By ROB POPPLESTONE
ROUND 9 marked the halfway mark of the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League season.
Although not all teams have faced every opposition, you could start to predict which teams might finish in what position.
Thorpdale v Newborough
THESE two in-form teams had each other pencilled in their diary for a number of weeks, both with the utmost respect for each other but both wanting to end the others remarkable winning streak leading into, what in some ways, felt like a midseason finals clash.
Thorpdale, at home with five wins in succession, welcomed a visiting Newborough who sat atop the league ladder with seven victories from seven games.
The Bulldogs won as expected, but the margin took some by surprise, with only 14 points the difference. Newborough winning 11.16 (82) to 9.14 (68).
“Saturday lived up to expectations with a great open game of footy against a side that brought the contested football,” Newborough coach Craig Skinner said.
“Josh Monacella owned his wing and Tyler Mander owned the league leading goal kicker (Thorpdale’s Matt Powell) with Joel Mitchell and Peter Ainsworth kicking three goals each.
“Pressure in front of goal resulted in inaccurate scoring from both sides.
“A four quarter game where both teams had their chances to win, with our boys learning to win the close one’s even if it’s ugly.
“Jason’s Thorpdale are going to keep improving leading into finals.”
Skinner’s respect for Thorpdale was matched by Blues coach Jason Winderlich.
“It was a good opportunity for our developing group to test ourselves against the undefeated Dogs,” he said.
“It was a great game of football all day. Unfortunately we didn’t take our chances in the second half, kicking 2.9 (21) to Newborough 4.4 (28).
“Both teams played well around the contest but there was also some good passages of free-flowing play from half-back that resulted in goals.
“We are trying to earn respect back in the competition and I think we took another step in that direction.
“The bye has come at a perfect time for us to refresh and get ready to attack the back half of the season.”
Hill End v Boolarra
HILL END have found themselves in the undesirable position of being at the bottom of the ladder, waiting for a win.
Round 9 however was seen as a real possibility for the Rovers, welcoming and then hoping to jump a Boolarra team that hadn’t quite found their mojo just yet.
The Rovers were good, but the Demon’s a touch better, winning 15.8 (98) to 12.10 (82).
Winning coach Tony Giardina said it was pleasing to secure back-to-back wins.
“We had a very good start to the game with a strong wind, Hill End came back in the second quarter and it became a tough game right to the end,” he said.
The Demons season is no doubt right on a knife’s edge, and Giardina’s acknowledgement of the importance of their upcoming clash against the Hawks is absolutely spot on. However, the fact is there is still life in their season, while the same can hardly be said for Hill End.
From here, it’s all about pride in performance, and to their credit they are still showing that.
“A 10 minute burst in the first quarter allowed the Demons to jump us,” coach Mike Santo said.
“Although we played well and outscored them for the rest of the match the damage was done.”
Mirboo North v Yinnar
HOPING to be inspired by the presence of their 2013 premiership team, Mirboo North welcomed reigning premier Yinnar to their home ground in search of an unlikely victory.
Ironically, the coach of the Magpies, Daniel Taylor, was also a player in the Mirboo North premiership team of 2013.
Although happy to catch up with former teammates, he had no plans to give up the win on the weekend. Unfortunately for Taylor though, things don’t always go to plan.
The Tigers claimed one of the upsets of the season, beating Yinnar 6.13 (49) to 5.5 (35).
A week is certainly a long time in football, as Mirboo North coach Peter Mongta rightly pointed out.
“A week is a long time in football, the playing group bounced back after a great week on the training track and to get the reward against a top two side,” he said.
“It was a low scoring affair in perfect conditions, it was the battle of defences and our midfield worked hard all day.”
The performance was one that does justice to those that still believe that the Tigers are capable of starting a run at the top half of the ladder, something that looked unlikely just a fortnight ago.
The match was also an awakening for the Magpies, who now know first-hand that every opponent can be a danger if your head is not in the game.
Taylor acknowledged this to be the case.
“We got outplayed and outworked for the majority of the day which was disappointing,” he said.
“We lifted in the third quarter and got our game going to some extent, but one good quarter of football is never enough.”
Morwell East v Tarwin
ALTHOUGH outside the top six, both Morwell East and Tarwin, who sat seventh and eighth respectively, were both just one win away from third position such is the evenness of the competition.
Both teams were also aware of the importance of victory, and that was reflected in the desperation that both sides showed throughout the afternoon.
However, in the end it was the Sharks, but only just, Tarwin winning 7.9 (51) to Morwell East 7.7 (49).
Tarwin coach Troy Hemming was ecstatic with the result.
“The game was a great game to watch! Great game to coach! Great game to win!” he said.
“We wanted to stay in the winners list, but most importantly, keep playing Shark footy and we seem good snippets today!
“Morwell East put up a huge fight and nearly got us at the line but we held on”
Those four premiership points are like gold, and Tarwin snatched them from a Hawks side that for all bar one poor quarter, could have secure them as well.
“It was a devastating loss for us. A really bad third quarter cost us. We came home strong but just couldn’t snatch it,” Morwell East coach Paul Henry said.
It is quite amazing that every week seems to be crucial for a number of teams, but guess what, Morwell East’s clash with Boolarra this week is a must win for both teams.
Foster v Toora
IT is amazing how many times that two teams, despite their respective positions on the ladder, (Foster sixth and Toora 12th before Round 9) can manage to fight out a closer than expected clash built on the back of a long-standing rivalry. However, one of those times was not on the weekend just gone.
Foster flexed their muscle, and at the same time sent a message to the league, that the Tigers are ready for bigger and better challenges after winning 27.21 (183) to 3.4 (22).
Foster coach Sam Davies labelled it a near-perfect performance.
“Really pleased with our performance after the first 10 minutes – we had some post-bye rust, but to have 11 different goal kickers and being ruthless was something we haven’t been as a group in a long time,” he said.
That ruthlessness signals that the Foster team is the real deal, and no one knows that more than their weekend opponent in Toora.
“Extremely tough day against a Foster side stacked with talent and a young player that’ll have every AFL recruiter salivating over the next three years,” Toora coach Jack Weston said.
That young player is Will Duursma, brother of Port Adelaide’s Xavier. The younger Duursma kicked six goals in the Tigers’ win over Toora.
MDU V Stony Creek
AS much as the focus was on the clash between Thorpdale and Newborough, the match between Meeniyan Dumbalk United and Stony Creek was every bit as intriguing.
The Demons had started to gather some real momentum in recent weeks, and although the visiting Stony Creek were still desperately searching for another much-needed win, the Lions past fortnight (even in defeat) had proven they were very close to being a force to be reckoned with.
That still remains the case, after the Demons got the better of their visitors, winning 12.9 (81) to 8.12 (60).
MDU coach Nathan Allen said it was a hard-fought victory.
“It was another good result for us today, making it four in a row,” he said.
“Stony came at us all day, but we were able to kick away in the last quarter.
“We head to Newborough next week, so really looking forward to seeing how we stack up against them.”
As satisfying as the win was for the Demons, it’s death by a thousand cuts for the Lions, who continue to courageously fight out matches only to fall agonisingly short.
“It was a disappointing start to the game for our boys,” Stony Creek coach Chris Verboon said.
“Meeniyan’s run and spread was hard to defend early. We showed some fight in the last half by playing our brand of footy but it was too late. It shows how important it is to play four quarters of footy.”
FISH CREEK had the bye.