Lions remain unbeaten

Lefties do it better: Morwell's Nathan Noblett kicks for goal against Moe. photograph liam durkin



ROUND 2 of the Gippsland League returned a number of eyebrow-raising results, and even more intriguing margins.
While the majority of games saw favourites prevail, it was the manner in which those favourites won that provided no shortage of talking points – and then of course there was a draw thrown in just to add another subplot.
Granted the season is only two weeks old and results do tend to fluctuate at this time of year as teams find their feet, one still couldn’t help but ponder the fortunes of a few teams as results came to hand.
Are Wonthaggi not as strong as predicted? Or are Warragul perhaps better than first thought? Did Sale have a really off day? Or are Leongatha just simply streets ahead of everyone else? And does the margin in the Traralgon/Drouin game say less about the Maroons and more about the Hawks?
Maybe that is what makes the Gippsland League such a great competition – it is so unpredictable.
Long may it continue.
CONDITIONS that would usually see the captain elect to bat first after winning the toss greeted players at Morwell Recreation Reserve for the match between Morwell and Moe.
The Lions proved to have enough answers, winning 16.17 (113) to 5.12 (42).
It was ‘suns out guns out’ in the first half, as the Tigers and Lions smashed into each other in a physical contest between the neighbouring rivals.
Moe made use of the scoring end toward the Princes Highway in the first quarter, kicking 4.4 to one behind.
Morwell had moments of promise in the second, but the Lions were able to respond to each challenge and continued to mount scoreboard pressure.
The Tigers defence was under siege heading into half-time, and the deficit could well have been greater had Moe not squandered multiple opportunities in front of goal.
Somewhat amazingly, the Lions kicked 5.9 (39) in the second quarter.
Moe got their kicking boots on in the third, and once again utilised the scoring end to full effect, adding four goals and again keeping Morwell to just a single behind.
Lion’s favourite son Clinton Taylor provided a team lifting moment after clunking an overhead mark and nailing a set shot from 40 metres out.
In drawing comparisons, Taylor could be seen as the Gippsland League’s equivalent to Stuart Dew, making a comeback to senior football most (probably including him) thought would never happen.
While the quarter-by-quarter scores might have suggested otherwise, the third quarter was Moe’s most dominant.
The Lions got their forward-handball game up and running and players found acres of space around 70-60 metres from goal to allow forwards such as Harry Pepper to either hit up or work the fat side.
Pepper kicked a goal on three-quarter-time following a mark that was deemed by umpire Mark Smith to be taken a fraction of a section before the siren.
In a nice touch, the senior Smith was field umpire and his son Liam ran the boundary.

Touch: Moe’s Trent Baldi. photograph liam durkin

Moe led by 70 points at the final change, and with the result beyond doubt, played the final quarter out as Morwell added a couple of consolation goals late in the piece.
The Tigers found honest contributions from Cody Macdonald, Dan Musil, Riley Loprese, Brandon McDonald, Sam Walsh and James Jacobsen in his 100th game.
On a slightly more positive note, there was a quite telling moment in the third quarter when Josh Galea courageously went back with the flight against Moe opponent James Blaser.
After the ball had cleared you could tell Blaser had respect for the way in which Galea had not shirked the contest even though his side was more than 10 goals down at the time.
It is moments like that onlookers can often tell which players are tough enough to play at the level.
New Moe recruit Matt Barrand kicked four goals to be named best, along with Brock Smith, Harry Pepper (six goals), Grady Cocksedge, Riley Baldi and Ben Daniher.
For Morwell, while the characteristics of a young side mean you often get scored against quickly, something that did stand out was the way in which the ball was butchered by foot.
One had to feel sorry for the Tiger forwards as on numerous occasions the ball was either hacked inside 50 or came in rotating like helicopter blades.

Poise: Moe’s Harry Pepper looks to dish one off. photograph liam durkin

Away from the match there was a couple of items that perhaps warrant some intervention from Latrobe City.
While it was certainly beach weather on Saturday, this might have been taken a bit too literally as the oval was covered in just about as much sand as grass, leaving players with multiple grazes to go with singlet tans.
The absence of netting behind the goals at the Princes Highway end also led to numerous delays. At least one ball was lost in the seniors and a new one was called for in the reserves. To those unaware, there is a drain and section of long grass behind the goals at Morwell that makes looking for the ball like the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Gippsland League general manager Daniel Heathcote was even forced to retrieve the ball himself during the senior match. With balls costing at least $150 a pop, one could sympathise with the league GM in being so insistent on finding the Sherrin.
The netting was taken down for the recent AFL match between Collingwood and Hawthorn to allow television crews to shoot down-the-ground footage.
One would hope common sense prevails and the netting is reinstalled as a matter of urgency, as well as the surface brought up to standard.
Surely the region is serious about hosting Commonwealth Games events after all.
TRARALGON powered to an emphatic victory over Drouin.
The Maroons were never troubled away from home, and ended up winning 28.14 (182) to 9.7 (61).
Star Traralgon recruit Brett Eddy dominated, kicking 10 goals, while playing-coach Jake Best nabbed seven.
The benefits of such a huge win saw the Maroons take their percentage from 88.1 to 195.00, which could well prove decisive when places in the finals are set in stone in the latter part of the season.
Traralgon took full control of the contest after quarter time, adding 11 goals to one in the second quarter.
Taking an 82-point lead into the sheds, the Maroons kept piling on the pain for the Hawks.
At three quarter time the margin was 101 points, and at full time it was 121.
While some might question the purpose of a team winning by so much, it is this ruthlessness that is generally needed to compete and contend in matches that have more at stake.
The difference between good teams and formidable teams can often be seen in how they finish games once it is clear they are going to win.
A good team would have taken the 82-point lead Traralgon had at half-time and been happy to park the bus and end up winning by 60 points. However, a formidable team would have done as the Maroons did, and kept working to see that they won by as big a margin as possible.
Best said he was happy his side was able to put in a solid performance.
“It was good to get the first win out of the way, every game in the Gippsland League is a hard-fought win so it was pleasing that we could score quite heavily,” he said.
“There was still elements of the game we need to tidy up but it was a good performance.
“There is a huge hunger within the group this year, we saw that over the preseason with the way the guys worked, there is a real hunger to improve every week and build momentum.”
The Maroons had a couple of debutants in Baxter Kennedy and Josh Palmer, both of whom Best said showed good signs, while the coach was afforded the opportunity to throw the magnets around and try players in different positions given the one-sided nature of the contest.
Best for the winners was Eddy, Mark Collison, Tom Schneider, Matt Northe, Harvey Neocleous and Best.
Tim Hancock, Tom Barr and Harry Wans battled hard for Drouin.
Traralgon is still unable to play games at home following damage from last year’s flood, although it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as the Maroons will get more home games in the second half of the season, which could assist a run to the finals.
“The ground (at Traralgon) is in good condition, just the changerooms aren’t there yet,” Best said.
“The playing group has been good, even during the floods when we had to train elsewhere they haven’t whinged or anything, they understand it is an annoying situation but the guys are concentrating and we’ll get those home games in the back end.”
The win capped off a memorable 100th senior match for Traralgon captain Dylan Loprese. As is tradition at the Maroons, players are given the honour of having their name engraved on their locker upon reaching 100 senior games.
Traralgon players, officials and supporters gathered on Saturday night to toast Loprese.
Club president Kevin Foley and teammate Matt Northe spoke, before his name was unveiled on the number 26 locker.
Best paid tribute to the Maroons skipper, saying he was deserving of the plaudits.
“It was a special day for Dylan, he has had a really interesting journey at the club and is well respected,” he said.
“He is doing a tremendous job as leader of our footy club so it was good to see him get his 100th and name up on the locker.”
THE old adage that ‘first team to 100 wins’ didn’t quite ring true in the match between Warragul and Wonthaggi.
The reason being was that the game in fact ended in a 106-all draw at Western Park.
In what was a very high scoring game for a draw, the Power and Gulls could not be separated when the final siren sounded, with the scoreboard reading 16.10 (106) apiece.
Wonthaggi looked to have the upper hand when it led by 20 points at three quarter time, and stretched that lead further at the start of the last.
Warragul however refused to lie down, and hit back to level the scores deep into red time.
The contest was left on a knife’s edge as a stoppage occurred inside Wonthaggi’s forward 50 with scores all tied up. From there, the ball bobbled around frantically among flaying arms as precious seconds ticked away before the siren rang out an almost deathly silence across the ground.
Such was the mayhem that ensued, Power forward Ryan Sparkes thought he had kicked the winning point, only to go from ecstasy to agony in an instant.
Former AFL player Jed Lamb kicked six goals for Warragul, while Sean Masterson, Cooper Alger and Chris Raso played well.
Best for Wonthaggi was Aiden Lindsay, Mitch Hayes and Jack Hutchinson.
THE well-oiled machine that is Leongatha took care of Sale with relative ease.
The visiting Parrots strolled away after the main break on their way to a 15.19 (109) to 6.8 (42) win.
The Magpies kicked only one goal between quarter time and the last break, during which time the Parrots did the bulk of their damage.
While Leongatha might have gone into the match favourites, it is unlikely anyone saw a 67-point margin coming, especially considering the class of players within the Sale team.
Jack Hume led the scoring for Leongatha with four, along with Aaron Hillberg who nabbed three. Both were named in the best for their side, as was Cade Maskell, Tom Marriott and Will Littlejohn.
Jack and Will Leslie were best for Sale. Lachlan Todd, Cooper Whitehill, Jackson Glenane and Jonty McGuiness impressed.
MAFFRA was too strong for Bairnsdale.
The Redlegs took it up to the Eagles for a half, but fell away after the main break to lose by 53 points 19.12 (126) to 10.13 (73).
Playing at Maffra, Bairnsdale would have entertained thoughts of a win when it went into half-time with a 10-point lead, however, the Eagles then piled on eight goals to two in the third to take back the ascendency.
A further six goals in the final quarter made sure of the result for Maffra, who again found goals from Daniel Bedggood who kicked five and Mitch Bennett who slotted four.
Kade Renooy was damaging across half back, while the somewhat elusive name of former Port Adelaide forward John Butcher made an appearance in the goalkickers column with two.