Slow starts, sloppy second halves, and a comeback for the ages has seen the Animals have a Saturday that leaves more questions than answers ahead of the second half of the season.
The Reserves kicked things off by handing the Cobras a three goal lead before Tom Birkett continued his stellar form by dragging the Animals back in to the game with a brace of tight angle goals. Will Morris then kept the Animals within touch with his first goal since July 2017, marking a successful return to the Animals fold.
Canterbury had the lions share of the game in the second half, but the Animals were able to hold on with the Cobras wayward kicking seeing a 2.5 to 1.3 quarter.
The game was being won by the Cobras in the middle, which at one stage of the day may have contained grass, but halfway through what was the second game of the day it created a secondary challenge for all involved, one which the Cobras were able to conquer early.
But after a dressing down at half time, and the discovery of another skill in the ever-growing bag of tricks Joe Anker brings to every game, the Animals swung the momentum. Anker was swung into a tagging role of Canterbury’s best mid in Jordan Tomas. After stand in coach Jonathan Greensides delivered a speech that will be recounted for years to come, Anker locked down Tomas and drew the ire of the Cobras team. Distracted by the side battle, the Animals pounced and made it a two kick game heading into the final term.
The Cobras kicked clear again early in the fourth, but more inspirational play by Anker lifted his teammates and the Animals begun to surge. Slowly but surely Leo’s clawed their way back and with 4 minutes to go it was back to a two kick game.
Enter Josh Webb. Webb had been in and out of the contest throughout the day, but Webb chose the perfect time to unleash his booming left foot to split the sticks in what was his final input of the day from 55m out.
It was the time for the Animal to pull out the big guns, Lachlan Gunn to be exact. After already beating his direct opponent in the air earlier in the quarter, Gunn did it again in almost the exact same spot. Like his earlier kick, gun barrel straight, it was met with a roar from the Animals bench and supporters, and with only 40 seconds left on the clock saw the Animals claw their way back to split the points.
The Seniors were not as slow out of the blocks than their reserve counterparts, but were in a similar position after a quarter of football. Foxy Beluszar was dominant in the air early, with Brent Simons accruing early touches until he was felled in a sweeping movement that ended in an Animals goal.
The second term was the best half hour of football for the day by the Seniors, but were only able to convert 22 inside 50’s in to 3 goals, whilst holding Canterbury to 3 behinds. A backline still missing some key components was doing more than its fair share in shutting down a dangerous Cobra outfit. The brilliance of Paul Baranello was shining through, and he was willing the Animals along. Simons, Emerson Lemkau, and Alex Stokes were all chipping in and the Animal headed into the long break in control of the contest.
However the winds of change swept through after half time, and the Cobras struck often and with intent. A goalless term from the Animals left them reeling as they turned for home, and the rallying cry was put out there for the Animals to stand up and send a message to the Cobras and the rest of the league.
Canterbury were the ones who made their own statement however, and in the late winter sun that bathed the Canterbury Sportsground kicked 4 goals to run away with a 32 point win and leave the Animals searching for answers entering the second half of the season.
The reserves stay in 3rd on the table, now with the wildcard element of a draw to their points total, whilst the Seniors stay 4th but see their spot in the 4 still far from secure.