Adam Contessa was feeling a little apprehensive ahead of his first game as coach of Sunshine Kangaroos on Saturday.
Aside from the normal butterflies in the stomach that come with coaching a side for the first time, Contessa wanted to put his mind at ease after a less than ideal preparation by his side for the start of the Western Region Football League division 1 season.
“It was a real unknown for us today,” Contessa said. “Our practice match form wasn’t great and that was basically because we had six to 10 blokes unavailable every game … it was like a revolving door.
“This was the first real hit-out with the majority of those blokes playing together as a group.
“We walked away from the game thinking, ‘We’re going to be competitive’.”
The record books will show that Sunshine lost to Spotswood by 37 points at McLean Reserve on Saturday.
The Kangaroos were “outclassed” on the day, but Contessa was encouraged by what he saw.
“The big one for us was just the endeavour, the ability for us to just have a crack,” Contessa said. “We had close on 70 tackles for the game.
“The contested ball and the 50-50 work – the boys didn’t concede any real easy ones to Spotty.”
Sunshine had moments when it seemed an upset could be on the cards.
In their best patch of the game, the Kangaroos strung together five consecutive goals in the third quarter. But Spotswood steadied to kick away in the fourth.
Contessa rued some early misses in the first quarter when Sunshine was aided by a strong breeze.
“We missed two or three really gettable shots and we went into the quarter-time break a couple of points up – but it could’ve been two or three goals,” he said. “It may have just shifted a bit of momentum.”
Big man Declan Moloney received praise for his part in an enthralling ruck duel with Spotswood star Murray Boyd. Moloney was forced to ruck all day with Sunshine’s No.1 ruckman Jesse McInneny out injured.
“His competitiveness against Boyd in the ruck gave us an opportunity to win stoppages,” Contessa said. “You need big guys to step up and have a presence on the ground and he really did that.
“He took a few contested marks and really just busted his gut all day.”
Fabian Brancatisano looked good in a new role for Sunshine.
Usually a weapon across half-forward, Brancatisano was seen to have even more value to the Kangaroos by splitting his time between midfield and half-forward.
“He’s a natural half-forward goalkicker, but we’ve had to change his game from what he’s been used to because we think he’s got that X-factor with his pace and can break the lines,” Contessa said.
“He did it a number of times today – he kicked a goal, but he set up a few for us.
“It’s a learning curve for him at the moment, playing on the ball … there’s a lot of upside for him in that role.”
New signing Cam Holdsworth impressed on debut for Sunshine, finishing with a game-best four goals. Dillyn Fedley, another recruit, shone with his work in defence, while Harvey Daniher fought hard at centre half-back.
Sunshine will play its home opener against Deer Park at Kinder Smith Reserve on Saturday.
The Kangaroos will again go in as underdogs, but Contessa is adamant his side will not shirk the contest.
“I know that the boys will be taking it on full steam ahead,” he said. “If we can bring that attack on the ball and the endeavour, you never know.”
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