By LIAM DURKIN
MOST tipsters would have gone five from five in Round 10 of the Gippsland League.
No major surprises came to hand as results were made official on Saturday night.
With Round 10 ordinarily the time the fixture mirrors what is seen at the start of the year, this season, the Gippsland League has mixed up its second half of the season.
Matches last Saturday replayed those from Round 4 earlier in the year.
Teams have one more game before a league-wide bye, which will run into the last seven rounds of the season spread across eight weeks.
There is still a split round to come in August, by which time the equation for clubs aiming to play finals or secure a double chance will be set in stone.
Until then, teams still in the hunt will be doing all they can to ensure they won’t have to rely on results falling their way.
THE F word is still alive at Morwell.
No, not that one – finals.
Morwell can genuinely still make finals.
The Tigers went to equal-fifth at the weekend after defeating Warragul.
Travelling to Western Park, the visitors led from start to finish, with the final scoreboard reading 12.11 (83) to 5.7 (37).
Morwell did most of their good work either side of halftime. The Tigers only conceded 1.2 (8) across the second and third terms, with Warragul not even troubling the scorers in the second. Morwell added 4.6 (30) in the same time.
The Tiger’s finished the game as they started, kicking four goals.
Brandon Mcauliffe played well for the winners, as did Burkely Macfarlane, Aidan Quigley, Zac Anderson, Blake Couling and coach Boyd Bailey.
Macfarlane has been in good form, named in the best four times out of the last six games.
Having dropped the corresponding game earlier in the season, Bailey said it was pleasing to flip the result.
“I was happy with the way we were able to move the ball and set up behind the ball, (it) was a real positive for us,” he said.
“The backs set-up really well behind the ball and we were able to get pressure at the source, which made them have to hack kick it out.
“I was really happy with the way we defended, and from good defence comes good offence.”
Continuing the positivity from Tigerland was senior debutant Ricky Mentha.
Riley Oddy was also rewarded with senior selection after kicking nine goals in two weeks in the reserves. Bailey said the Mirboo North product “gave us a reason why we had to bring him into the side.”
Morwell’s ladder position looks eerily similar to this time 12 months ago.
Although the Tigers have only won four games and sit sixth, there is still a very high chance they can take the last available spot in finals.
The Tigers followed a similar script last season, and came home with a wet sail to secure a finals berth in the last round.
Without forecasting too much, Morwell hosts Sale in Round 16, a match that could have a huge bearing on the makeup of the final five.
Ironically, it was the Magpies who the Tigers beat in the final round last year to make finals.
Such a result raised a few eyebrows, as Maffra’s qualification for finals relied on the Eagles winning their last game and Sale doing likewise.
Maffra won, but in what is now part of Gippsland League folklore, Sale, with the double-chance sewn up and the opportunity to deny their rival a place in finals, rested a few key players for the Morwell match.
Call it what you will, the Magpies’ decision may have been justified as they ended up making the Grand Final.
Given Wonthaggi, currently in third, lost to Sale in the preliminary final last year, could the Power be entertaining thoughts of getting one back at the Magpies by single-handedly deciding their finals fate if it comes to the crunch in Round 18?
The Power travels to Morwell in the last round this season.
If Wonthaggi has a double-chance sewn up, and Morwell is a game clear of Sale … would they do it?
While that line of thinking is there just to add some spice, the Tigers will surely be out to make finals on their own merit.
Bailey simply said the lure of finals meant there was still games to be won.
“As long as you’re a mathematical chance to play finals I think you do everything you possibly can to make sure you are part of late August/early September,” he said.
“We want to play as much footy as we can this year, the goal always is to play finals, that is what you aim for, to be a part of that time of year.
“You don’t like looking back, but dropping the game to Warragul earlier in the year, losing to Sale by four points, you win those two, you’re 6-4 and two games clear, that’s how tight the Gippy League is this year.”
Morwell has a busy few days ahead on and off the field.
Not only are the Tigers playing traditional rival Traralgon in a standalone Sunday match, but Morwell is also gathering for a number of premiership reunions.
Incredibly, the Tigers have premierships to celebrate from each decade starting 1953 and ending 2013.
Bailey is the sole survivor from the 2013 senior flag, coming full circle from a 19-year-old kid to now be senior coach of the club.
“It’s been a fast 10 years, people always say how quick your footy career goes,” he said.
“You look back and can’t believe it’s already been 10 years, but there is five premiership reunions over the weekend, so it should be a special weekend down at Morwell.
“Hopefully we can get a few of the ex-premiership players involved during the week to spur on the boys come Sunday.”
In a somewhat confusing piece of organisation, the reunions have been scheduled the day before the match against Traralgon.
One has to feel sorry for Bailey, who, with a game to play the next day, won’t really be able to celebrate his 10 year reunion long into the night.
Given the likely festivities at the reunion, there could be some sore heads watching the current day Tigers when they take the field the next day.
From an extreme positive to an extreme negative, the unfortunate Gulls are staring down the barrel of a very long end to the season.
The new West Gippsland Hospital can’t come quick enough for Warragul footballers, who look like they will be spending some time in similar places over the next few months.
Ruckman Sam Whibley broke his leg in the last quarter at the weekend, joining playing-coach Jed Lamb, who suffered the same fate in horrific scenes a few weeks ago.
New recruit and ex-Carlton midfielder Liam Sumner was also a late withdrawal after injuring his ankle in the warmup.
So, the Gulls now have to get through the last eight games of the season without their best ruckman, best forward and minus a key midfielder.
For a team that is currently second-last on the ladder, one can only imagine just what the next few weeks will look like.
TRARALGON played in another high-scoring match against Drouin.
There was a sense of deja vu, as the Maroons’ final score at the weekend was only two points off their game against the Hawks from earlier in the year.
Traralgon was ahead at every break, but Drouin, as they have done for most of the year, kept the goal umpires busy, in a final tally that read 21.8 (134) to 10.13 (73) at Terry Hunter Oval.
More than 30 goals were kicked, a fair effort considering 10 of them came from a team on the bottom of the ladder.
The Maroons broke the game open in the second, kicking seven goals to two, taking a 34-point lead into the main break.
Traralgon was able to manage the game from there, and finished full of running, scoring six goals in a dominant final term.
The home side had an excellent spread of goal-kickers, which would have no doubt pleased coach Jake Best, who has maintained all season Brett Eddy can’t be the one to do it all.
Eddy kicked four, and was joined by Max Jacobsen and Billy Schilling who returned the same amount.
Young gun Tom Hamilton contributed three, while skipper Dylan Loprese was back in his natural habitat up forward, and finished with two.
Jacobsen and Schilling were listed in the best, as was Luis D’Angelo, Jordan Cunico, Jackson McMahon and Harvey Neocleous.
Sebastian Amoroso, Charlie Bethune, Shay Harvey, Tom Evans, Bailey Stephens and Joe Collins were best for Drouin.
A league-wide bye on July 1 means next round is the last time Gippsland League followers will see names they are familiar with on team sheets.
With clearances open until June 30, clubs still have a few days to try and bolster their stocks.
While it is hard to see any current club pulling in a player from outside, pundits will watch on with interest to see if there are any sneaky selections or funny-bugger business that takes place.
MOE was never really troubled by Bairnsdale.
The Lions made the trip east, and had the game sewn up at halftime, before easing off to win 15.9 (99) to 11.8 (74).
Perfect conditions made for free-flowing and high-scoring football. The visitor’s opened their account with six goals in the opening quarter, and added another five in the second.
The Redlegs only managed one goal in the second term, as it quickly became clear they needed two Logan Austin’s – one at either end.
The key position Bairnsdale playing-coach was busy in defence, trying in vain to stop the dominance of Billy Gowers, who ended up kicking seven goals.
Moe continued on their way in the third, and led by 49 points at three quarter time.
With a huge game against Wonthaggi to come, the Lions put a few players on ice in the second half.
Playing-coach Declan Keilty watched on, while speedy half-forward Harri Sim played limited minutes.
The Redlegs went all-out attack in the last, and got some respectability on the scoreboard by kicking five goals to one.
Austin was in the best, as was Lachlan Byrne-Jones (four goals), Nathan Dennison, Harrison Cook, Andrew Nelson and Link McKenna.
Gowers received good support from Brock Smith, Scott van Dyk, Tyler Pratt, Jordan Ceppi and Riley Baldi.
Baldi was available due to a break in his VFL schedule with Casey. Moe will be pleased to now have Baldi qualified for finals, with Saturday being his fourth match for his home club.
The day carried significance for Moe veteran Ben Morrow, who ran out for his 200th senior game.
Showing how highly he is respected around the club, a number of supporters made the trip to Bairnsdale to congratulate him.
The former senior captain led the team out, bursting through a banner of well wishes.
There is set to be another milestone for Morrow, as he is on the cusp of also playing 250 club games later in the year.
Moe players from the reserves game forming a guard of honour for Morrow as he ran out walked off victorious after an entertaining game decided by a point.
The Lions found themselves 15 points down early in the last, before slamming on four goals to get some breathing space.
Moe took the ultimate risk by playing Josh Dwyer in the ruck, but the gamble paid off, as the he proved swimmers can jump up and not just forward.
There was another twist in the tale however, as a Bairnsdale goal with a minute left cut the margin back to one point. Fortunately, with no time-on, all players were aware of how long was left, and Moe players did whatever it took to kill off the remaining seconds.
How handy is it knowing exactly how long is left in twos footy.
THERE is still a train line operating in Wonthaggi.
It isn’t taking passengers though – because it’s a freight train.
The freight train that is Wonthaggi seniors was running express at the weekend, after the Power electrocuted Maffra by 133 points.
The home side dominated proceedings from the get-go, adding goals of five, five, six and six across each quarter, to see the scoreboard blow out to read 22.14 (146) to 2.1 (13).
Conversely, Maffra started the match as they finished it – without scoring. The Eagles scored no goals, no behinds, no nothing in the first and last term.
Brayden Monk, Nathan Pollard, Alex Carr, James Read, Ed Carr and Sam Robbins battled hard in the losing cause.
Maffra added another two youngsters to the growing list of senior debutants this season in Ashton Wright and Jonathan Boyd.
If the day held any positives for the Eagles, their next generation saw first-hand just how the best in the business go about it.
While they are third on the ladder, there is no doubting Wonthaggi are currently the best team in the Gippsland League.
The Power has the highest percentage, and has won seven games in a row.
Their form line is scary good.
In the last five weeks they have won games by 74 points, 138, 79, 85 and 133 – and that 79-point win was against finals-bound Traralgon.
Wonthaggi midfielder Ryan Sparkes is walking on water at the moment.
He was best on again at the weekend, and was leading the league MVP by a staggering nine votes before last round.
Skipper Aidan Lindsay also played well in the win, as did Shannon Bray, Kyle Reid, Jordan Staley and Cooper McInnes.
McInnes’ returns in front of goal have been four, seven, five and six in the last four weeks.
The Power’s last loss came at the hands of Moe in Round 3.
Wonthaggi travels to Moe this weekend for the rematch, in what is absolutely match-of-the-round between second and third.
Match of the round on Saturday, rolling into Morwell versus Traralgon on Sunday.
Valley football followers sure will be spoilt this weekend.
SALE found itself engaged in a good contest against Leongatha.
The Magpies were ahead at halftime, before the ladder-leading Parrots took ascendency and went on to win 14.14 (98) to 9.6 (60).
Sale started the match with a positive first quarter at home, making better use of their inside 50s. The Magpies scored three goals, while a wasteful Leongatha went into the first break with five behinds to their name.
Honours were relatively even in the second, as the Parrots added four goals and Sale kicked two.
With the sniff of victory permeating in the home rooms, the class of Leongatha came to fruition in the third quarter. The Parrots kicked five goals to one to take a 23-point lead into three quarter time.
The game opened up in the last, with eight goals kicked collectively between the two sides.
Guy Dickson, Jack Hume, Jesse Burns, Cade Maskell, Tom Marriott and Ben Willis won plaudits for the winners.
The Leslie brothers of Jack and Will were best for Sale, while Jack McLaren was named in the best once again.
Midfield gun Shannen Lange also featured, as did Daine McGuiness and Kane Martin, who kicked three goals.
The rise of McGuiness in the last few years has made for one of the great stories in local footy.
The ruckman was battling away in the reserves only five years ago, and has now been named among Sale’s best in the seniors for the last six weeks.
Speaking of reserves, the Sale reserves recorded one of the better home-and-away wins you are likely to see in that grade, when they rolled Leongatha by a point.
Along with Maffra, the Parrots have been a powerhouse of the early game for many years.
Leongatha went undefeated last season, getting past Sale in the decider.
For Sale to defeat Leongatha this time around was a remarkable result considering not only that history, but the fact that the last time they met earlier in the year, the Parrots inflicted the Magpies with a margin well over 100 points.
Under coach Peter Morrison, Sale has recorded some memorable wins in the last 12 months. The Magpies sent Wonthaggi out in straight sets during last year’s finals series, and backed it up by winning a thriller against Maffra in the preliminary final.
Morrison, the ex-South Melbourne player, just has a knack of getting players to reach great heights.
He coached Stratford to multiple premierships in the East Gippsland league, both times taking on teams coming off a low base.
When coaching Stratford in 2019, and with the Swans needing to win the last game of the home-and-away season to make finals, Morrison got his players to write the names of every person they could think of that been involved with the club on the wall.
The rooms were getting knocked down after the game, so part of the messaging was to dedicate the last game in the old rooms to all who had used them previously.
By all reports, it was one of the most motivation things people had ever seen.
There will be cause for massive celebration in a couple of weeks, when Sale legend Shane Fyfe plays his 300th game.
In what would surely be a rarity, there could be three 300 gamers all in the one reserves game, with Fyfe joining fellow Sale stalwarts Chris Laverty and Chris Hudson.
Laverty is the senior games record holder, now helping the club in the early game, while Fyfe is doing likewise, following a decorated career that has seen him win five senior best-and-fairest’s, leading to the nickname ‘Five Time Fyfe’.
Hudson too has been loyal to the bone at the Magpies, and enjoyed multiple finals series.
A number of Sale players toasted their Leongatha victory at the Gippsland Hotel on Saturday night, joined by Moe players coming back from Bairnsdale.