Only four left in Mid Gippy

Job well done: Boolarra players walk off after their Elimination Final win over Hill End. photograph supplied



THE Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League staged its first week of finals over the weekend.
It was a history-making occasion, as it was the first time a MGFNL finals series featured clubs from the previous Alberton Football-Netball League.
Given the MGFNL’s 13-team structure, the league ran a top-six finals system.
Those that finished in the top two were given a week’s rest, and will play each other in week two for a spot in the grand final.
Teams ranked three to six played an elimination final, with the winners to face off this weekend in a semi final.

Foster v Yinnar
THERE had been somewhat contrasting seasons for these two clubs: Yinnar had started and stopped throughout much of the season, one week showing all the signs of a top of the table side, followed by another where winnable games were lost, up against a Foster side that for various reasons had struggled with player availability early, before some strong recruiting and a stable 18 meant the Tigers had finished the season strongly.
That said, it was all about three hours on Saturday afternoon that determined which club’s season would end and which would step closer to a grand final berth.
Both clubs were deserving, but with only room for one, the stakes were high, and the close result was one that finally fell the way of the Magpies, who won 7.8 (50) to 6.7 (43).
Yinnar coach Daniel Taylor was understandably ecstatic.
“What a game! Finals footy at its best, two contested ball teams going at it all day with no easy possession to be had,” he said.
“Really proud of the boys’ efforts, I thought we were the better team for the majority of the day and should have been further in front early on.
“To Foster’s credit they threw everything at us and when they hit the front in the last, I thought we were in trouble, we managed to wrestle back the momentum and to kick the last two goals of the game was a massive effort.
“I’m just really proud of the boys, we’ve lost six games this year by under 12 points, so to fight our way back late in an elimination final was absolutely huge, it’s character building and has given the group a lot of belief.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the Foster forwards but I thought Brendan Chapman in his 200th senior game for our club did an outstanding job on (Michael) Cooke and for me was the best player on the ground.
“Jack Deen also played his usual selfless role and did an outstanding job down back on (Tom) Bartholomew, which went along way to securing the win.
“We had 21 guys contribute but these two were outstanding!”
It was without question the type of performance that will give belief to the Magpies that they are both capable and deserving of the next challenge,
Foster coach Sam Davies was disappointed at the end result.
“We were just beaten in a few key areas over the day – we made errors at critical times and didn’t utilise the opportunities we had going forward,” he said.
“Yinnar were the only team I didn’t want to play and today showed why.”
After stealing a spot in the league’s top six, Yinnar are now down to the last four, with their momentum starting to build at just the right time.

Boolarra v Hill End
FOR the neutral supporter it was hard not to feel torn as to which team you might throw your support behind, given the paths that had led each club to this fork in the road.
Boolarra, after many seasons towards the bottom of the table looking for their first premiership in more than a decade, against a team whose last premiership was more than four decades ago and who had their latest chance just last season cut short by the cruel curse of COVID.
In finals there is little room for empathy, as rewards often favour the brave, the disciplined, the desperate and in some cases, the lucky.
In this case, it was bravery by the Demons to fight from behind to win by three goals, 8.6 (54) to Hill End 5.6 (36).
Boolarra coach Tony Giardina was pleased with the performance.
“Great win for the club and the boys,” he said.
“After a slow start Hill End were playing all over us, after halftime the boys lifted their game and came home really strong especially being a few players down and losing a few more during the game.”
The win showcased all the elements of a side desperate to not waste the opportunity. The Demons against quality opposition, found a way to win, and in doing so denied a long held-dream for the Rovers and coach Mike Santo.
“We were in control of the game at halftime. To Boolara’s credit they stuck to their game plan and simply wanted it more than we did,” Santo said.
“Credit to Tony and Boolara on a great win, I wish them all the best next week. Their players handled themselves with class after the game which didn’t go unnoticed.
“We will look to grow from this and bolster our squad and improve on some deficiencies both playing and coaching wise.”
The pressure of finals football can do all sorts of things to players and teams, and what was, isn’t necessarily what is, when the spotlight shines on them.
Boolarra, like their next opponent, Yinnar, have shown, they’re no ‘rabbits in headlights’ – they want to go all the way.

Tarwin v Newborough
TARWIN had bounced out of the blocks from Round 1 of the season, and outside of their two losses in 18 rounds had otherwise shown very little fragility that might have given opposition sides opportunity to expose.
However, Newborough had been one team to inflict defeat on the Sharks and that result has given the Bulldogs confidence in their ability to repeat the effort this weekend.
Possibly, just possibly, one of Newborough’s biggest hurdles was that they have been confronted with the unusual predicament of having a bye in the last round of the home-and-away season, followed by a week off in the first week of finals.
Newborough coach Craig Skinner hoped the two-week break had made his players ever keener.
“We now have a hungry team that believe in themselves as much as I do, we now look forward to showing just what Newborough stand for when we meet Tarwin in the finals,” he said.
As luck, either good or bad, might have it, Tarwin too had played their last two games of the year against the bottom two sides before their week off last weekend.
Tarwin coach Troy Hemming said his side was raring to go.
“We had the week off in the first week of finals, and now we take on Newborough. I’m just really excited to see the boys enjoying their footy and they deserve now to give the finals a good crack, it’s just the best time of the year,” he said.
These top-two teams are quality and most deserving of the opportunity given to claim the first of two positions in the 2022 MGFNL Grand Final.
That said, there is no guarantee that both will eventually meet on that very big occasion, and good sides not only take opportunities, they seize opportunities and do what it takes to get what they want.
In this instance we have two clubs that believe they are ‘the’ team to do just that.

Yinnar v Boolarra
THE challenge was always going to be enormous for any side that finished outside of the top-two, because it would mean needing to win, not one, not two, but three finals before the chance to earn a spot in the big dance in the last game of the year.
Yinnar and Boolarra have crossed the first bridge and are now at the second.
This Sunday, one of them will fall at the second hurdle, while the victor will move one step forward as they face a preliminary final against the loser of Tarwin and Newborough.
For now, however, the focus for both coaches is no further than what this week presents.
“It’s another opportunity against a quality side and our rivals in Boolarra,” Magpies coach Daniel Taylor said.
“They’ve got quality players across the board and we know exactly how they want to play, the challenge for us is to bring the heat and get the game on our terms.
“It’s a massive game and I’m confident we’ll be up for the fight.”
The Magpies seem to have finally got it all together in just the knick of time, playing their best football at the most important time.
Boolarra coach Tony Giardina said the start was crucial.
“This week’s game is big, Yinnar looked impressive so we need to come prepared from the first bounce,” he said.