The Augusta Margaret River Hawks celebrated the start of their 2017 SWFL campaign with a hat trick of wins against visitors Donnybrook at Gloucester Park on Saturday.
In the final match of the day, less than impressive aim and a number of missed opportunities kept Donnybrook’s senior side to minor scores and just one goal early in the first quarter.
The Hawks fared better, with Max Paterson taking a clean mark to secure their fourth goal for the term.
Emotions were high from the outset and the crowd soaked it up, making their allegiance clear as a handful of aggressive contests tested the patience of umpires.
Players from both sides were sent off throughout the match with blood streaming after some particularly energetic jostling between the two teams as Donnybrook saw far more of the ball, but could not convert the opportunities.
The Hawks scored early in the second thanks to the precision of James Price in front of goal to give the home side a 19 point lead while Donnybrook struggled to keep the ball in play, seemingly straightforward shots sailing out on the full or tumbling over the line for another behind.
A sudden and powerful run by Donnybrook’s Sam Lowrie and a clean collection by Brendan Page inside 50 delivered the visitors their third goal and the Hawks were watching their backs as the lead shortened to just seven points.
The energy seemed to shift in the Donnybrook side and they gained momentum as half time neared, Todd Gregory slotting another goal to give Augusta Margaret River a little shake up.
The Hawks were on the attack as they pushed play hard into their end, and despite scant scoring chances managed to force Donnybrook to work hard to make any ground.
Hawk Mitch Lynn was consistent through the centre, delivering the ball to his teammates as Donnybrook had to chase hard to get within reaching distance.
A thunderous tackle from Brad Noakes took the wind out of the Dons’ Shaun Towers while the visitors missed another two relatively simple shots on goal, Greg Pullen and Gregory visibly frustrated by their kicking.
The Hawks continued to deposit the ball within scoring distance but forwards failed to convert, the ball tumbling over the line again and again.
Both teams appeared tired and frustrated and as the siren sounded for the major break another scuffle broke out near the Hawks bench, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Weariness seemed the order of the day as players returned to a chilly, overcast Gloucester Park.
Augusta Margaret River’s Lincoln Adams spent the early part of the third quarter receiving treatment on a strapped ankle while Donnybrook answered a behind from the Hawks with a goal to chop the lead to just a point.
Lynn joined Adams on the sidelines for treatment on his calf after a hard tackle saw him come off second best in a pack of Donnybrook bodies.
Donnybrook took advantage of the Hawks’ fatigue, a behind from Jacob Green and a goal to Shaun Towers finally securing a lead for the visitors and bringing the goal scores to six apiece.
Suddenly, all those points mattered as the Hawks struggled to maintain their first half momentum.
Hard knocks had players from both sides sent off under blood rule, Hawk Jacob Payne getting a quick clean up on the sidelines.
Donnybrook continued to thwart every attempt Augusta Margaret River made to take the ball into their territory and with the home side kicking into icy wind which picked up through the third quarter, coach Matt Jamieson had a task on his hands to re-energise his players.
A brilliant mark by Jack McMahon saw the ball quickly back in Lynn’s hands and the pace seemed to pick up for the Hawks, Seve Grantis taking a brave but unlucky snap for a behind.
A penalty to Mitch Payne gave him another straightforward opportunity in front of the Hawks’ goal but his kick failed to make the distance and both teams went into the final break needing an edge to claim an outright victory.
Goals remained at six for each side as the singles kept adding to the tallies, the lead changing hands as kicks became more urgent.
Augusta Margaret River struggled to dispose cleanly and the small group of Donnybrook supporters began increasing the volume as the Hawks kicking apparently deserted them.
Grant Garstone copped a massive hit from his own teammate early in the final term as the Hawks edged away with renewed energy, another goal turning up the volume on the crowd and putting the home team ahead by five.
A monster run down by Jacob Oakes on Donnybrook’s Chris Weller had the crowd on its feet, and Donnybrook sent a flurry of desperate kicks towards their goal in a late stage attempt to regain control.
The Hawks defence kept final efforts at bay and the siren sounded with Augusta Margaret River ahead by just four points to take their first win for the season, 8.7.55 to 6.15.51.
The Hawks will travel to Payne Park to face Bunbury next Sunday while Donnybrook are set to take on South Bunbury at VC Mitchell Park.