Defensive unit pivotal to Deer Park’s success

Deer Park full back Jackson Barling. Picture Shawn Smits.

It is the team within a team that is integral to Deer Park’s success in the WRFL’s division 1.

The Lions’ defence does not get the same plaudits as its much-publicised forward line, but without it a four-peat of flags would not have been possible.

Teams that can keep their opponents to 10 goals or fewer are going to win more often than not.

Over the course of the season, the Lions’ backline has been the most miserly in the competition, conceding an average 56.5 points a game.

In Sunday’s grand final, it held Hoppers Crossing to 57 points, which is akin to a chess player calling “checkmate”.

“We’re a very tight-knit group,” Lions full-back Jackson Barling told Star Weekly.

“We always set ourselves goals within the team for the back six.

“We’ve just got that trust. We all know what we’re going to do for each other and that’s why we play so well as a backline.”

Barling is the lynchpin of the Deer Park defence. The seasoned campaigner is regarded as one of the best key defenders in the league.

A bull-at-a-gate operator, he only knows one way and that is to run in straight lines through the opposition.

Barling’s presence bearing down on them made for uncertain moments for the younger Hoppers Crossing players.

“We knew if we could pressure them physically – they’re a younger side and we could out-muscle them – they wouldn’t last the whole game,” he said.

“That was a big focus, especially [with] some of their key players – just get stuck into them early – and it paid off for us.

“Our pressure around the ground was phenomenal.

“It wasn’t just the back six, it was everywhere – tackles in the middle, tackles all around the ground.”

Deer Park’s defence is successful because all the parts fit.

The Lions are not only top-shelf in the one-on-ones, led by team-of-the year full-back Tim Quick, but they also offer plenty of drive through the speed and skill of Kane McKenzie, another team-of-the year member, and Max Bruin.

“We’ve got some good ball users and we’ve got some blokes who stay at home and defend,” Barling said. “We all work well together.”