Short-lived supremacy for Sunshine Kangaroos

Sunshine’s Ben Dessent and Altona’s Steve Kennedy lock horns on Saturday. Picture Marco De Luca

Sunshine’s time at the top of the Western Region Football League division 1 was short-lived.

The Kangaroos were knocked off their lofty perch through a nine-point loss to Altona Vikings in a nailbiter at Kinder Smith Reserve on Saturday.

After a mere week on top, the Kangaroos watched as four-peat premier Deer Park took over the top ranking as the game of musical chairs continues among the contending sides.

Kangaroos coach Barney Hallinan said his side’s effort against Altona was uncharacteristically sloppy.

“We had a lot of costly, unforced turnovers and didn’t take care of the ball,” he said.

“We got hurt on the transition and that was an influential factor that decided the game.”

There were many parts of Sunshine’s game about which Hallinan was not enthused.

At the top of the list was the loss of the midfield battle.

“I thought their midfield were really good at extraction around stoppages and their centre clearance work,” he said.

“Their ruckman [Mark Paget] was influential in patches and got them going. I thought their ascendancy in the midfield was the difference between winning and losing.”

Sunshine’s failure to convert forward 50 opportunities at key times hurt.

The Kangaroos had a chance to apply scoreboard pressure in the first quarter, but turned just four of nine scoring shots into goals.

When they had the momentum in the last term, once again they could not make the most of their forward 50 entries. Part of that had to do with their inability to contain Vikings defenders Jayden Post and Joel Magnabosco.

Even with parts of their game not performing to the high standards they have set so far this season, Sunshine led with six minutes to go in the last quarter in a game played with a finals-like intensity.

“Credit to Altona – I thought their defensive pressure was really good,” Hallinan said.

“They’re a good team, they’re well coached and they’ve got good structures, so they got the chocolates on this one.”

Liam Cavanagh was Sunshine’s answer to the Post-Magnabosco combination.

Cavanagh was a rock at centre-half back, continuing his outstanding form this season.

“At the moment, he’s one of the best defenders in the league,” Hallinan said. That’s a testament to his hard work and character.”

Darren Haby and Daniel Castellano booted three goals each for the Kangaroos, while Hayden Moloney, Luke Allan and Jesse Hemmens were among the best.

Despite the hiccup, Sunshine heads into the Queen’s Birthday break well and truly entrenched in the top five. Hallinan praised his players for leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to this point in the season.

“We train the boys very hard and deliberately,” he said. “The boys have been very willing to put their heads down and work hard on the training track and that won’t stop.”

Meanwhile, Sunshine’s games record tumbled on Saturday when Brad Connor turned out for his 428th game in the reserves’ win over Altona. Hallinan praised Connor for his loyalty, which has become a rare trait in footballers these days.

“I was able to sit back today and admire the community spirit that surrounded today’s celebration of Brad’s milestone,” he said.