20/05/2024

Casey Sherriff (L) and Lauren Pearce (R) were important to Narrm's structure in the win over St Kilda. (Photo: AFL)

Kicking nine behinds after quarter time, Narrm made up for its poor conversion with a brilliant display of contested marking and forward structure.

The Dees set themselves up in the first quarter with all six of their goals, five of which came directly from marks inside 50.

Lauren Pearce made her presence known early against fellow ruck Erin McKinnon, who despite winning the hit outs, struggled when it came to marking contests.

Narrm won contested marks 13 to three, with five of those coming between Pearce and star forward Tayla Harris.

Harris seems to be enjoying her role higher up the ground and rotating through the ruck, not scoring herself but creating two inside 50s and a goal assist.

Speaking to media post-game, coach Mick Stinear was happy with how his side opened the with their strong aerial presence, but saw conversion as a major issue from then on.

“Early on we had a lot of set shots, marks inside 50 and going back and converting which was good,” he said.

“There were four or five rushed on the line, so [the issue is] potentially where we’re having our shots from. We got some good looks on re-entry, so our forwards were putting good pressure on, our backs and mids were able to send it back.

“We’re happy with our contest game for our game today, but we’ve got some work to do in getting some reward on the back of it.”

The Dees have scored 15.26 total in their three games so far, generating plenty of inside 50s but failing to capitalise on them.

Their first term was a preview to what their ideal game plan looks like – winning contested ball, finding contested marks down the line and impacting the scoreboard.

Key to winning the ball from the source was utility Eden Zanker, who contributed a contested mark of her own, eight hit outs, three clearances, and most importantly, two goals.

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Speaking to The Inner Sanctum post-game, the 22-year-old was not only happy with her own performance, but the overall execution of their style of footy.

“Off the back of last year, we wanted to take a bit more of a risk at times through corridor, and look to get the ball in the most dangerous position inside 50, then locking it in and pressing up so we can play more forward 50 footy,” Zanker said.

“That’s just a combination of a lot of work in the pre-season to get the right balance of going fast and going slow.

“The cohesion of the midfield group is incredible. We know where we’re going, we know where we’re tapping.”

Alongside Pearce and Harris, Zanker gave the group of Olivia Purcell, Tyla Hanks, Eliza West and Lily Mithen first use of the footy time after time.

The Dees had one of the model midfields in season six, and appear to be repeating that this campaign too. They were plus seven in clearances by the end of the first team, and didn’t give that up all game.

While Zanker has previously played in the midfield herself, Stinear can afford to push her around to where she’ll be most dangerous.

“We changed things up a little today,” the coach said.

“Our midfield group of West, Purcell, Hanks and Mithen were doing a good job, so that allowed Eden to play as a ruck and go forward.

“We thought she competed really well, was strong around the ball, and created some scoring opportunities.

“It was good to free her up a little bit more and not get too caught up in what all the mids were doing.”

“I love the flexibility that Mick’s allowing me to have in the team,” Zanker added.

“That works well to my strengths aerially, my strength around the ground against other rucks, and I guess my cleanliness on the ground. Loving the roles I’m getting this year.”

Going into Round 4, Narrm is one of four undefeated teams, alongside Brisbane, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs.

The Dees will take on the Lions at Casey Fields, their first game for the season at their fortress. The club hasn’t lost there since Round 7, 2019.

Zanker is relishing the opportunity to welcome them onto their home turf.

“It’ll be amazing to go back to our home ground,” she said.

“We trained out there during the pre-season. Brissy Lions, they’re going to be really tough. I feel like we can bring it to them.

“It’s good to know where we stand in the competition and the league.”

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