Morwell grabs vital victory

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MORWELL had no alternative other than to beat Bairnsdale at the weekend.

The Tigers did just that, winning 11.6 (72) to 8.10 (58) in Round 8 of the Gippsland League.

The visiting Redlegs were only two points down at three quarter time, but Morwell finished strongly, kicking three goals to one in the final term.

Morwell dominated possession for the first 10 minutes of the last quarter without putting their opponents away, before finding some better connectivity to eventually break the game open.

Up until then, it had been a tight tussle, with the quarter time and halftime margin only one and nine points respectively.

Brandon McDonald maintained his lead at the top of the league goal-kicking, adding two majors to go with a season tally of 28.

The livewire is one goal clear of Leongatha’s Jack Ginnane.

Tristen Waack was voted best afield for the winners, kicking three goals, including two in the crucial final term to help seal the deal.

Waack put the disappointment of being overlooked in last week’s AFL midseason draft behind him, helping his home club to victory.

While many in local football circles have been calling for the youngster to play as first ruck in the Morwell senior side – the position that saw him come runner-up in the league best-and-fairest last year – Waack has been playing primarily as a midfielder in 2023.

According to Tigers’ playing-coach Boyd Bailey, who was also listed in the best, the move has been about giving Waack added versatility.

“He’s adapting to the role I think, everyone probably forgets he’s only 19, it’s technically only his eighth game as a midfielder, I think he’s just starting to find his feet as a midfielder at this level,” he said.

Speaking of the match, Bailey labelled it a solid performance all things considered.

“Thought we wasted a fair few opportunities to be fair, we probably should have ended up maybe winning by a little bit more,” he said.

“Probably just the final kick at some stage we missed a little bit which kept them in it, apart from that everything else was pretty pleasing.”

After losing narrowly to Sale the previous week, the coach used his three quarter time address to reiterate the importance of not letting another close game slip.

The message did not fall on deaf ears, as players the likes of Aidan Quigley, Burkeley Macfarlane, Zac Anderson and Max Linton all played well.

With key defender Ryan Hearn overseas for a few weeks, Anderson, Linton and Campbell Blewett stood tall in defence.

The trio did an admirable job on Bairnsdale’s tall timber of John Gooch and playing-coach Logan Austin.

For Linton to keep Austin quiet was especially noteworthy, as the former Port Adelaide and St Kilda player had been in the best five out of the last six weeks.

“Good scalp for him to get, it was one of his best games for the year by a mile,” Bailey said of Linton.

“Max did an awesome job on Austin and Campbell Blewett did a really good job on Gooch, a few boys played a really good role for the team and then the smalls were just able to get the match-ups we needed.

“They’re (Bairnsdale) a pretty good team, they play that slingshot ball movement. I reckon that is potentially how they’ve gone pretty well against other teams, they do force turnover and switch and slingshot you out the back, and they have the top-end talent to be able to do so.”

Those players at the top-end include some recognisable surnames in Lachlan Byrne-Jones (brother of Port Adelaide player Darcy) and Will Mitchell (brother of Brownlow medalist Tom).

The Tigers shut down the influence of those names as a collective, with Mitchell the only one rating a mention in the best for the Redlegs.

Others to be given that honour were Tyran Rees, Ethan East, Andrew Nelson, Byron Vickery and Harrison Cook.

Morwell has little time to bask in its glory, as they now turn their attention to Wonthaggi, fresh off a statement-making 79-point win over Traralgon.

Bailey said he was under illusions as to what was ahead.

“They are in really good form, we’ll go in with a plan about how we think we can beat them,” he said.

“The way our boys have been tracking over the last month, our form has been pretty good; stacked up against Leongatha, potentially could have beaten Sale, hopefully we can just keep building throughout the season to give us a shot at finals.

“If Morwell is to make consecutive finals series, they will need to close the gap on Sale, who currently hold a one-game lead in fifth.”

An upset win playing in Wonthaggi this Saturday will take the Tigers’ win-loss record to 4-5, which puts them in the same position as they were at the halfway point last year.

While there might be pressure to keep winning, as far as Bailey sees it, Morwell has been playing at a finals-type intensity for a whole season anyway.

“No added pressure, we obviously knew it (the Bairnsdale game) was an important game for the context of our season, but we had lots of those type of games last year,” he said.

“We’ve already had a few this year, that Maffra at Maffra game was pretty important to win, even last week when we didn’t win we probably had that one up there as a massive one to win.

“It’s a good thing, the playing group is playing in games that mean a lot, the backend of last year and this year, so it is something the group is getting used to.”

Is Morwell looming as the classic team you wouldn’t want to play come finals?”



EVER had a day where just nothing goes right?

Traralgon had one of those on Saturday.

The Maroons were blown off the park by Wonthaggi, losing 16.10 (106) to 3.9 (27).

The 79-point annihilation sent shockwaves through the Gippsland League, in a result that well and truly ‘threw’ many in league circles.

For a match between third and fourth, the Power made it look anything but.

Wonthaggi added four goals in the second quarter at Terry Hunter Oval, and a further four in the third – Traralgon scored three goals in those two quarters combined.

The Power were just showing off in the last – they kicked 5.4 (34) to 0.2 (2).

After flying under the radar behind top-three sides Leongatha, Moe and Traralgon for most of the early part of the season, there was some doubt as to whether or not Wonthaggi would be able to displace any of those.

There can be little doubt now. Wonthaggi are well and truly in business baby.

The visitors were well-led by Ryan Sparkes, Tom Murray, Jordan Staley, Kyle Reid and Jack Blair.

It was the performance of Cooper McInnes however that announced his arrival in the big league.

McInnes kicked seven goals in a best-on-ground display – two of those goals being long range bombs from beyond 50.

After coming across from Tarwin in the Mid Gippsland FNL, where he led the league with 71 goals last year, there had been some discussion about whether or not he had what it took to play at a higher level.

Wonthaggi officials will now feel the recruitment is justified, while McInnes’ confidence should be through the roof.

If your last name is McInnes, you know how to score goals in the Gippsland League after all.

For Traralgon, it became a case of where do you start?

The Maroons had been averaging 14 goals a game – they were held to three at the weekend.

They had conceded 19 goals in the last three weeks – they nearly let through that many in this game.

It wasn’t as if Traralgon had players missing either – 18 that played on Saturday featured in the win over Moe.

Tye Hourigan, Luis D’Angelo, Jackson McMahon, Mark Collison, Tom Hamilton and Max Jacobsen all battled hard.

So, were Wonthaggi that good?

According to field umpire Mark Smith, they certainly were.

“From the first bounce Wonthaggi’s pressure was on point, every contest was made difficult by every player on the ground and some of the best ball handling I have seen all year,” he said.

The Power’s performance is sure to put Leongatha and Moe on notice.



DEAR Mr Farnham,

Mate, you gotta do something about that Drouin ground if you can.

Moe made the trip west, and defeated the Hawks 20.9 (129) to 10.8 (68) in a mud-soaked affair.

Both teams had to make do with a surface that would have been rated a Heavy 9 if it was a racecourse.

But even a racecourse has grass on it.

Barely a blade of green was visible by the time the senior game started – the Drouin oval resembling more of a spud paddock.

And I know a spud paddock when I see one.

In fairness, Drouin president Chris Soumilas apologised to those in attendance during his halftime address, saying the club had been fighting an uphill battle with various powers at be to try and rectify the situation.

Looking at the state of the ground, one had to feel sorry for Drouin. How they would go training on it, let alone enticing potential recruits would be a major issue.

If there was any saving grace, at least is wasn’t raining, which led to a healthy gate of just under $5500, and for Moe’s sake, at least the game was in the first week of winter.

God help those clubs that have to play Drouin at Drouin in the middle of winter.

The match was played amid an odd juxtaposition, as perfect conditions weather-wise meant the ball didn’t become overly waterlogged, and led to 30 goals being kicked collectively for the game.

Both teams took the ground out of the equation, and to their credit, looked to play an attractive brand rather than revert to an old-fashioned slog.

Although ladder positions might have suggested otherwise, Moe’s spluttering form line at Drouin in recent years meant this was very much a danger game.

Demons of the past may have been creeping into the visitor’s psyche at quarter time, as the Hawks took a seven point lead in a high-scoring opening that saw nine goals kicked.

Not much separated the sides in the second term, but a three-goal blitz from Moe right on the eve of halftime saw them take a 22-point lead into the sheds.

The Lions added those three goals in as many minutes, turning a four point lead into a four goal lead seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Moe took that momentum into the second half, while conversely, the sudden onslaught seemed to take the string out of Drouin’s attack.

So it proved over the next 20 minutes, as at three quarter time the Lions found themselves 43-points in advance.

The game had threatened to fizzle out in the third, but Drouin, as they have become known for this season, kept taking the game on and kept trying to score.

Their approach in doing so meant they were able to add three more goals, but the catch-22 was that Moe kicked six at the other end.

Moe bullocking midfielder Jaryn Makepeace saved the best for last, with a great running snap goal just as the final siren sounded.

Joining Makepeace on the goal-kicking list was new recruit Billy Gowers, who managed six, backing up the five he scored on debut last week.

Ben Daniher was industrious for the winners, as were the two Harrisons with the same spelling for their given name but different for the shortened version in Harri Sim and Harry Pepper, who both kicked three goals, continuing their good form.

Jacob Wood and Luke Mulqueen both thrived in the conditions, well accustomed to what they have previously played in up at Hill End.

For Drouin, Kye Quirk, Tim Hancock, Jarrod Marhsall and Aden Quirk did a good job.
The name Hugo Birks also rated a mention among the Hawks’ best yet again.

While anyone with a name like that is bound to get noticed, Birks has let his footy do the talking in his first year at Drouin.

The youngster has kicked 25 goals and been in the best six times, and he kicked another five on the weekend.

Moe senior assistant coach Shane Paynter coached Birks at the recent all-stars match for the best Gippsland League players under 25, and was glowing in his praise of him. It is now easy to see why.

Birks has helped turn Drouin into a dangerous beast in season 2023.

As ridiculous as it sounds for a team that hasn’t won a game, the Hawks are actually good.

A percentage of 72.83 is hardly the sort associated with a side that is struggling, and Drouin’s ability to score freely sees them with a greater percentage than three others in the competition.

Under first-year coach, Brett Clinnick, the Hawks have, perhaps fittingly, decided to put on a clinic by the way in which they play the game, looking to attack at most opportunities.

After claiming the wooden spoon last year, Clinnick may have figured “we can’t do any worse” and so decided to completely reverse the common football philosophy that says you have to learn how to defend first before becoming a good side.

Common feedback from Drouin games this season has been that you can’t defend against them – the only way to beat them is to keep scoring yourself.

It’s straight out of old Maffra coach Wayne Butcher’s handbook: kick 15 goals and keep the opposition to less than 10.

Just how many wins Drouin get on the board by playing in this manner remains to be seen, but if they manage to spring an upset or two, league pundits can’t be too surprised.

They would have to be the best team that hasn’t won a game in well over 10 years of Gippsland League football.

In a game that didn’t return a huge number of talking points, there was a couple of instances worth mentioning.

Moe midfielder Nathan Balfour made his senior debut, coming in for injured brother Jacob, while cult hero Matt Heywood managed to kick his first senior goal.

Lion’s defender Scott Van Dyk took a clever juggling mark after slipping over in the mud, as many players did throughout the day, just before the long-sleeve wearing Dylan Brooks showed tremendous desperation to lay a blindsiding tackle at a time when the result was beyond doubt.

For Moe, the improvement across the board has been self-evident: The Lions won eight senior games last year, and are now up to seven; the reserves won seven and are now at six before the halfway mark.

The dullness of the game was perhaps best summed up when Lion’s midfielder Jordan Ceppi booted the ball 50 metres the wrong way in the last quarter. While such an act would normally draw instant shock, spectators by this stage had seen enough, and weren’t really paying attention.

Like the scene in The Blues Brothers when the band finishes playing at Bob’s Country Bunker, most spectators were like Joliet Jake as soon as the final siren sounded, saying “let’s get the hell out of here.”


UNSURPRISING results came the way for Sale and Maffra in Round 8 of the Gippsland League.

SALE took their lead inside the top-five on the ladder to an even four points.

The Magpies were half-a-game clear in fifth heading into the match at Western Park, but were able to break away from their nearest challenger after easily accounting for Warragul.

As expected, the visitor’s were never troubled, and used the mismatch as an opportunity to boost their percentage.

They did a very good job of that, taking their percentage from 82.84 to 101.77 after pumping the Gulls 19.11 (125) to 3.4 (22).

Sale kept Warragul scoreless in the first quarter, and went on their merry way from there.
A second term blitz saw the Magpies have 10 scoring shots from 16 entries as they piled on 7.3 (45) to 1.1 (7).

It was more of the same in the second half, as Sale kicked nine goals to two against an opposition that is well and truly facing a long, tough winter.

The unfortunate Gulls have already used close to 40 players this season, and one would expect the injury toll, and overall enthusiasm, will only get worse as the days get colder.

Brad Dessent kicked five goals in the win, while older brother Jordan played his first senior game for the season.

The former skipper capped off the return with two goals, with his first seeing 17 teammates running up to celebrate with him.

Another pair of brothers, Daine and Jonty McGuiness, also bobbed up for a pair of goals each, making it 11 goals for people with that surname (albeit with different spelling) in the Gippsland League for the round.

Jarrod Freeman kept the goals coming for Sale with four, and received good support from Jack McLaren, Daine McGuiness, Cooper Whitehill, Hudson Holmes, Jayden Allison and Nathan Whitford.

McLaren has been in some form, named in the best in every game bar one this season.
For Warragul, Riley Senini, Brad Hefford, James Davidson, Sean Masterson, Cooper Alger and Matt O’Halloran fought manfully.


LEONGATHA got back on the winner’s list.

Been a while since we’ve had to say that.

The Parrots were too strong for Maffra, winning 14.13 (97) to 4.7 (31).

Somewhat ironically, Leongatha faced the side whose league record it was on track to break up until the previous week.

The Parrots had won 34 games in a row before losing to Moe, falling some distance short of the Eagles’ 45 consecutive wins between 2003 and 2005.

Comments on the bush telegraph during the week about who was the better team may have fired up the Parrots, as they stamped their authority on the contest after halftime, kicking six goals to none to be runaway winners.

An interesting name appeared for Leongatha, with former Essendon player Noah Gown kicking four goals.

Gown was able to join the Parrots as his VFL club Sandringham (St Kilda’s affiliate) had the bye.

The union came about presumably through Gown’s friendship with Leongatha player Kim Drew. The pair having previously played together at Warragul.

While it is unknown whether this was a one-off game, one would think the Parrots will look to get Gown qualified for finals if the opportunity arises.

Leongatha defender Cade Maskell was best-on-ground for the second week in a row, giving further rise to his label as being the Benjamin Button of the Gippsland League.

Joining the left-footer in the most prominent was Jack Hume, Tom Marriott, Aaron Turton, Jake van der Plight and Gown.

While beer is the common postgame refreshment for most country footballers, the sight of many Leongatha players drinking UDLs might explain why they spread so quick – they’ve probably got that much sugar in their system.

Alex Carr, Ben Brunt, Kade Renooy, Kieran Jones, Ed Carr and Brayden Monk tried hard for the Eagles.