Local bragging rights for defence-minded Sunshine Kangaroos

Sunshine’s Matthew Hutchesson wraps Albion’s Jacob Green in a bone-jarring tackle. Picture Damian Visentini

Sunshine has taken a defence-first mindset into the new Western Region Football League division 1 season.

No longer are the Kangaroos an easy team to score against, judging by the first two rounds of the competition.

They had the second leakiest defence last season, irritating coach Barney Hallinan no end.

He knew the Kangaroos needed to up the ante in defence and that was the main focus in their preparations over the summer.

The Kangaroos displayed that revamped defence in a 83-point mauling of Albion at JR Parsons Reserve on Saturday, conceding just four goals in a stunning 17.14 (116)-4.9 (33) win.

“We came out really defensive-minded and we’re going to do that every week,” Hallinan said. “It’s been a stronger emphasis over the summer because we gave away too many points last year.

“We want to lock down more because we believe our defence stimulates the offence.”

The Kangaroos got stronger as the game wore on, finishing the game with a 10-goal fourth-quarter burst.

“The boys executed the game-plan really well,” Hallinan said.

“Our form against Spotswood the week before was really good and I just knew that if we carried that over to the Albion game, continued to apply the same pressure and execute our game-plan, we would put ourselves in a position to win the game, which we did.”

Sunshine’s focus never wavered on a wild day of weather, with the umpires ordering the teams from the ground due to lightning strikes.

The Kangaroos led at quarter-time despite kicking into the breeze, and skipped away in the second and third quarters, although their dominance was not truly reflected on the scoreboard.

“We put an emphasis in the three-quarter time huddle that our scoreboard pressure wasn’t good enough,” Hallinan said. “We wanted to really drum it home and we did with 10 goals in the last quarter.”

Aaron Searle was a weapon on the forward line for Sunshine with five goals.

After an interrupted pre-season, Searle had to work his way into the senior team through the reserves and appears to be back to performing at 100 per cent of his capabilities.

“Aaron played in the twos the week before and kicked five there and earned his spot,” Hallinan said.

“He’s been around the game for a long time – he’s very smart and he’s probably one of the toughest small forward match-ups in the competition.”

Ben Dessent and Ben Christodoulou were superb through the midfield and forward line for Sunshine. Dessent, a player Hallinan advises keeping “an eye on” this season, capped his game with three goals.

Liam Cavanagh was the pick of Sunshine defenders with his reading of the play, while Belal Abou-Eid set the tone with his defensive work.

“Overall, it was a wonderful team effort,” Hallinan said.

In other division 1 games, St Albans went down by four points in a heartbreaker to Werribee Districts at Soldiers Reserve in Tim Jenkins’ 250th game.

Caroline Springs is still searching for its first top-flight win after a 20-point loss to Wyndhamvale on the road on Saturday night.

Defending premier Deer Park suffered an upset 34-point loss to Spotswood at McLean Reserve.