Western Jets had to win mental and physical battles to hold on for a memorable nine-point win over a star-studded Sandringham Dragons in the NAB League at Downer Oval on Saturday.
Leading by 34 points at three-quarter time, the Jets defended grimly in the last quarter to stave off a late Dragons threat and grab a win that will long be celebrated.
Jets football operations manager Matthew Dervan described the match as “a fantastic advertisement” for NAB League football.
“You had a quality outfit in Sandringham, but from our point of view, we thought we put out a side that could definitely go head to head with them,” he said.
“It was amazing to get the four points. It’s probably the best win I’ve been involved in at the club in a long while.”
Sandringham kicked the only four goals of a last quarter that had a bit of one-way traffic about it.
That prompted Jets coach Ryan O’Keefe to dig deep into his bag of tricks and swing key forward Emerson Jeka to the backline in a bid to save the game.
Jeka’s defending late on was crucial to the Jets holding on to their lead.
“We threw him back for the first time this year,” Dervan said. “He’s such a versatile player that he can play forward and back … it adds to his draftable characteristics.”
Western Jets ruckman Will Kennedy had a big day against his former side.
Kennedy was arguably the best player on the ground, leading the way with 33 hit-outs and dominating aerially with six marks to go with 15 disposals.
“He stood up in the ruck against two quality Vic Metro ruckmen,” Dervan said.
“He’s such a versatile player … he has the ability to win the ball and he is a really good decision maker.”
Jonah Horo and Daly Andrews were the most effective midfielders for the Jets.
Other big possession getters for the Western Jets were Bailey Ryan, Josh Honey and Lucas Rocci.
Archi Manton was crucial at both ends, kicking two goals and taking some game-saving marks in the last quarter, while Cody Raak impressed in defence.
Dervan was pleased with how the Jets reacted when Sandringham took the challenge up to them late.
“The boys threw everything into that last 10 to 15 minutes to hold on and get a well-deserved win,” Dervan said. “As the time got closer to the end, the confidence and composure came back – to know that we were the better side for most of the game and we deserved to win.”
The Jets had been a little blunt in attack for a couple of games, but they needed to be at their best to kick a winning score against Sandringham.
Aaron Clarke and Lucas Failli led the way with three goals apiece.
“We haven’t really been at our best in the forward half the past couple of weeks, but the mix came together,” Dervan said.
The Jets will have two weekends off before their next match, against Murray Bushrangers on the road at Norm Minns Oval on July 27.
The Jets head into the break in fourth spot with an 8-4 record.