Deer Park was in unfamiliar territory in the seven days leading into its grand final re-match with Hoppers Crossing in the Western Region Football League division 1 at John McLeod Oval on Saturday.
The Lions, six-time defending champions, are the side that is used to serving up thrashings to their hapless opponents, but this time it was they who were on the end of a rare blow-out loss after a 68-point belting from Altona the week before.
Lions coach Marc Bullen described the performance on that day as “un-Deer Park like”.
Instead of putting the blowtorch on his team, Bullen gave the players some breathing space and just watched to see what kind of reaction would come.
It was a positive response as they produced a hard-fought, 20-point win over Hoppers Crossing.
“The players let their colours down last week,” Bullen said.
“There was some soul searching throughout the course of the week.
“I didn’t really finger point or lay a blame, I let the guys self assess.
“Sometimes you have to have trust in your group and just look at them without saying anything, which is what I did this week and we got a great performance.
“That was the response we were after.
“Definitely a pleasing result after not performing last week in such a big game.”
Deer Park’s team defence was certainly much better, restricting Hoppers Crossing to just 11 goals after totally breaking down the week before.
“We had 15 goals kicked against us at half time against Altona and 134 points for the total,” Bullen said.
“It was very un-Deer Park like.”
There were some outstanding individual performances for Deer Park. Spiros Amarantidis was electrifying with six goals.
When the big moments came for the Lions, it was usually Amarantidis putting the finishing touches on the moves.
He is playing career-best football.
“He is probably one of the form players of the competition,” Bullen said.
“His effort was outstanding, kicking six goals as a crumbing small forward.
Deer Park identified big bodied Hoppers Crossing midfielder Ashlin Brown as a player it needed to nullify.
Trent Williams put his hand up for the run-with role and limited his impact.
“He did a huge job on him,” Bullen said.
If there was an area of the ground that Deer Park could exploit Hoppers Crossing, it was in the ruck.
The Warriors were short a big man with Daniel Riosa injured and Lions big man Troy Kelm took full advantage.
“He was great today playing the lion’s share in the ruck,” Bullen said. “I think it was won and lost in the middle of the ground and there were some really good performances throughout the game.”
With Kelm dominating in the ruck, it allowed Chris Stewart to play exclusively forward after he suffered a corked thigh.
Stewart’s influence in the goal square was profound as he bagged five crucial goals.
It might have been a strange week for Deer Park, but there is nothing strange about where they sit on the ladder in top spot.
The Lions will remain in that position for two weeks with next weekend set aside for interleague action.
Meanwhile, St Albans had a 56-point win over Sunshine at Kings Park Reserve. Ben Said kicked four goals for the Saints to make it 17 in four games for the small forward, while Daniel Castellano kicked four for Sunshine.
In division 3, Sunshine Heights was over the moon after a 57-point win over Laverton away at Laverton Park Reserve.
The opposite could be said for Albanvale, who went down by 37 to Tarneit, and North Sunshine, who lost by 177 to Wyndham Suns.
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