Martin magic helps Bulls break drought

Kyle Martin kicked four goals in his side's win over Berwick on Saturday. 277789 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

Beloved Noble Park captain Kyle Martin sung the Bulls song on Saturday for the first time since September 2022’s grand final victory as his side ended an eight-game losing streak in emphatic fashion against Berwick in the Eastern Football Netball League.

With the season at a crossroads in round 12, the Bulls played a dominant three quarters of football that rendered their opponents goalless on their way to a 13.14 92 to 4.7 31 win at home.

Berwick was prevented from kicking a major until the eighth minute of the final term, courtesy of a Liam Scott turnover deep in defence.

By that stage, the Bulls had 12 on the board in an attempt to build some momentum coming into the season’s final straight.

It took 16 minutes in the opening term for either side to goal, but once Chris Horton-Milne ensured the Bulls charged through the ice, the floodgates opened.

Lachlan McDonnell cruised out of the next centre clearance to find a leading Martin, who kicked truly from distance, before goals to Nathan Noblett, Jordan Marson and a second for Martin gave the Bulls a 31-point lead at the first break.

Following Horton-Milne’s breakthrough, the ball seldom entered the Bulls’ back 50 as the dynamic midfield of McDonnell, Jackson Sketcher, Luke Bull and co looked out to teach lessons.

Second-gamer Liam O’Rourke kicked off proceedings in the second term with a brilliant running goal, and Ben Marson compounded Berwick’s problem by nailing a tough set shot, after the Bulls whisked the ball the length of the ground following a fullback kick out.

A fortunate dribbling goal from Jordan McDonnell made it eight before half time for Noble Park, equalling their most profitable halves of the season, and making for a 52-point lead at the half.

In many respects, the contest appeared a case of men against boys, as Noble Park’s stronger, bigger bodies and physicality made life difficult for an emerging Berwick outfit finding its way in 2024.

Sniffing a boost to percentage, the intensity did not waver in the third term with a further four goals from 11 attempts.

Berwick looked up for the fight in the second half, and held their own in the territory battle early in term, but failed to make inroads on the scoreboard.

The visitors made Noble Park wait 20 minutes before Martin put through his third and fourth in a span of two minutes, and O’Rourke added to his highlight reel with a volley on the goalline to make it 12 goals unanswered before three-quarter-time.

Berwick responded with four-goals-to-one in the final term, saving their blushes to a minor degree, but the damage was already done.

The Bulls will hope this win can springboard them to an unlikely finals place in the season’s closing weeks, having dug themselves a hole on the back of the winless run.

Martin, who played as a permanent forward, finished with four goals in a season-best display, and defender Jacob Noble played one of his best games in Bulls colours, having appeared to have found his feet at senior level.

The excellent seasons of Sketcher and Horton-Milne, meanwhile, continued in the Bull’s engine room.

In seventh place after 12 rounds, they are remarkably just two wins away from Blackburn in fourth, with Vermont and South Croydon joining the Panthers on 28 points.

A tough challenge awaits the Bulls next week when they look to exact revenge on Vermont, who came from behind to down them by two points back in four.