Traralgon returned home to its upgraded ground in style with a 139-point win over Drouin in round three of Gippsland League football.
“It’s good to get a win, we all know that. Clearly Drouin is struggling a bit at the moment, but the way we went about our footy was what we needed to do,” Traralgon coach Paul McCulloch said.
McCulloch said he was particularly impressed by the Maroons’ effort to play out the match.
“We have got to use this first home game and build it up and make that a launching pad for where we want to head this year… it’s been a tough start to the year for us and (on Saturday) I think there was a bit of a resolve in the group,” he said.
The Maroons were bolstered by the inclusion of former St Kilda and Gold Coast player, now Richmond Development coach, Andrew McQualter who was happy to help the club kickstart its season.
“Dad played 123 games here and my brother is a premiership player here. I never got to play a senior game at Traralgon so it’s always something I wanted to do,” McQualter said.
McCulloch said it was a great experience for the club, especially the younger players, to have someone of McQualter’s quality at hand.
“The guy’s played in three AFL grand finals, he’s been in the leadership group at St Kilda, he’s gone on to play at a new franchise on the Gold Coast and now he’s heavily involved with Richmond,” he said.
Returning to the club this year, forward Tim Johnson was named best on ground with nine goals.
“He’s been clearly our best forward all pre-season and all year,” McCulloch said.
“He works hard, he’s not just good in the air, he’s good on the ground and I think today he kicked a few of his goals from crumbing efforts as well, so he’s a hard match up for the opposition.”
Traralgon also welcomed back Jackson Hall, who contributed five goals.
“Jackson has had a tough preseason in a lot of ways and to get him back out there is a massive boost for our team and for him personally to be out there playing good footy, is really good,” McCulloch said.
Michael Stockdale also booted four in his second game of the year.
Traralgon also used its first home game of 2014 to honour 2011 premiership coach Josh Jennings, who played his 100th senior game against Sale in round one.
“We were a bit worried last year when it didn’t go well in the final and Josh was stuck on 99,” former Traralgon coach Steve Hazelman said, who was on hand to present Jennings with a signed football for his milestone match.
“It probably took a bit of convincing to get Jennings to come back, but on behalf of everyone at the footy club we are so fortunate you did.”
The win has seen Traralgon sneak into the Gippsland League top five, however, McCulloch said it will take a lot of work for it to stay there.
“The reality is it’s a tough competition and there is at least two clubs outside last year’s five that have improved a lot so you’re going to have to be on your game all year to get into that top five,” he said.
Sale v Wonthaggi
Sale was forced to come back from behind to defeat Wonthaggi in a five-point thriller.
It was a tight contest from the outset, with both teams goalless after the opening term.
By half-time Sale and Wonthaggi each had three majors on the board, with the Power holding a fragile two-point lead.
Wonthaggi outscored last year’s runner-up in the third to extend its lead out to five points, but the tables were turned in the last as the Magpies outscored an inaccurate Power to win by less than a kick.
Ryan Pendlebury was among Sale’s best with two majors.
Leongatha v Maffra
Maffra posted a five-goal win over Leongatha in the first of the Gippsland League’s two Anzac Day clashes.
In their 50th encounter at Leongatha, scores were locked at nil-all at the first change.
The Eagles came out firing in the second slamming on seven goals to three to take a 25-point lead into the main change and extended this to 34 points at the last break.
Leongatha matched it with its opponent with three majors in the last, but it was too little too late as the visitor ran out winner by 31 points.
Warragul v Bairnsdale
In the second Anzac Day clash Bairnsdale stormed to second spot on the ladder with a 104-point win over Warragul.
In a disappointing day for the Gulls, the visiting Redlegs booted 10 goals to none in the opening term to establish an early 60-point lead.
Booting four goals to Bairnsdale’s three, Warragul won the second term, however the margin was still 54 points at the main change.
Another goalless term from the Gulls in the third saw the Redlegs extend their lead out to 87 points and there was no turning back.
James Gibbs booted eight for Bairnsdale, while Alex Saunders and Sam Pickett bagged five each.