Rivalry round in Gippsland League

Renewing hostilities: Traralgon clashes with Morwell on Sunday in the Gippsland League. file photograph



RIVALRY round will feature this week in the Gippsland League.
Round 3 action pits neighbouring nemesis from the Latrobe Valley, West Gippsland and South Gippsland, as well as a clash between two of the competitions undefeated teams.
Margins should tighten across the board for the simple reason players will be returning from the Easter break, during which time it is likely most of them took the opportunity to get away from the game.
Results therefore could be a reflection of who has exited holiday-mode the quickest, or more importantly, which teams have kept themselves conditioned over the break.
While it is only Round 3, pundits might gain an insight this week into which teams are serious about challenging in 2022.
Those who have spent Easter eating chocolate and drinking for five days straight might find themselves blowing at quarter time. Those who have balanced the festivities with proper football preparation will surely thank themselves when game time arrives.
This round begins the biggest block of games until the next break. A total of seven matches will be played before players next take a rest, which will see the season to the halfway mark.
Historically speaking, those with aspirations of contending need to get to at least five wins by the time that halfway mark comes around to stay in the hunt.
SUNDAY football will be played in the Latrobe Valley this weekend.
The Morwell Recreation Reserve is the scene and Morwell and Traralgon are the combatants.
The form line heading into the contest offers a stark contrast. The Maroons, still unable to play at home, go in after a thumping 121-point victory over Drouin, while Morwell goes in following a 71-point thumping at the hands of Moe.
That considered, form is often of minor significant for intense rivalry matches such as these, and players from either side are expected to rise an extra per cent or two for the occasion.
Traralgon’s powerful forward line of Brett Eddy, Jake Best and Dylan Loprese offer no shortage of marking options, and Morwell defenders will need to ensure the trio aren’t given access to their lanes, especially Eddy, who kicked a bag of 10 goals last game.
The players most likely to return a big haul for Morwell are Brandon McDonald and reigning Gippsland Power leading goalkicker Nathan Noblett, so in terms of playing the percentages, three high scoring forwards up against two would suggest the Tigers cannot afford for the game to become a shootout.
Morwell could hold an advantage in the ruck, as the experience of Dan Musil might give him the edge over Traralgon youngster David Brinker-Ritchie.
MOE and Maffra meet in a battle between two undefeated teams.
The Eagles make the journey to Ted Summerton Reserve to face what should be a good test away from home.
Barring a draw, one of these teams will remain unbeaten when the final siren sounds, continuing the solid starts to the coaching careers of either Declan Keilty (Moe) or Anthony Robbins (Maffra).
The Lions have won both their matches so far in 2022, although those results have largely been put to rest given they were starting favourites heading in.
Maffra too has won games people expected them to win, with their margins not at all surprising.
While they do have a new coach, the Eagles as a club have traditionally given players a fair amount of grace over the Easter period, believing it serves a good purpose to let them relax and unwind.
This approach has clearly worked in the long run (Maffra has played in the last four grand finals and won two flags), but the Eagles recent post-Easter record might be enough to get Moe even more excited about their prospects.
The last two Easters have seen Maffra go loss, loss in the first game back, which could just be a dot point Keilty puts on the whiteboard during his pregame address.
Eagles’ stalwarts Danny Butcher, Ed Carr and David Adams are unlikely to give this much thought, and will simply be aiming to execute the pleasingly simple yet effective game plan that has served Maffra so well – kick 15 goals and try to keep the opposition to under 10.
The Moe defence has been hard to fault as yet, and the likes of Brock Smith, Scott Van Dyk and Ben Maslen will be gunning to see any such 15-10 equation is in favour of Moe.
WONTHAGGI and Leongatha will meet in the first instalment of Showdown in the South.
The Showdown has the makings of an epic that could well be decided by single figures.
Much like dropping your phone and only needing to get the screen fixed instead of replacing the entire device, Wonthaggi was able to salvage a draw in their last game after appearing to have the match wrapped up.
The Power led Warragul by as much as four goals at the start of the last quarter, before the Gulls hit back to level the scores.
By all reports the Power backed off their intensity thinking they had the game won, which ended up offering something of a conundrum at the finish when scores were deadlocked.
Did both teams escape with a draw or were Wonthaggi the greater losers?
The bigger conundrum for the neutral observer came simply by the fact the match actually ended in a tie.
If Wonthaggi are a genuine premiership contender, how did their system not just beat whatever players Warragul had on the park?
Power coach Jarryd Blair will have no doubt dissected the performance, and will be under no illusions that if his team only plays 100 minutes against a machine such as Leongatha – they can forget about even drawing the game.
The Parrots appear in ominous touch, and disposed of Sale by 67 points in Round 2.
BAIRNSDALE and Sale clash.
Both teams will be looking to get on the winners list for the first time this season.
The Magpies make the journey east, where a familiar face should be greeting them.
The greeting might not be all that pleasant however, as former Sale premiership player John Gooch is now a Redleg.
Gooch made the move to Bairnsdale in the off-season and joined playing-coach Logan Austin as someone with a bit of height and experience to help the young team.
Bairnsdale will take some confidence from their previous round match against Maffra. The Redlegs led at the main break before being overpowered in the second half. Now that they are at home, Bairnsdale won’t be affected by the travel bug, which should mean they are full of running by the fourth term.
The Magpies have undoubtedly had the toughest start to the season of any club, travelling to the furthest location and playing what are expected to be the two best teams in Wonthaggi and Leongatha.
This has been compounded by some brutalising affairs, leading to injury to key position players which has led to structural changes on the magnet board.
That being said, two tough matches should see Sale battle hardened to take down other teams in coming weeks, while Easter looks to have come at a good time in order for the Magpies to get some troops back.
For now, Sale will just want to get the first win of the season out of the way to ease whatever pressure may be building.
Prime mover Shannen Lange will take centre billing on the ball this week, and Will Leslie may well get the job on Gooch.
Between Gooch and Sale players Chris Laverty and Kane Martin there could be over 600 senior games for the Magpies in different colours at the game.
ANOTHER Sunday match will see Warragul and Drouin lock horns.
While it is easy to envisage both towns becoming one in the near future, the local rivalry is set to stand the test of time, and it will continue in earnest at Western Park.
The Gulls and Hawks are both searching for a maiden win in 2022, although Warragul does have two points on the ladder owing to a draw secured in the previous round.
Warragul will take plenty of reference points from the way it finished its match against Wonthaggi, while internally Drouin will know Sunday fixtures often throw up a few curveballs as the enthusiasm of players naturally decreases.
If the Hawks can have less players not wanting to play on a Sunday, and perhaps get the sniff of an upset, then it will be game on.