By: Joseph Arthur
AFTER a horror start to the season going winless through the first six rounds, Mooroolbark has turned its season around and now sits fifth on the ladder, winning five of its past seven games.
This puts the Mustangs in the finals picture, only two points clear of Park Orchards for the final spot and with destiny in their own hands senior coach Bret Lavars is confident his side can make a finals run at season’s end.
Like most of the EFL, the Mustangs were forced to battle it out in terrible weather conditions over the weekend, making their win against Upper Ferntree Gully even more of a tough slog.
Hail and rain plagued the game but coach Lavars said some timely rain in the final term likely benefitted the boys as they fought to hold onto their lead.
“We had some horrific conditions, we had the hail early and it did chop up the ground a bit,” Lavars told EFL Sunday.
“We spent a lot more time early in Upper’s forward-50 in that last quarter, but we were able to get enough repeat stoppages and probably nullify their influence with that heavy ball, it did rain late and that probably helped us.
“It (Kings Park) definitely isn’t a happy hunting ground of recent times for us, so to get four points against an in-form side, I’m very happy with the performance of the boys.”
Defence has been the Mustangs’ calling card as the club has turned its season around, conceding less than 60 points in all matches following Round 6.
Lavars credited his coaching staff for taking action after the team conceded far too many goals early in the year and he further credited the players for putting the coaches defensive schemes into action.
“We’ve kind of gone back to simplifying a few things for our boys and explaining what’s expected of them,” Lavars said.
“Everyone has a role to play and it’s been on the back of our defensive pressure.
“There’s no magic in how everyone goes about it, it’s just the one-on-ones across the ground and we’ve found that we’ve been able to win enough of those which has helped our backline defend.
“A credit to the boys for taking on what we’ve said and hopefully we can continue that for the last five weeks of the year.”
After an injury in Round 1, the return of former Box Hill Hawk Troy Wright has been crucial to the Mustangs’ recent success and the move of former Kangaroo and Blue Aaron Mullett up forward has helped them get more points on the board as well.
Wright has been named in the best two weeks in a row now and Mullett (pictured below) just ticked over 40 goals for the year, but Lavars is weary not to become too reliant on particular individuals.
“His (Troy Wright’s) leadership qualities have been fantastic and he just reads the ball so well, his intercept marking and direction down back has been vital,” Lavars said.
“He’s (Aaron Mullett) probably played forward out of necessity.
“If we could get the balance right we’d love to play him in the midfield as well but he’s a fantastic avenue to goal that’s for sure
“We’ve got to be careful; we just don’t want to become too reliant on one individual.”
With five weeks remaining in the season and currently two points clear in fifth spot, the club is taking it one week on a time to hold onto that last finals position.
With such a young side Lavars said they need to stay focused on the task at hand week in and week out in order to successfully take charge of their own future and potential finals berth.
“Just one game at a time for our young group,” Lavars said.
“The good thing for us is that destiny is in our own hands – if we win enough games then we might give ourselves a chance to play finals, if we don’t, then we don’t deserve to get there.”
The Mustangs are at home this weekend and will be looking to continue their hot form as they take on Wantirna South. Listen to the match live on 1377 SEN+ or stream via EFL.org.au.