Maroons win another thriller




Traralgon 9.7 (61) def Bairnsdale 8.8 (56)

TROY Hamilton might not have any hair left soon.

The first-year Traralgon coach, who has previously admitted to getting nervous when his side is six goals up, was taken through another agonising match by his young side in Round 10 at the weekend.

A week after the siren denied a possible Morwell victory over Traralgon and ended the game in a draw, the Maroons were again saved at the final bell when a kick after the siren fell short on the weekend.

The result went in the books as a 9.7 (61) to 8.8 (56) victory over Bairnsdale, however, the manner in which the final term played out again gave spectators full value for money at Terry Hunter Oval.

Virtually nothing separated the sides throughout the four quarters, all the way up to the final siren in fact.

Max East had the chance to give the Redlegs a six-point lead at the 21-minute mark, but missed a set shot from in front of ‘The Deck’.

The ball then made its way down the other end, where Josh Hamilton marked and goaled two minutes later, handing the lead back to Traralgon.

From the next centre bounce, Bairnsdale forced the ball forward, desperately scrambling for every inch.

The Maroons were just as desperate, clogging their defence to try and force stoppages.

Who else but their captain Tye Hourigan to take a critical mark going back with the flight in defence.

Hourigan tempoed the ball to Mitch Membrey in the goal square, but his clearing kick was taken by man mountain Ethan East just outside 50.

Incredibly, East found Cooper Harvey unguarded inside 50, who took a chest mark directly in front 40 metres out.

Five points down and with the chance to live every kids dream at the 26-minute mark, the siren sounded as Harvey was just about to make contact with the ball.

Unfortunately for him and Bairnsdale, the kick fell short, giving Traralgon a plucky escape.

The Maroons have now played in three games decided by five points, (winning two), as well as the draw against Morwell.

Perhaps ironically, North Gippsland Football-Netball League team Woodside (made up largely of Traralgon-based players) had three games decided by exactly one point in 2021.

Some things in footy are just unexplainable – five points and one point exactly – how?

Hamilton was among the best for the Maroons, as was Max Jacobsen, Joel Scholtes, Membrey, Hourigan and Sam Hallyburton.

Tom Blenheim, Lachlan Byrne-Jones, Logan Austin, Will Mitchell, Jamie Dore and Oscar Clarke were best for the Redlegs.

The result keeps Traralgon six points clear in second, although there might be some damning vision coming at the players review.

How could Bairnsdale have someone on their own directly in front of goal at the 26-minute mark of the last quarter when the margin was five points?

Morwell 4.7 (31) def by Wonthaggi 7.13 (55)

WONTHAGGI are coming.

After a horrendous start to the season, that saw the Power drop four of their first five games, Wonthaggi has now started to show the form that saw them make the Grand Final last year.

Last Saturday’s 7.13 (55) to 4.7 (31) victory over Morwell was Wonthaggi’s third from their last five games, and took their win-loss ledger to 4-6.

What’s more, it came on Morwell Recreation Reserve, a venue Wonthaggi has struggled at in recent years.

Admittedly, the Tigers were coming off a six-day break, which may have explained their second half fadeout at the weekend.

Scores were virtually level at the main break, before Wonthaggi kicked five goals to one in a dour second half.

Some prominent names have returned for the Power in recent weeks, and it was little surprise to see them among the best players.

Jack Blair and Isaac Chugg stood out, as did Josh Bates, Shannon Bray, Jye Gilmour (one to challenge Sale’s Jonty McGuiness for the mantle of most improved player in the competition) and Kaj Patterson.

Brandon Bailey, Max Linton, Archie Grant, Boyd Bailey, Cody Macdonald (most underrated player in the competition?) and Tom Smith were best for Morwell in defeat.

Despite the result, Morwell coach Boyd Bailey might be keeping things in perspective.

It is understood Morwell was forced to have a light week on the track following the epic draw with Traralgon the round before, which likely took its toll physically and mentally.

The Tigers remain two points clear inside the top five from Bairnsdale, and face what is looming as an eight-point game against the Redlegs this week.

Wonthaggi meanwhile are seventh with four wins and six losses. Statistically, the Power could afford to drop two more games and still play finals, although without stating the obvious, it would be in their best interests to keep winning.

Sale 13.8 (86) def Moe 10.7 (67)

THERE would have to be alarm bells going off at Moe.

Coming back from the break after Round 6, the Lions only just beat bottom-side Maffra by eight points, lost to Warragul (who are coming third-last), beat Wonthaggi only with a failed kick after the siren from the Power, and have now lost to a half-strength Sale.

Half-strength might not even accurately describe what the Magpies rolled out with on the weekend just gone.

If there was a form ladder, the Moe might honestly be on the bottom – even Drouin and Maffra have had wins by greater margins since the bye.

On the same weekend Collingwood overcame a 54-point deficit to record a stunning victory in the AFL, the local Magpies performed a miracle of their own.

Sale’s however was perhaps even more spectacular.

The romance that emerged from both games, played more than 200 kilometres from each other, was eerie.

Collingwood were without Sale’s own Scott Pendlebury; Sale themselves were without playing-coach Jack Johnstone.

Taking the reigns as coach last Saturday was former Sale senior coach and club great Shane Fyfe, who oversaw a 13.8 (86) to 10.7 (67) win over the Lions at Sale Oval.

It takes two miracles to become a saint, and after playing a major hand in the senior and reserves victories at the weekend, Fyfe could add even another title to his ‘five-time’ moniker (in reference to the number of senior best-and-fairests he has won).

What started as an effort to even field a senior and reserves team ended up being just about the perfect day for Sale Football-Netball Club, on what was also their sponsors day during Round 10.

One of the books penned by Sale FNC historian Tassie Deacon is titled The Mighty Magpies.
Sale was all that and more last Saturday.

If the Round 9 draw between Morwell and Traralgon the week before was the greatest home-and-away match in Gippsland League history, what Sale managed to pull off last weekend would be up there as the most extraordinary.

Weddings, Dustin Martin’s 300th and a couple of other factors left Sale with a shopping list full of unavailability’s, well into double-digits of first-choice senior players.

Joining Johnstone on the sidelines was Will Leslie, Hudson Holmes, Cody Henness, Derek Eggmolesse-Smith, Bohdi Walker, Harry Tatterson, Jack McLaren, Nathan Whitford and Jesse Collins.

To the uninitiated, those might just appear as names on a sheet. However, considering Johnstone, Holmes and Henness have all played VFL, Eggmolesse-Smith AFL, and Tatterson is a current Gippsalnd Power player, there was quality much more than quantity not wearing the black and white at the weekend.

So the victory was highly unlikely, and what’s more, wasn’t just a wet weather slog that can often materialise in June and bring all 36 players on the ground back down to the same level.

That the Magpies beat a Lions outfit that was inside the top-three heading in perhaps elevates the result above anything in recent memory – including Sale’s two finals victories in 2022.

Finals by nature throw up unexpected results. This however was a game Sale was never meant to win. Sale themselves didn’t even think they would win.

So sure they were of defeat, the Express understands Sale even requested to play Moe this round, knowing from a long way out just how short they would be for Saturday, June 15, 2024.

Ordinarily, Round 10 sees the fixture replicate Round 1 opponents, meaning the Magpies would have played arch rival Maffra.

“We’d rather lose to Moe than to Maffra” one Sale official quipped.

For all the players that were missing, Sale still had two who were worth about six such was their output.

Shannen Lange and Jack Leslie combined in the midfield to lead the Magpies, the latter hitting it down the throat of the former for much of the second half, as the home side piled on eight goals to three.Things appeared to be going to script up until the main break, and when Riley Baldi kicked a goal on the run for Moe in front of the Past Players Hill to put his side 17 points up, the Lions looked to have the game in cruise control.

Sale however kept nipping at their opponent’s heals, and three goals for the term, including a nice set shot in the pocket from Brad Dessent cutting the ball back perfectly underneath the social rooms, saw the Magpies head into the sheds only nine points down.

An underdog with the sniff of an upset is a dangerous beast, and so it proved in the third term. Sale, with plenty of belief, kept Moe to just a single behind, while adding a further three goals of their own.

One of them came from Lange, and will be up there in the conversation for goal of the year.

Bairnsdale’s Tyran Rees, who kicked an insane dribble goal in Opening Round against Traralgon, might now have some competition for the award, after Lange swooped on a long kick-in from Jarrod Freeman, took two bounces and finished from right on 50 to put the Magpies eight points up at the 13-minute mark.

Calling the game for TRFM, commentator Nick Lecchino said of Lange and cream rising to the top, “this guy could manifest 40 cappuccinos the way he is going.”

The analogy was justified, as by now, Lange was well and truly streets ahead of anyone else on the ground.

The Magpies had enjoyed a dream start to the third term, after youngster Jack Cantwell (still in thirds) kicked his first senior goal just 30 seconds in, receiving a handball from Lange and snapping truly.

Sale vice captain and cult hero Patrick Tainsh had a busy third quarter, collecting 12 disposals, as the home side went into the last change 10 points clear.

With victory in sight, the Magpies continued to press, and were relentless in their pursuit of victory.

Moe skipper Jacob Wood was assigned to tag Lange, but by then it was too late.

The Lions managed three goals in the final term, but five to Sale meant they were never seriously in danger of losing.

Tom Campbell, another to enjoy cult status at Sale perhaps due to his scruffy beard appearance much like a character out of Cast Away – ignited celebrations after snapping a goal lying flat on his back late in the final term.

Another cult hero, ruckman Zak Russell, who until recently had a flowing blonde mullet, celebrated a win on senior debut, the huge list of unavailability’s paving the way for him and a number of other debutants.

The fact Moe had two senior debutants in Warren Hester and Dustin Blackshaw, not to mention four sets of brothers in the senior side, (Riley and Trent Baldi, Ben and James Maslen, Chris and Nick Prowse and Tom and Dustin Blackshaw) went largely unnoticed.

A name for a few generations back perhaps, Warren probably isn’t finding its way onto too many gift shop souvenir licence plates.

Sale could do no wrong the further the game went along, evident by the 5.0 (30) return in the last 30 minutes of play. Campbell kicked four goals, while Leslie, Freeman, Tainsh, Mitch Dowse and Jonty McGuiness (surely the most improved played in the competition) won plaudits.

Best-on-ground honours however were reserved for Lange. Heading into the match, Lange was on 22 league MVP votes, which are given on two separate 3-2-1 cards by each coach after every game. If the leaderboard doesn’t show him on 28 votes next week, there could be some strongly-worded emails making their way around.

The senior result was perhaps motivated by what took place earlier in the day, when Sale’s reserves also overcame great odds to win by 11 points.

“Things were looking grim,” Sale football director Sam Anstee told those assembled in the post-match function for the traditional reading of results in the social rooms, as the Magpies hit the phones on Friday night to try and scrounge up enough numbers.

A few players were convinced to have a kick after being a “few beers in”, although others, such as Fyfe and fellow senior 300-gamer, Chris Laverty graciously not being too proud to play reserves, along with Traralgon senior premiership player Jordan Bourke and former Victoria Country player Zac Hurley, on the comeback trail from a knee injury in 2021, boosted their credentials.

That they managed to cobble a side together, yet alone win, added another distinction on the coaching CV of veteran coach Peter Morrison, which one could argue was a greater achievement than any of the senior premierships he coached at Stratford.

While some coaches are often criticised for only being as good as the players at their disposal, Morrison has well and truly disproven this applies to him.

He took Sale’s reserves from a winless start after five rounds last year all the way to the Grand Final, and orchestrated victory at the weekend with a team resembling Robin Hood’s Merry Men.

For Moe, the Baldi twins were again prominent, with Trent emerging as an assuming goal kicker with three majors.

The two Bens, Daniher and Maslen, also did a good job, as did Jacob Balfour and playing-coach Declan Keilty.

Keilty’s own form is probably the least of his concerns at the moment, as he searches for answers to try and address exactly where things are falling down.

Almost unexplainably, the Lions were ranked last for contested possession in the competition heading into the previous round – an almost unrecognisable label from a historical context.

On field success aside, if there is one thing Moe teams have always been known for it is their physicality.

An element of mystery also surrounds the Lions’ current predicament – it’s not like they have bad players. On paper at least, the midfield is elite, as is the defence.

What any club would give to have Moe’s starting midfield of Chris Prowse, Trent and Riley Baldi and Daniher, and a back six with three ex-AFL players in Keilty, Brock Smith and Tim Golds.

The comparison that springs to mind is that of Melbourne in the AFL – ironic given that was the club Keilty played for.

What was perhaps lost in the extraordinary events of last weekend was the return of Moe’s hoodoo at Sale Oval.

The record stands at one win at Sale Oval since 2002. One.

Leongatha 16.8 (105) def Maffra 6.7 (43)

IT’S looking like something is going to have to go drastically wrong for Leongatha not to make another Grand Final.

The Parrots maintained outright first position on the Gippsland League ladder after accounting for Maffra in Round 10.

The clash between top and bottom went largely as predicted, with Leongatha winning 16.9 (105) to 6.7 (43) at home.

Maffra, buoyed after their first win for the season the week before, were soon to find out just how much ground there is to make up.

By halftime the margin was 34 points, and 41 by three quarter time.

A quartet of players kicked three goals each for Leongatha, being Tallin Brill, Jenson Garnham, Jackson Harry and Tom Marriott, who was voted best-on-ground.

Perhaps the biggest talking point was the fact Jack Ginnane remained goalless, a seemingly unheard of outcome in a game when the Parrots scored more than 100 points.

Joining Marriott in the best was Cooper Alger, Sam Forrester, Harry, Jake van der Plight and Ben Willis.

Caleb Calwyn did his form no harm for Maffra, adding four goals. Others to play well were Jett Killoran, Harry Stables, Henry Anderson, Seth Smith and Alex Carr.

The win keeps Leongatha six points clear on top.

The Parrots might just be warming up, as the names Noah Gown and Kim Drew appeared on the reserves team sheet at the weekend.

How do you even compete with this mob?

As if that wasn’t enough, a Leongatha footy fan this week won $550,000 from Tatts.

Does anything ever go wrong for this club?

Drouin 16.8 (104) def Warragul 10.6 (66)

BRENT Clinnick will feel some satisfaction.

Coaching can be a lonely business, but the Drouin leader had reason to smile at the weekend, after his team put western rival Warragul away by 38 points.

The 16.8 (104) to 10.6 (66) win broke a six-game losing streak for the Hawks, who were able to sing the song in Sunday’s standalone game.

The home side took a 19-point lead into the main break, but had to fight off a Warragul outfit that found themselves only 12 points down at the last change.

Drouin made sure of the result, piling on six goals to two in the final term.

Mitch Cotter, perhaps with added motivation after getting tangled up in a huge collision the last time the two sides met, was best for the winners.

Aden Quirk was also busy, along with Will Papley, Tim Hancock, Charlie Bethune and Tom Johnstone.

Isaac Wallace, Sean Masterson, Tom Stern, Luke Garner, Heath Jinks and Mitch Smart were best for the Guls.