Gippslanders experience eventful long weekend of footy

Big stage: Moe footballer Bailey Humphrey made his AFL debut on Saturday. Photograph AFL





IT was an exciting week for Gippslanders in the AFL, as we witnessed the newest debutant stepping onto the big stage.

Before that though, Brisbane and Collingwood locked horns at the Gabba to begin the long weekend of footy on Thursday night.

In this encounter, two Gippsland products faced off in the form of Yarram’s Josh Dunkley and Sale’s Scott Pendlebury.

Dunkley and the Lions were able to hand the Magpies their first loss of the 2023 season, defeating them by 33 points.

Pendlebury collected the second-most disposals throughout the match, continuing to get better with age, with 26 touches, four tackles and five clearances.

Not bad for a 35-year-old.

Dunkley wasn’t far behind, with 25 touches and seven clearances, propelling the Lions to a big win at home.

The Lions took control midway through the second term and rocked the socks off the Magpies to come away comfortable winners, 18.8 (116) to 11.17 (83).

Sale’s Charlie Comben took to the field on Good Friday for North Melbourne as they hosted Carlton at Marvel Stadium.

The Roos were outclassed in the third term, which cost them a major deficit.

They climbed back late in the final quarter to save an embarrassing result.

Comben didn’t fare so well, only managing five touches, with three tackles and negative eight metres gained – the lowest ranked North Melbourne player on the field.

Carlton came home 23-point winners, 16.11 (107) to 11.18 (84), to keep their record undefeated in 2023.

Maffra’s Sam Berry was rested for the Crows in their mammoth win over Fremantle at Adelaide Oval.

Gold Coast’s game against St Kilda on Saturday night was very much centred on Gippslanders, as Morwell’s Ben Ainsworth played his 100th AFL game, and Moe’s Bailey Humphrey debuted.

Moe’s Sam Flanders was left out of the team due to a knee injury which saw him subbed out of the Round 3 clash. Flanders is expected to miss up to six weeks, after scans confirmed an injury to his medial collateral ligament.

Unfortunately, fellow Moe export and St Kilda player Leo Connolly again had to watch from the side-lines. Connolly has not featured at AFL level since late 2021.

Ainsworth was Gold Coast’s fourth-best ranked player on the field with 18 disposals and one goal, in a display which came with eight marks and four tackles.

In getting to triple figures, he became the 17th player to reach 100 games for the Suns.

While the advent of free agency has meant many have left Gold Coast over the years, Ainsworth has stayed loyal since debuting in 2017.

He is one of only seven 100-game players to have played their entire career with the Suns.

The others are David Swallow, Touk Miller, Alex Sexton, Sam Day, Sean Lemmens and Rory Thompson.

Ainsworth has played with a number of prominent players, most notably Gary Ablett Jr.

Humphrey was evidently finding his feet on debut, with 11 touches and two behinds.

The youngster played forward, before getting a run on the ball in the last quarter.

By then, the game was over, after a blistering third term from St Kilda saw them kick 5.4 (34) to 1.3 (9), and take a 47-point lead at three quarter time, on their way to a commanding 17.11 (113) to 8.12 (60) win, to keep their perfect record intact.

Despite this, Humphrey won the praise of both teammates and commentators alike.

Shouts of ‘good Humpa’ from Gold Coast players were clearly audible from the top tier of Marvel Stadium, while Fox Footy commentator Dwayne Russell said “Humphrey has looked good” following a tackle that led to a holding the ball against Saints midfielder Hunter Clark.

A number of Moe Football-Netball Club supporters travelled down to Marvel Stadium to watch Humphrey debut, and became Gold Coast supporters for the night.

The man himself showed his appreciation, still high-fiving well wishes hanging arms over the race after the match.

Morwell’s Changkuoth Jiath took to the field for the Hawks as they faced Geelong in the classic Easter Monday clash.

The Hawks impressed right from the get-go, kicking the opening goal within 30 seconds.

Hawthorn sustained dominance in the opening half, going into the main break with a nine-point lead, in a low scoring affair.

But then Geelong flicked the switch and never looked back, kicking 15.10 to 1.3 in the second half to walk away as 82-point winners, 19.13 (127) to 6.9 (45).

Jiath played admirably with 16 disposals and four marks off half back, in what would’ve been a tricky second half to say the least.

He was involved in a dangerous sling tackle by Geelong’s Gary Rohan, which saw the Geelong forward face the tribunal, Jiath was uninjured after the action thankfully.

Rohan received a one-match suspension for the sling tackle, in a busy week at the tribunal.

Top effort: Morwell’s Ben Ainsworth during his 100th game for Gold Coast on Saturday night. Photograph AFL

Spotted: West Coast premiership ruckman Nathan Vardy came home for Easter, watching Yarram do battle with Yallourn Yallourn North. Photograph Zoe Askew