Noble Park is sitting pretty in the EFL Premier Division, having willed its way past Rowville in a scrappy affair at Pat Wright Senior Oval on Saturday.
The 6.16 (52) to 6.5 (41) victory was Noble’s third straight, and moved it to second on the ladder.
Bulls coach Steve Hughes painted a relieved picture post-game.
“I thought it was an ordinary game of footy to be honest. It was a bit of who would make more mistakes would lose the game,” he said.
“We probably turned the ball over more than we have all year, and gave it directly back to the opposition which hurts you a lot.
“We were able to win a few of the key moments throughout the game that ended up getting us the result. Not by any way satisfied by the way we played but really happy to get the result.”
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Rowville held the home side scoreless for almost all of the first term, but the Bulls took control in the second.
They struggled to cash in on their dominance, returning eight behinds without a major, before finishing with two goals for the quarter to lead 3.10 (28) to 2.4 (16) at the main break.
Noble’s wastefulness left the door ajar for Rowville, with Jake Arundell’s goal early in the third instilling belief in the brown and gold.
The Hawks managed to scrap to a one-point deficit at the final interval, but it wasn’t to be.
The sides exchanged majors in the last, with champion Kyle Martin’s goal ultimately sealing the result, Noble Park winding up an 11-point victor.
His side has started the season strongly, but Hughes insists “we’re not necessarily thinking about the premiership, just trying to set ourselves up”.
“It’s a 16-game season, so getting 4-1 sets our season up a little bit,” he said.
“We’ll probably focus on trying to get a certain amount of wins by the halfway mark, I’m not sure exactly the number yet, but we’ll take 4-1 every day of the week.”
Hughes was pleased with the performances of several players.
“Jake Gains was excellent in the ruck, he toiled against a bigger ruckman in (Nikolas) Schoenmakers, but even late in the game a couple of intercept marks, killing the ball, getting it out of bounds. He was terrific.
“I thought Ali Zijai, whilst he turned the ball over a little bit, his work ethic was outstanding. He worked up and down the ground all day, got busy for us, he was really important.
“I thought Riet Pal across half-back, he halved a lot of contests, was a bit of a force field for the opposition, really pleased with him.
“We didn’t have a lot of huge standouts, but we had some contributors throughout the day.”
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Despite the room for improvement, Hughes took a big positive out of his side’s ability to win ugly.
“I think that’s a bit of a sign of maturity in your group. You don’t play your best footy but you walk away with the win. That’s probably the biggest positive for us for the day.”
The Bulls gave debuts to Under 19’s Sam Carney and Luke Maliki, both small forwards.
Maliki was pushed up by reserves coach Richard Szersyn and was lively.
“He was terrific, really excited to be playing a senior game. He did well.’’
Carney had been in the thoughts of the match committee for a few weeks, and had a run in the senior team in the practice matches.
Also seen in Herald Sun/Leader Local Footy