By Matt Fotia
Doncaster are set to improve dramatically in the second half of the EFNL Premier Division season according to coach Stewart Kemperman, after the Sharks broke their 2021 duck against new boys Berwick pre-lockdown.
Berwick lead at the first change before the Sharks took hold on their home deck, winning each of the final three quarters to run out 19 point winners, 13.11(89) to 10.10.(70).
The strong finish was pleasing for Kemperman, given the Sharks tendency to fall away during games in 2021, most notably against Blackburn and Vermont, where Doncaster trailed by 13 points and 10 points respectively, before going down by 60 points and 68 points against the 2019 Grand Finalists.
“Certainly, good to get the first win of the season and get some reward for effort for the boys,” said Kemperman on EFNL Sunday (23/5).
“We’ve been really in games for long periods of time and our best is able to match with the likes of Vermont, Blackburn and South Croydon but it’s just about not being able to sustain it for a full game or lapsing throughout quarters.”
The ex Noble Park star has a special connection with the competition newcomers – and now vanquished foes – Berwick, having coached the Wickers in 2017 and 2018, enjoying a 92 % win record and winning the premiership in both seasons, and was understandably glad to see some familiar faces.
“They’re a much younger team than what I worked with three years ago and they were hampered by a number of injuries to regular senior players – which is par for the course across the league – but it was good to see a few of the old faces.”
Despite having a wobbly start to 2021 there have been a number of individual bright lights for the Sharks including ex Melbourne ruckman Jake Spencer and marking utility James Munks.
Munks is averaging 4.4 marks per game in 2021 as a mobile high half forward/wingman and booted 3 goals in the Sharks win over Berwick, whilst Spencer is an early season Chandler Medal bolter, with the powerful ruckman averaging 21.4 disposals, 11.2 contested possessions, 6.8 clearances and 188 ranking points.
Jake was terrific in the ruck again, dominant in the stoppages and worked really hard around the ground,”
“He’s a terrific player as well Munksy, he’s quite a tall player but is very good runner and takes the ball at its highest point, so when he’s got his timing right and his hands are on, he’s a very tough match up for opposition sides.”
Kemperman also praised two time Chandler Medalist and Doncaster legend Chris Annakis, who collected 16 touches and kicked 2 goals in his return from injury.
“Having Chris back for the first time since round one, he just has maturity about him when he’s around the football, he’s a really vocal leader who can organise guys and give them that calming influence and affirmation from time to time.”
The Sharks have won just five games during Kemperman’s reign, after a number of years around the finals mark, but have been hampered by some lacklustre lights on their home ground at Schramms.
Until very recently Doncaster have been forced to train on their bottom oval for the majority of the season, with the lighting on their main ground subpar, making it hard for the coach and his team to engrain a system, given the difference in dimensions between the two.
With new lights now up and running, Kemperman is bullish about the opportunity to turn Shark Park into a real stronghold.
“It’s been that way for a number of years, before I got there, the lights just weren’t safe enough to train under, so we’d train on the bottom oval at Schramms which is significantly smaller,”
“So when we play teams like Balwyn and Vermont away it can have a benefit, but when you’ve got your own home games and you’re not used to it, it can make it hard to set up a fortress and make it a real advantage,”
“It is frustrating but it’s something we didn’t have much control over and we’re just thankful we’ve got them in and functioning now and (are hoping to) make it a really tough place for opposition teams to come and play at.”