CHFA. A clean sweep of wins from U/14 to senior level has left the Scotchtown faithful smiling as local league matches returned on Saturday.
The Tigers earned a hard-fought 25-point win over reigning premiers Redpa in the Seniors under lights for the first time, while Forest-Stanley’s convincing 87-point home win over 2014 grand finalists Irishtown re-emphasised a shift in momentum this year.
The Demons were too strong on the day with Marty Hardy (three goals) leading a host of goal kickers, while the Canaries can still look forward to welcoming back the likes of Zaryn Monson, Michael Booth and Alexander Hursey in the coming weeks.
At Smithton Recreation Ground, cars piled in throughout the day and the crowd continued to build to reach its peak at night, as players battled through consistent periods of rain along with the new challenge of a night atmosphere.
Former Saint Josh Smith made his season debut with the Tigers to highlight a host of off-season inclusions, while Redpa coach Zach Bransden pulled on the boots despite recent injury as his side battled on without a rotating bench for much of the game.
Scotchtown took a narrow one-point lead into the opening break and extended the margin by a goal going into half time, but a tightly contested match blew open slightly in the third to see the Tigers take a 19-point lead by three-quarter time.
Maintaining their composure, the Tigers kicked three goals to two in the final quarter to open their 2015 account with a win, highlighted by three goals apiece to coach Brent Burgess and Tim Grey.
CHFA 2014 Best and Fairest winner Nathan Bransden was a standout for the Redlegs, named among the best on ground with three goals to his name.
“It’s not something that has happened to us for the last four or five years, so it was a great start to the season,” Burgess said of the Tigers’ clean sweep on Saturday.
“We’ve done plenty of work on the things we needed to work on. It’s important to get the belief back into the group – I believe we’re good enough.”
Burgess said the addition of improved lighting also boosted the atmosphere for both players and fans: “It’s a great spectacle for Circular Head football. You can just see the excitement for people to come and watch.”
Despite the opening loss, Redpa coach Bransden said he was “really happy” with his side’s performance without usual strength in numbers, also praising the contribution of night football to the competition.
“I didn’t have any trouble picking [the ball] up – it still felt pretty natural,” he said of the late setup, adding the timing of the schedule took a “bit of getting used to”.