TAC Cup: Western Jets’ finals bid gets a lift

A FIRST-quarter burst set up a key victory for the Western Jets as they beat the Northern Knights by 15 points in TAC Cup at Princes Park on Saturday.

The win could prove crucial to the Jets’ finals hopes, with  the 12.17 (89) to 11.8 (74) result pushing them to the upper end of the scrap for finals places.

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The Jets stand at four wins, four losses and a draw – good enough for sixth on the table and putting them in the top eight by a game from the ninth-placed Knights.

Western kicked the first five goals of the game and held the lead thereafter, with Northern getting no closer than eight points in the third term. 

Melton’s Lachlan Hickey kicked four goals. 

Tried in a range of roles this season by Jets coach Torin Baker, Hickey has nine goals for the year and has been named among the best on three occasions.

“We’ve played him (Hickey) on the ball, down back and on the wings, but we’ve found he gives our forward line so much bite,” Baker said. “He’s got great speed and endurance and tends to work his player up high then beat him on the way back. He’s been brilliant in that role for us.”

Bacchus Marsh’s Liam Duggan was among the best for his fourth straight TAC Cup game, the 16-year-old opening his goal tally with arguably the best of Saturday’s game. Duggan took the ball cleanly from a centre bounce in the second quarter and ran to about 60 metres out, kicking long to an open forward line where the ball bounced through an unguarded goal square.

“We’ve thrown him [Duggan] some challenges, being able to play on some good opponents and beat them in the last couple of weeks,” Baker said.

“The next step for Liam is going on the ball … he will become a versatile footballer for us.”

Reflecting territorial dominance on the scoreboard was an area the Jets could have improved. 

“Certainly, it’s a credit to the Knights in the second quarter where they changed the way the game was played,” Baker said. “Getting numbers back into our defence and making it hard for us to score.

“When the conditions were fine in the second quarter, we needed to look for our shorter options with the packed forward line we had. When the conditions change, you can’t over-possess the footy and we got the balance right in the second half.”

Bacchus Marsh’s Ryley Stuhldreier and Brenton Payne and Darley’s Billy Myers and Brett Bewley also featured in the Jets’ win.

The Jets play ladder leader Geelong Falcons (8-1) at Burbank Oval from 1pm on Saturday.