Tigerland rocking after watershed win

Exhausted, but elated: Gormandale players take a moment to reflect following their first win since 2018. photographs supplied



GORMANDALE Football-Netball Club senior footballers ran out of the visitors’ changerooms at the Cowwarr Recreation Reserve last Saturday with the number 1337 posted on the wall.
It was emphatically torn down a little over two hours later.
The number represented how many days it had been since the Tigers last won a senior match in the North Gippsland Football-Netball League.
“When we pulled that number down I nearly started crying,” Gormandale coach Chris Potalej said.
“My old man came up from Melbourne and my brother-in-law, they couldn’t even get in the rooms after the game when we sang the song.
“You looked around and a few of the older fellas got quite emotional, it was a big thing to get that win. The feeling around the rooms and around the club, some of them said it felt like a final.
“It was just good to get the monkey off the back, it started to sink in Sunday when I was able to relax and think about it a bit more.”
The win secured a coaching debut Potalej is unlikely to ever forget, as his Tiger troops won 8.13 (61) to 6.8 (44).
A Gormandale team featuring a plethora of new players and a couple of recruits from the Northern Territory in Dion Munkara and Adam Tipungwuti put it all together, leading at every change on the way to victory.
Tipungwuti kicked three goals, while Mitchell Jones and Kodie Owen were voted best on ground.

Giddy up Gormy: Tigers president Daniel Earl with the Tigers Northern Territory recruits Dion Munkara and Adam Tipunwuti.

For Owen, Jones and Jarryd Garlick, the win certainly made it a long time between drinks.
The trio played in the last Tigers’ victory, which came in Round 16 of the 2018 season.
Potalej also played in that game.
Club legend and 300 gamer Steven Burgess did not, meaning his winless drought extended even further before finally coming to an end on Saturday – 1386 days to be precise.
Potalej, a first time coach, said he wasn’t ready to call it until the result was officially in the book.
“As a new coach you never feel comfortable until that final siren, even with a minute to go when we were 15 points up I was just hoping it didn’t get away from us,” he said.
“Going into the game I felt we set ourselves up to win and we went in with a positive attitude but again, you just never know. I definitely went in with aspirations of winning and that is what you have to do every week, but I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.
“I played the game over in my head 1000 times – 500 times as winning, 500 times as losing.
“Cowwarr were never going to go away, I had no qualms about that. Going to the game there is always talk about who people have lost and gained but I’ve always seen Cowwarr since I’ve been at Gormy, they have a real blue-collar work ethic, they always work and they always make you work for a game.”
Gormandale won four games in 2018, before a mass exodus of players saw them headed for the wooden spoon the following season. No wins in 2019, no football at all in 2020, and no joy in the 10 games of 2021 kept the winless streak alive.
The on-field issues only added to speculation surrounding Gormandale’s future, as the word equivalent to Macbeth in local football was often mentioned – ‘fold’.
Potalej did not shy away from this fact, and paid tribute to the work of many officials who have ensured the heart of the Tigers has kept beating – keeping alive virtually all there is in the Gormandale township.
“I wouldn’t say we want to stick it up people by any stretch, but I was there in the last six years and there has definitely been talk of us folding,” he said.
“We haven’t won a grand final or anything but just to get some success, the amount of work that has been done behind the scenes to make sure that hasn’t happened to the club, it is just good to prove a few people wrong that we aren’t going anywhere and if anything we are working our way back up.”
The win tied in nicely to the positivity surrounding Gormandale recently, after it was announced the club would be welcoming an ex-AFL player to make a guest appearance at some stage this season.
Post siren, the celebrations started at Cowwarr, making their way to the Grand Junction Hotel, Traralgon, and onto the Gormandale FNC rooms.
It is a well-known truth in country football that club functions are always better after a win.
One can only imagine how good a function would be after waiting four years.
“As a coach I sort of stood back, had a few beers and enjoyed the night, but just to see the smiles was really pleasing,” Potalej said.
“We had a good day as a club, we lost A Grade (netball) and lost reserves (football), other than that we won everything, for Gormandale that is massive.
“The old fellas that have been around forever, Gormandale’s been pretty successful in the past and a few of those guys in that successful period are still around so when they watch I like to get a win for them as well.
“Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy, it was just an awesome night – no one stopped smiling.”
The win carried an added bonus, with the end of daylight saving meaning players and supporters had an extra hour to celebrate Saturday night.
“It kind of hurt that extra hour, probably didn’t need it by the end of the night,” Potalej said laughingly.
“I think a couple of the boys stayed longer than I did and definitely enjoyed the night.
“It was just nice to drink winner’s beers for the first time in a while – they do taste better.”