHOTO CREDIT: Northern Blues Football Club)
Josh Fraser believes there were signs to be encouraged by but a lot to work on coming out of yesterday’s practice match against Box Hill.
The Blues made a strong start to the game in Launceston, but the Hawks ultimately ran over the top of Northern to prevail 17. 9. (111) to 10. 11. (71).
It was a disappointing end to the game for the Blues, where the Hawks kicked five unanswered goals in the final term after an even contest on the scoreboard all afternoon.
Fraser said that while there are always positives to take from pre-season, it was also the time to find out and fine-tune inconsistencies in his side’s game.
“It was a really positive start, we brought the type of pressure that we spoke about and our younger players really stood up, kicking five goals in the first quarter,” Fraser said.
“Over the course of the game, we made some fundamental errors and coughed up goals, and our contest wasn’t at the level we expected at times.
“It was a positive opening with lots to like, but there’s still a fair bit to work on ahead of the Richmond practice match in two weeks.”
Coming up against a seasoned opponent in Box Hill, it was a “patchy” performance from the Blues, according to the senior coach.
He said the learning experience would hold Northern in good stead with improvement to come before the season opener in just under a month.
“To kick five [goals] in the first quarter highlighted our growth in the way which we want to use the ball, but we didn’t defend how we would’ve liked,” Fraser said.
“Having so many new players at the club with not a lot of VFL experience, there’s still learning curves that go with that and we’ll be welcoming back experienced guys in the next few weeks.
“Coming up against a team with good finals experience, we won’t able to stop their momentum or capitalise on ours: we expect a lot more.”
It was once again a young line-up for Northern, with only four players in the side over the age of 22.
Northern’s senior coach said the performances of a number of youngsters was cause for optimism.
“I thought Cam Polson’s game was encouraging: he worked really hard and gave good grunt inside the contest. Not only that, he also showed his turn of speed to get out of congestion and apply pressure,” Fraser said.
“I liked Tom De Koning and Patrick Kerr’s contest forward of the ball was positive: I can’t remember too many times we were out-marked so they either got it themselves or brought it to ground.
“Young Alex Federico also started really well where he got his hands on the ball: we’ll encourage him to keep building consistency, some of the moments he had were promising.”
One player who did provide the experience for the Blues was Alex Silvagni, who returned to action yesterday for the first time since July last year.
Alongside the returning Kane Keppel, Fraser said the defenders held their own and settled well despite their lengthy periods out of action.
“Both Alex and Kane first-up were encouraging: when you miss so much footy, it can take you a while to get into it,” Fraser said.
“Neither of them looked out of place, they’ll play really important roles for us over the course of the season.”
Northern heads to Punt Road next on Thursday, March 22, as part of the now-traditional double-header with the AFL season opener.
Fraser said the key message would be challenging the consistency of the group, as well as embracing moments in the game.
“Consistency in the contest was one thing we spoke about: they were more mature around the ball at important stages, understanding the moment and momentum,” Fraser said.
“A fair bit of that was about keeping composure: it’s clear what we need to review and we’re confident that we have the playing group to get it done.”
BOX HILL HAWKS 3.4 8.7 12.7 17. 9. (111)
NORTHERN BLUES 5.2 7.3 10.8 10. 11. (71)
Northern Blues: Johnston 2, McCabe 2, Costigan, De Koning, Harman, Kerr, Lebois, Pearce