Lions take out thriller to extend unbeaten streak

Fan favourite: Moe captain Jacob Wood was among the best in his sides one-point victory over Traralgon. photograph julie sim

LIAM DURKIN

FOOTBALL
GIPPSLAND LEAGUE
By LIAM DURKIN

MARGINS provided the biggest talking point as results from Round 4 of the Gippsland League came to hand last Saturday.
While the season is still in what one might term the ‘establishment phase’, results so far have meant there is no shortage of questions to keep the heads of those with an interest in the competition spinning.
There cannot be many questions surrounding one particular team however, as, scarily, Leongatha might be even better than most people expected.
MOE was saved by the bell against Traralgon.
The Lions held on for dear life to win by a point 8.8 (56) to 7.13 (55).
In a bruising affair at Ted Summerton Reserve, an old fashioned grind ensued between the two rival clubs.
The game had feelings of a soccer-match such was the low scoring nature, and for a long while in the final term a draw looked very much on the cards.
The Maroons peppered the goals in the last quarter, but had to lament having 20 scoring shots to 16 in the finish.
While the parochial Moe Can Bar was more than happy to declare ‘the only thing better than beating Traralgon is beating them by a point’, even those most staunchly aligned to the Lions would have to admit their team was very lucky to escape with the win.
The Moe players appeared to know this as well, and their reaction at the final siren was one more of relief than jubilation.
That being said, the Lions showed good character to fight the way they did after being down multiple rotations heading into the last.
Come three quarter time it was clear several Moe players were sore, and would need to dig deep to maintain its six point lead.
Key defender Ben Maslen was in his tracksuit by this stage, while the Lions rolled the dice on midfielder Jordan Ceppi who did some run throughs and short kicks while the huddle was going on in a bid to prove his fitness.
With Maslen out of action, Moe coach Declan Keilty rose to another level in the third quarter, denying Traralgon a number of scoring opportunities with many desperate smothers, spoils and pressure acts.
Those who remember Alex Rance’s performance for Richmond against Sydney in Round 23 of the 2014 season where he repelled virtually everything that came his way in a match the Tigers needed to win to play finals may get an idea of the kind of game Keilty played.
Traralgon showcased its hybrid ability, throwing usual defender Tye Hourigan forward and key forward Dylan Loprese up the other end.
Hourigan took a few nice grabs inside 50 and kicked a classy goal from deep in the pocket during the third.
The ball lived in Traralgon’s half for most of the final quarter.
The Maroons played a high press in an effort to condense the ball, and looked prepared to win ugly even if it meant repeatedly pumping the ball inside 50 to try and manufacture something.
A one handed mark from key forward Brett Eddy deep in the pocket on the outdoor cricket nets side proved to be the last genuine opportunity the Maroons had of scoring.
The kick from Eddy was sent to the hotspot, where Traralgon players tried in vain to force it through to even salvage a draw, but the siren sounded a short time later.
At the risk of delving into clich├ęs, it was simply poor conversion that cost Traralgon, a thought shared by their coach Jake Best after the game.
While Moe slammed on five goals to one in the first quarter to take an 18-point lead, the Maroons still had seven scoring shots but only managed 1.6 (12).
Truthfully, the Maroons dominated most of the game after quarter time, with their fleet-of-foot system appearing to be well up and running during the third term.
The match also seemed to defy logic in many ways, as a howling north-westerly would ordinarily mean the Can Bar end would be the scoring end, yet both teams only managed a combined total of 1.6 (12) kicking with it in the second half.
Best for Traralgon was Hourigan, followed by Tom Schneider, Mark Collison, Tate Marsh, Tom McMahon and Matt Northe.
Keilty was judged best for Moe, while Ben Daniher, Harry Pepper (five goals), Trent Baldi, Ben Morrow, Jacob Wood and Harri Sim played well.
Youngster Nathan Wheildon made his senior debut as did Dylan Brooks who has made the move from Hill End.
If there is any silver lining to losing a match by a point, it could be that there is an ending to the misconception Traralgon is solely an uncontested team.
For whatever reason this stigma has been attached to the Maroons for a long time, but under Best there is a definite hard edge about how they play their football.
Although they sit 2-2, Traralgon players should be confident their system can match it with anyone in the competition, especially considering those two losses have been by seven points and now one point – the former of which was against Leongatha.
For Moe, the response after the match would have been more pleasing than the match itself to coaching staff and supporters.
There was no carry on from the Lions in the rooms which could be viewed as a sign of maturity. If Moe had of beaten Traralgon by a point five years ago they would have celebrated until the sun came up.
With some injuries now on the list, onlookers will be interested to see how the Lions fare after questions were raised in the preseason over just how deep they bat, although the side should welcome back Tom Long and Tyson Biffin in the next few weeks.
Long was picked to play this round but had to withdraw due to a COVID scare, while Biffin has done the running for the reserves in the last two weeks and looks to be moving well.
Incidentally, it was the closest match between the two sides since Traralgon’s one-point win over Moe in the 1972 grand final.
MORWELL had a commendable win over Warragul.
The Tigers put together a consistent four-quarter effort to defeat the Gulls by 53 points 11.18 (84) to 4.7 (31).
Playing at home for the third week in a row, Morwell established a handy 14-point lead in the second term, which it was able to build on from there.
The Tigers led at every change, and broke the game open in the third kicking five goals to one.
Such a performance would have been pleasing to coaches Denis Knight and Boyd Bailey, as the young team took facets of what had served them well in patches the previous week against Traralgon and put it all together six days later.
Brandon McAuliffe was best on ground for the home side, while Tyler Brown, Burkeley Macfarlane, Dan Musil, Cohen Campbell and Riley Loprese found themselves in the thick of the action.
Brandon McDonald kicked three goals for the victors, and was one of seven players to hit the scoreboard.
Best for Warragul was Nick Graham, Sean Masterson, Sam Whibley, Jed Lamb and Lane Ward.
The Tigers have now evened their ledger to 2-2 and sit among a logjam of teams between fourth and seventh.
With Warragul proving they are no walkover this season, having recorded a draw with premiership fancy Wonthaggi, the confidence Morwell should gain from this will surely count for something as they are now faced with taking on the might of Leongatha.
Given they are the youngest team of any in the competition, the Tigers could actually hold something of an advantage in going out and playing without fear week-to-week.
This approach may well have helped Hawthorn win the 2008 grand final. By all reports the Hawthorn players reasoned that ‘Geelong have belted everyone this year, so what does it matter if they do the same to us?’ Sure enough, the Hawks, having no fear of the result, played with absolute freedom and won the premiership.
In its preparation this week, perhaps Morwell will see Leongatha as the equivalent to Geelong.
SALE won the traditional Battle of the Birds clash against Maffra.
The Magpies swooped into the Eagles nest and flew away with the four points, winning a hard fought game 11.8 (74) to 8.8 (56).
As with most contests between Sale and Maffra, a genuine war of attrition played out until such time one side found a chink in their opponents armour.
For Sale, that came during the third quarter, where they were able to add five goals to one to take an 18-point lead heading into the last.
This margin was exactly the same when the final siren sounded.
Jack Leslie was best for the Magpies, followed by Shannen Lange (14 clearances), Will Leslie, Jack McLindin (25 disposals), Jack McLaren and Nathan Whitford.
Hudson Holmes had 34 touches in a best on ground display for Maffra. Others to play well were Ed Carr (22), Kade Renooy (19), Tom Thatcher, Danny Butcher and John Butcher who kicked four goals.
LEONGATHA made at least one journalist double check the scores to make sure they were entered correctly after seeing them for the first time.
The Parrots did in fact kick 31.24 (210) to 4.2 (25) against Bairnsdale on their way to a 185-point annihilation.
The margin was the equal highest for Round 4 in Gippsland League history.
Oddly enough, the Parrots now hold the record for the greatest winning and losing margin in Round 4 of the Gippsland League having lost to Sale by 185 points in 2006.
On that occasion, the Magpies kicked 33.27 (225) to 6.4 (40).
It is unlikely anyone 16 years ago would have thought a worldwide pandemic would ever take out an entire football team, but unfortunately for the Redlegs, that is precisely what happened.
Bairnsdale was unable to field a reserves team for the trip to Leongatha, and as a result, had to take a severely depleted senior line-up into the main game.
The Parrots showed no mercy, and after an innocuous start, crucified the Redlegs with nine goals in the second quarter and 14 in the last.
Leongatha had 14 individual goal kickers, led by Justin Pellicano who nabbed six and Aaron Hillberg and Jack Hume who each kicked four.
Kieran Vickery, Byron Vickery and Randall Stewart battled hard for Bairnsdale.
WONTHAGGI easily accounted for Drouin.
The Power did as most expected, winning 16.16 (112) to 7.3 (45) away from home.
The Hawks took it up to Wonthaggi in the first quarter, but could only hold on for so long before the dam wall opened.
Jack Hutchinson was best in the win, and received good support from Jakeb Thomas, Jack Blair, Aiden Lindsay, Jye Gilmour and Toma Huther.
Best for Drouin was Jarrod Marshall, Jordan Kingi, Tim Hancock, Harry Wans, Aden Quirk and Joseph Collins.
Power coach Jarryd Blair did not play for the second week in a row.
Although Wonthaggi sits outright third on the ladder with one loss to its name, there is already a feeling among Gippsland League pundits the Power have been perhaps a touch underwhelming in the early part of the season.
Granted there is still a lot of football to go, and as ridiculous as it probably sounds, those trawling through the Gippsland League record would have noticed Wonthaggi did not submit any club notes last week.
While it might seem trivial and of no great consequence on the surface, it is one of those jobs you can be sure a club like Leongatha or Maffra would have filled every single week.
The most successful clubs are usually the most organised in every department.