The Western Jets have crashed back to earth in the TAC Cup.
A week after a stirring win over rivals Calder Cannons, the Jets got a harsh reality check from reigning premiers Sandringham Dragons, the yardstick of the competition.
The Dragons were in total command after quarter-time, running out 64-point winners at Burbank Oval on Saturday.
“We just got beaten by a really good outfit,” Jets coach Torin Baker said. “We were out-classed … Sandy has been one of the best performed – obviously last year’s premiers.
“I think they’ll be right up there again this year. They’ve had three good wins to date, so their form stands up.”
Western Jets, missing three of their AIS-AFL Academy players, started the match well, still in the hunt despite trailing by nine points at quarter-time.
From that point on though, it was all Sandringham, kicking four goals to nil in the second quarter to break the game open.
“We were really happy with our first quarter,” Baker said. “We controlled the footy inside our forward half, but they went coast-to-coast a couple of times and slotted a couple from really difficult positions.
“Then our players just dropped off a little bit … and that allowed their ball movement and class to shine through.
“We needed to maintain the rage we had in the first quarter and persist with that, and we weren’t able to do it, which is disappointing.”
Sandringham cruised to a percentage boosting win. The Dragons kicked seven goals to two in the second half to blow the Jets away.
Out of the wreckage, Nick Stuhldreier’s second half was a positive, with the co-captain responding to Baker’s call at half-time for a lift.
“We were pretty confrontational with the boys at half-time, and he was one who really cracked in during the third quarter and tried to do everything possible to help stem the tide,” Baker said. “Overall, his output was very good … we had him down for about 24 disposals.”
First-year player Hamish Murphy has taken to the TAC Cup like a duck to water. Murphy, who played forward most of his junior career, is thriving in a defensive role with the Jets.
“We’ve sort of converted him from a forward in the under-16s at the Jets and Vic Metro, and we’ve put him down back, and he really looks at home,” Baker said.
Jack Noonan was the Jets’ only multiple goalkicker, with two, showing coaches he is on the hunt for more game time.
“Jack came in for his first game of the year and he had a real red-hot go at it, and showed he values his position within the team,” Baker said. “He’s been keen to break into the group and he displayed that with the way he cracked in at the contest.”
Western Jets, sitting ninth with one win from three games, will have a break over the Easter weekend before their next game against Gippsland Power at Burbank Oval on April 22.