By LIAM DURKIN
MOST tipsters would have got five from five in Round 11 of Gippsland League football.
With seven regular season games to go, there is still ample time for teams in the top four to fine tune a few things as finals approach, while the race is on for teams currently occupying the next few places below to gain what is looking like only one available spot and a golden ticket to September.
TRARALGON kept its season alive with a hard-fought win on the road against Maffra.
The Maroons held off a fast finishing Eagles to win by nine points 13.8 (86) to 11.11 (77).
With both teams needing to win to stay in contention, the match carried a finals-type build up, and a grandstand finish was a fitting result.
Traralgon kicked five goals to one in the opening term to make the early running, and kicked another five in the second to be 29 points the better as teams went into the sheds for the main break.
The second quarter saw the Maroons add five goals in nine minutes, which was ignited by a double goal after Ewan Williams was awarded a 50 metre penalty.
After Williams goaled, the umpires then handed the ball to Traralgon coach Jake Best who kicked another from point-blank range.
While it may not have been immediately obvious at the time, given how the match transpired, the offending Maffra players may have been issued with a ‘don’t come Monday’ for gifting Traralgon two goals.
The Maroons led by 36 points at three quarter time, and looked to have the game under control.
However, with their season on the line and the chance of their first finals miss since 1999 at stake, the Eagles refused to yield.
Maffra slowly but surely ate away at the deficit, and had cut the margin to just 10 points when the clock ticked over to time-on.
With all the momentum, Eagles’ forward John Butcher was given a free kick at the 30 minute mark with the chance to get his side within five points.
Butcher kicked from 40 metres out on a 45 degree angle, but his set shot sailed through for a minor score.
From there, the experience of Traralgon players such as Mark Collison was able to maintain possession and force stoppages to take valuable time out of the game.
The Maroons did not score in the last quarter, but held on in the finish to win their fourth game of the season and stay only four points behind fifth-placed Drouin.
Collison had 34 touches and was among Traralgon’s best. Matt Northe also racked them up with 33, while Liam Farley played his best game for the club.
Tom Hamilton looms as an exciting prospect for the Maroons.
The 17-year-old had 23 hit outs, kicked a goal and took a hanger in a best on ground display.
Traralgon coach Jake Best said it was pleasing to win away from home, and was full of praise for the way in which both his experienced and younger players went about it.
“We were really happy with the result, we knew it was going to be a tough contest, they beat us last time and we haven’t beaten them too often over there,” he said.
“Collison and Matt Northe were outstanding, it was Collo’s best game for the year. A few of our guys are real role players, we had Jeffrey McDonald play a great role at half forward with defensive pressure, Farley (Liam), Williams (Ewan), there were quite a number of players that played a role we needed.
“Tommy Hamilton is going to be a star, he’s got a great future ahead of him. He nearly took the game away from Morwell last week and just showed what he can do, his ability in the air and in the contest is phenomenal.
“There are some others coming through so we are going to give them opportunities.”
Speaking on the last quarter, Best said his team made the mistake of trying to save the game rather than winning it.
“We went too defensive too early, we went into our shell and Maffra’s big players stood up,” he said.
“We just lost our attack, we put numbers behind the ball, it was a really good three quarter effort except for the last but it was still pleasing to hang on.”
The Maroons have been training at junior grounds across Traralgon and Morwell while their oval is under repair, and Best said the group has shown great resilience in making do.
“Training has been challenging but the boys attitude has been awesome, it’s not ideal but it is what it is,” he said.
“On the weekend we played a really good brand and we haven’t been able to train on our ground so it shows that the attitude is there. We’re just going week-by-week at the moment, we’re not thinking about finals at all with this young group. I know it’s really cliche but we’re playing up-and-down at the moment, we have a lot of young kids playing so we’re just focusing on each week’s opponent and just trying to get better.”
The Butcher brothers John and Danny were best for Maffra, along with Hudson Holmes who has had a solid fortnight.
MOE was never troubled by Bairnsdale.
The Lions led from start to finish in East Gippsland, eventually ending the game 16.14 (110) to 9.7 (61) winners.
A six goal second term
established a 47-point lead, which Moe was then able to keep within the vicinity of for the rest of the game.
Sunny conditions made for some great offensive plays throughout the day, highlighted by running goals to Hayden Prestidge and Jordan Ceppi, as well as a long bomb from Ben Maslen on the edge of 50.
Youngster Bailey Humphrey was mobbed by teammates after kicking his first senior goal, while Kristian Jaksch nabbed half a dozen majors.
Ruckman Simon Harris was best on ground. Ceppi, Jaksch, Maslen, Scott Van Dyk and Lucas Forato also stood out.
With the sense of adventure always prominent when playing in Bairnsdale, Moe players and officials would have felt it was a job well done on the drive home.
In a good sign of the entire Moe senior squad working together, Casey Demons player and injured Lions senior player Riley Baldi did the running for the reserves earlier in the day.
Gippsland East MP Tim Bull was boundary side watching his old team in action, and despite the result, would have been pleased to see the Bairnsdale City Oval in such immaculate condition.
Bull played over 150 senior games for Bairnsdale and is still playing A Grade cricket in the Bairnsdale Cricket Association at 55 years of age.
Liam Giove, Harry Gibbs and Randall Stewart were adjudged best for the Redlegs.
MORWELL was outplayed by Wonthaggi.
The Power kept the Tigers goal-less in the first half, and only allowed them to kick one goal up to three quarter time on their way to a 13.10 (88) to 3.8 (26) win.
Playing at Morwell for the second time in as many weeks, the Tigers were jumped in the first quarter by Wonthaggi and never recovered.
The Power proved their status as a top three team, and put together a clinical performance with most of their big guns firing.
Troy Harley kicked four goals and Jack Blair was in the thick of the action with three of his own.
For Morwell, Tyler Brown, Josh Hecker, Tom Caile, Brandon McAuliffe, Cody MacDonald and Josh Galea got the nod as the top six performers.
WESTERN Park was mistaken for a bakery after Sale absolutely creamed Warragul.
The Magpies put last week’s huge scare to Bairnsdale well and truly behind them, winning 20.20 (140) to 2.7 (19).
An even first quarter was
followed by a four goal effort by Sale in the second as they took a 34-point lead into the main break.
The Magpies really put the foot down in the third, adding seven goals to no score as the Sale defence was resolute.
It was more of the same in the last, with Warragul again going goalless.
Sale’s backline allowed the Gulls to score just one behind in the second half, while up forward the Dessents had a day out, kicking 11 goals between them.
Brad helped himself to eight and Jordan three. Jackson Glenane also kicked two and usual defender and senior games record holder Chris Laverty drifted forward to kick a cheeky two.
The win keeps Sale locked in outright fourth position with a two game buffer on their nearest challenger, and only one win off joining the top three with the opportunity to secure a double chance.
Best players for the victors were Jamie Sweeney, Jack Leslie, Jack McLaren, Brad Dessent, Cooper Whitehill and Shannen Lange.
Sean Masterson, Sam Whibley and Nick Mulqueen put in
honest efforts for Warragul.
The unfortunate Gulls are still yet to break the duck in 2021, but have winnable games against Morwell and Bairnsdale in the next three weeks.
LEONGATHA was too strong for Drouin.
The Parrots kept top spot with a 14.13 (97) to 6.5 (41) win away from home.
Drouin was without star ruckman Bob McCallum, and Leongatha well and truly exploited this as opposite
number Ben Willis hit the ball down the throat of Tom Marriott time after time.
Todd Beck, Ed Morris and Joe Collins were best for Drouin.
Traralgon v Maffra match statistics (by Paul Carter).
Inside 50s: Traralgon 44, Maffra 51.
Clearances: Traralgon 35, Maffra 23.
Marks inside 50: Traralgon 13, Maffra 11.
Select player statistics
Traralgon: Mark Collison (34 disposals), Matt Northe (33), Corey Stockdale (28), Connor Ambler (22), Jackson McMahon (20).
Maffra: Hudson Holmes (29 disposals), Ed Carr (21), Alex Carr (21).