Simply the best

Maffra has done the previously unthinkable by beating Leongatha for the second time this finals series to claim the Gippsland League senior premiership and consign the minor premier to a second consecutive grand final loss.

The Eagles ran out 13.10 (88) to 9.13 (67) winners in Saturday’s big clash at Moe’s Ted Summerton Reserve in a game where Leongatha struggled to find its rhythm.

The win marks Maffra’s first senior flag since 2010 and eighth this century.

Eagles coach Wayne Butcher said he was “on top of the world” following the result.

“We knew it was going to be a tough day and it was a tough day – they were a really tough side,” Butcher said.

“But our boys to their credit just tackled and harassed and chased and did everything you have to do in a grand final.”

The Eagles set the tone early by scoring the first three goals of the match, thanks to the efforts of Mitchell Bennett, Daniel Bedggood and Winston Gieschen.

Zak Vernon managed to pull one back for the Parrots in the 23rd minute, but at the end of the term Maffra led 3.3 (21) to 1.2 (8).

The Parrots started stronger in the second term and their efforts were rewarded with two goals to co-captain Chris Verboon.

Maffra managed one of its own to end the first half narrowly in front, 4.4 (28) to 3.8 (26).

A four-goal-to-three effort in the third quarter meant the Eagles were able to maintain their lead over Leongatha and finished 8.7 (55) to the Parrots’ 6.11 (47).

Maffra maintained the pressure in the final term with five majors, including efforts from Bennett and Sam Pleming.

Verboon, Cade Maskell and Josh Hopkins all goaled for the Parrots, but were unable to reduce Maffra’s lead.

Butcher attributed his side’s victory to “determination and will”.

“I think it’s just our will to keep going under pressure,” he said.

“We had a hard month – we lost our vice president John Vardy a month ago and we just wanted to do something for him.”

Minor premier Leongatha had not lost a game until it met the Eagles in the semi-finals and Butcher admitted after the game he was not confident he could repeat the result.

“I thought we could beat them once, but I didn’t know we could beat them twice,” he said.

“I thought we might have poked the bear a fortnight ago.”

Nevertheless, he said the result had given his team confidence.

The victory marked Butcher’s 10th premiership as coach from 16 appearances, including three back-to-back flags with Maffra between 2002-2004.

Following the victory he praised the club’s junior set-up for producing the talent that captured the flag.

“We’re the smallest club in the competition, we’ve only got 4500 people (in Maffra), so we’ve got to work hard,” Butcher said.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on, to be a successful club, to give our boys a successful team to come into when it’s their team.”

Bennett and Bedggood were the Eagles’ talismans in front of goal, with each player slotting four majors apiece.

Kade Renooy booted two, while Gieschen, Pleming and Lachlan Channing kicked one each.

Leongatha’s top goal kicker was Verboon with three, followed closely by Aaron Hillberg who kicked two.

Hopkins, Chris Dunne, Maskell and Vernon kicked one each.

Bennett won the Stan Aitken medal for best on ground and ex-St Kilda and Richmond ruckman Trent Knobel was awarded the Vic Country Medal.