Maroons seal game late

Vertical leap: Traralgon's Tom Hamilton (number 24) takes a strong grab against Morwell on Sunday. Photograph Liam Durkin





THE future of Gippsland League football is in safe hands if the game between Traralgon and Morwell is anything to go by.

Two relatively youthful teams clashed in a marquee Sunday game for Round 11 of the Gippsland League.

The weather was cold but the footy hot as the traditional rivals squared off at Morwell Recreation Reserve, now complete with nets at either end of the ground.


While spectators on both sides were singing the praises of that particular instalment, only one was singing their club song at the end of the game.

Traralgon was the team to sing their song, after breaking away in the last term to win 12.9 (81) to 7.9 (51).

Just 13 points separated the sides at the last change, but a four goal to one final term sealed the deal for the Maroons.

Traralgon, needing to win to stay on track with what is looking like a four-team race to three available spots for the double-chance, went into the match favourites against a Morwell outfit with a four-win, six-loss record.

However, given the nature of a local rivalry, the Tigers came into the contest a very sneaky chance.

When rain pelted down during the reserves game, their chances of an upset may have even risen.

Traralgon made use of the new ball while it was still dry, and kicked four goals to one in the first term heading toward the croquet club. Maroons skipper Dylan Loprese had his trademark vice-like hands on display, taking a strong contested grab and kicking one of his side’s four goals.

Morwell played its best football in the second, with some clinical overlap run leading to a number of good looks inside 50.

The Tigers had most of the play for the term, and took the greasy conditions out of the equation, continuing to flick handballs around congestion and moving the ball with speed.

A scrambled goal after the ball bobbled around the goal face gave the home side a lift, while a follow-up major from Brandon Mcauliffe made it a one-point ball game.

Morwell had Tristen Waack available from the VFL, and the hybrid ruckman/midfielder gave the Tigers the lead after bombing a goal off one step from 50 metres out.

Confidence was high among the home side, and they looked a completely different team to the one that was annihilated by Traralgon earlier in the season by nearly 70 points.

Morwell held a number of premiership reunions the night before, and one couldn’t help but think the Tigers had risen to the occasion to do the ‘Tigers of old’ proud.

Traralgon struggled to get the ball inside 50 until red time, until a horrendous kick across goal from Morwell ended with Josh Hamilton taking a shot from no less than 15 metres out.

Fortunately for Morwell, the set shot went astray, but Loprese made no mistake a short time later after being awarded a free for high contact.

His goal gave Traralgon back the lead, and some momentum as the halftime siren sounded just seconds after the ball was tossed up.

Morwell responded with the first goal of the third, courtesy of an outrageous set shot from Josh Galea.

Galea took a mark deep in the pocket near the scoreboard, and from 40 metres out, kicked an arrow straight drop punt, cuing an immediate celebration turning to the crowd.

While his effort would have won goal of the day, it ended up being the only goal, in fact the only score, Morwell managed for the whole quarter.

Traralgon didn’t have as many issues scoring, but it did have problems converting, as they kicked 2.4 (16).

Defensive pressure was high from both sides, so much so at one stage there was four holding the ball decisions in a row.

Morwell players had moments of brilliance around the ground. A diving intercept mark from Tyler Hillier stopped a certain Traralgon chain, and a clever palming knock-on from Zac Carlson kept the ball moving forward.

The Tigers certainly linked up well at times on offence, but perhaps just went one handball too many, which caused some delay and allowed Traralgon defenders such as Tye Hourigan and Conor Little to pick off high balls coming in.

Maroons key forward Brett Eddy got his side back in front with a snapped set shot next to the clubrooms, taking the lead to five points at the 15-minute mark.

Harvey Neocleous then gave Traralgon some breathing space, snapping off balance but finding enough purchase on the ball to send one through three minutes later.

Some razzle dazzle from Traralgon midfielder Luis D’Angelo handballing over his head inside 50 very nearly led to a shot on goal, only for the receiving kick to be met with a less-than-attractive but equally valuable smother from underrated Tigers defender Zac Anderson.

Come three quarter time, Morwell playing-coach Boyd Bailey praised the work rate of his troops, and urged them to keep persisting.

A famous win was on the cards when Mcauliffe benefitted from some sloppy Traralgon defence, which allowed him to take an uncontested mark inside 50.

The goal cut the margin back to seven points, but Traralgon responded a short time later with a goal to Billy Schilling.

The Tigers kept coming, and were a touch unlucky after a Hillier checkside slapped into the goal post as the clock ticked closer to 20 minutes.

A goal to Eddy at the 20-minute mark made the equation just that little bit harder for Morwell, and when Tate Marsh found the ball in space and ran into goal from 30 metres out, it was all over.

Eddy put the final nail in the coffin for Morwell, kicking his fifth at the 24-minute mark, in what was a very short quarter, as the siren sounded not long after.

Eddy was voted best-on-ground for the winners, followed by Little, Tom Schneider, Loprese (three goals), Tom Hamilton and Mark Collison.

Victorious coach Jake Best was pleased with the result, in what was, funnily enough, the first time he had beaten Morwell in both home-and-away fixtures in his three years as senior coach.

“It was a good contest, normally always is a tight contest with this local rivalry, really happy with how the boys ran away with it in the end,” he said.

“We knew that they would be totally different from last time, they had a fair few out (last time we played them), we knew it was going to be close, especially with the conditions.

“Morwell were really good, we just knew that if we stick to our system and plan, we’ll be able to overrun them.

“Guys just found a way (in the last), guys that had been a bit quiet really stood up. Thought Tom Hamilton in the ruck had a massive difference, our midfielders got on top, got those clearances, the boys up forward took some good marks, it was just guys stood up when it mattered.”

Those observing Traralgon at their quarter time and three quarter time huddle could have been forgiven for thinking a third of their players were still young enough to be in the Under 18 game.

That’s because they were.

“Seven teenagers, we’re super-young which is exciting, some weeks we’re really young, which is good for the future,” Best said.

Traralgon is now equal-second on the ladder, but fourth on percentage in a logjam with three other sides.

The Maroons have only lost two games, however, one of those was to second-placed Wonthaggi by 79 points.

When asked if he was willing to cast that performance aside as an aberration, Best said “hope so”.

“They were really good on the day and we were really poor,” he said.

“We’ve learnt a lot from that loss, we’ve got three wins since that loss so hopefully we can keep getting better.”

Best for Morwell was Waack, Burkeley Macfarlane, Blake Couling, Darnell Grech, Mcauliffe and Max Linton.

An interesting observation out of the match was Morwell players on the bench using a mobile phone to communicate with the coaches box located in the grandstand.

While the move might not be totally left-of-field, it was unusual to see muddied players looking as though they are taking a private call during a game.

Leongatha coach Trent McMicking has perhaps led the way in terms of innovative ideas. Next time you are at a Leongatha game, notice if McMicking is wearing AirPods to communicate with coaches stationed at other sections of the ground.


IF the game at Ted Summerton Reserve last Saturday was anything to go by – it’s going to be a cracking finals series.

Second played third when Moe welcomed Wonthaggi for Round 11 of the Gippsland League.

The game was befitting of one billed as match-of-the-round, so much so a draw would have been a fair result.

It wasn’t far off a draw, just one point in fact, but four points went the way of Wonthaggi after they secured a thrilling 9.9 (63) to 9.8 (62) victory.

Heartrates were high in a pulsating last five minutes, as the Lions came agonisingly short of ending the Power’s seven game winning streak.

The visitor’s started the better of the two sides, and led by 14 points at the first change.

Despite losing key defender Shannon Bray early, Wonthaggi took further ascendency, and skipped to a game-high 34-point lead midway through the second.

Wonthaggi forward Cooper McInnes perhaps demonstrated how high confidence was in the Power camp, cheekily showing the ball in one hand to his opponent before running into an open goal.

At that stage, the Power looked every bit the team that had inflicted fellow top-four side Traralgon with a near 80-point drubbing just three rounds prior. One spectator quipping to this scribe “not much to write about this week.”

Moe however did enough to stay in the contest. Back-to-back goals from Billy Gowers, the first from a 50-metre penalty that took him to the goal square, and the second from a wrap around handball just inside 50, ensured the Lions had the margin under some control.

A clever play by Riley Baldi to take advantage inside 50 at the scoreboard end saw him slot a crucial major right on halftime, with said scoreboard reading 7.8 (50) to 4.3 (27) at the main break.

Wonthaggi had looked the superior team in the first half, and when McInnes scored the first goal of the third quarter to extend the lead, the Power threatened to take the game right away from Moe.

The Lions kept fighting though, and another advantage call went their way, and saw Gowers add a major at the nine-minute mark.

A follow-up long range set shot from Ben Daniher sailed through at the 14-minute mark.

After kicking the goal, Daniher immediately turned to a group of Wonthaggi players, and added to the drama by giving them what appeared to be the hand signal associated with talking, perhaps indicating there had been a few choice words said during the game.

While there was likely plenty of banter on-field, one thing Wonthaggi were was very loud in their communication with each other.

At times it was clearly audible from well beyond the fence to hear Power players directing each other around the ground.

Even playing-coach Jarryd Blair was pretty much shouted at to get into position from teammates.

Moe added a third goal for the quarter when Nick Prowse took a strong mark within close range, and brought the margin back to nine points at the 24-minute mark.

By now, momentum had well and truly swung Moe’s way, and they weren’t done with yet.

The Lions managed another goal just before three quarter time, and went into the last change only three points down.

Moe players rose to a new level in the third, highlighted by Brock Smith taking an exceptional intercept mark when he was literally sideways as he took it.

Lions defender-turned-winger Tyson Biffin also showed his football IQ, outsmarting former Collingwood player Isaac Chugg to gain a 50-metre penalty at half-back. Biffin shaped to kick the ball down the line, but did so in a way that forced Chugg to step off the mark before the umpire had called play-on.

Defence was the order of the last quarter, as both sides fought manically to repel any forward entries.

A Jack Hutchinson goal gave Wonthaggi some breathing space, and it wasn’t until the clock had ticked over 20 minutes that Moe was able to respond.

Strong contested marking was a feature throughout the day, and there was some potentially goal-saving grabs by Power players Tim Knowles and Josh Schulz.

Knowles took arguably mark of the day in the third, outmuscling Gowers, while pint-sized Schulz showed tremendous courage to fly backwards and grab the ball 30 metres out from Moe’s goal at the 21-minute mark of the last. Although his follow-up decision to send a bullet pass to centre half-back would have no doubt left a few hearts in mouths on the Wonthaggi bench.

Down by eight points and needing to go for everything, Moe pushed all their numbers past halfway.

The Lions did a good job of surging the ball forward, with Harri Sim cooly keeping the ball in play and then nailing Jarryd Blair in a crunching tackle. Younger brother Jack Blair was wrapped up in a similar tackle by Matt Heywood a short time later.

Wonthaggi paid the price for assuming a free kick was going their way inside Moe’s 50, which led to Lion’s skipper Jacob Wood snapping truly from a standing-start to make it a two-point ball game.

There was a few seconds of confusion from Power players, some of whom had literally stopped before realising they needed to get back and defend.

Emotions had been riding high throughout the day, demonstrated by the number of 50-metre penalties paid. Veteran umpire Mark Smith afforded the opportunity to defuse the tightness of a two-point game, jokingly offering his whistle to a Wonthaggi supporter after being told he’d missed a free kick.

The final twist in the tale turned out to be rather ironic as far as Moe was concerned.

If you were to ask any Moe player who they would want taking a set shot, chances are they would choose Scott van Dyk.

With arguably the best and most raking foot in the team, van Dyk had a shot 40 metres out directly in front.

Unfortunately for Moe, and understandably under tired legs for van Dyk, the kick could only register a minor score.

Wonthaggi did not try to win the game from there, and were intent on chewing off valuable seconds, even if it meant kicking the ball 20 metres backwards.

A last-gasp effort from Moe was thwarted when Knowles again crashed a pack to take a solid mark.

The siren sounded as he was getting up, giving Wonthaggi victory by the barest margin.

McInnes kicked four goals and Hutchinson three, while Aiden Lindsay, Knowles, Jarryd Blair, Kyle Reid, Jordan Staley and Jack Blair were voted best.

Best for Moe was Grady Cocksedge, Declan Keilty, Wood, Tom Long, Baldi and Charlie Rieniets.

Despite the result, perhaps pleasingly for Moe was the fact it didn’t appear as though they changed a great deal in the way they played after halftime.

Long was put onto Hutchinson, but apart from that, structurally not much changed at all.
Where the idea might have been right but the execution wrong in the first half for Moe, the second saw the right idea paired with better execution.

Wonthaggi’s one-wood had been their ability to chip the ball through the middle of the ground and then explode in the front half utilising the class of Chugg, Ryan Sparkes and the Blairs.

Wonthaggi continued to try and play this way in the second half, but more kicks were forced down the line due to Moe shutting down the corridor.

Moe will surely take a great deal of belief out of this game, and head into the bye knowing they are up to their eyeballs in this competition.

How bad were Traralgon against Wonthaggi …


SALE went 2-0 in Battle of the Birds for 2023.

In what would have been doubly sweet for the Magpies, they also ended any faint hopes Maffra might have had of playing finals as well.

The Eagles certainly made the visiting Magpies work for the points, in a final scoreboard reading 9.9 (63) to 6.8 (44).

Oddly enough, the Eagles did all their scoring in the third quarter.

Up until then, the Magpies had kept Maffra goalless, but somewhat astonishingly, the Eagles managed six unanswered majors before not scoring a goal again in the last.

Bohdi Walker played his first senior game for the season, and kicked two goals for the victor’s.

Jack McLaren was again in the best for Sale, and could just about have the club best-and-fairest sewn up. Others to play well were Will Leslie, Josh Butcher, Nathan Whitford, Jarrod Freeman and Adam Wallace.

Dr Sam Davidson kicked two goals in a best afield performance for Maffra. Brayden Monk, Ben Brunt, Alex Carr, Kieran Jones and James Read also did a good job.


DROUIN broke through for its first win of the season, defeating the travelling Bairnsdale by 27 points.

Wild scenes erupted in the Hawks’ rooms following their 10.20 (80) to 8.5 (53) victory.


THE same could not be said for their western neighbours Warragul, who were crushed by league-leader’s Leongatha.

A severely depleted Warragul did well to field a team, and duly lost 26.24 (180) to 5.3 (33) at Parrot Park.

The shortage of players meant the Gulls had to forfeit their reserves.

In the context of the situation, Yarram’s Corbin Sutherland played a remarkable game for Warragul – kicking all five of their goals.