Tigers meet the GOAT in Drouin

Now: Gary Ablett Junior playing for Drouin last Saturday.





FINALS-bound teams are just about set in the Gippsland League.

For Leongatha, Wonthaggi, Moe and Traralgon, it will be a matter of who finishes where, and who misses the double-chance.

The Parrots, Power and Lions are equal-first on the ladder, and with five rounds to go, there is still enough time for Sale or Morwell to take the last available spot in finals.


MORWELL overcame the Ablett factor.

The appearance of arguably the greatest footballer to ever live wasn’t enough to get Drouin over the line.

The Tigers claimed an important victory on the road, winning 11.10 (76) to 9.13 (67).

Perhaps unfairly for Morwell, the win was somewhat overshadowed by Gary Ablett Junior pulling on the maroon and gold.

Another chapter to the Ablett-Drouin story was added last Saturday, when The Little Master ran out to play for the club where his famous father cut his teeth.

The same club where a huge portrait of Gary Ablett Senior adorns the foyer in the social rooms.

Gary Jr had 25 touches and kicked two goals for the Hawks – one off each foot.

The 39-year-old appeared to lose none of his trademark poise, snapping both truly through the big sticks.

Sure enough, he wore the number 29, in a sight that would have no doubt had many long-serving Drouin supporters grinning from ear-to-ear.

This was surely a sight they’d hoped to see one day – an Ablett back playing for Drouin.

Gippsland League historian Paul Carter, himself a Geelong supporter, can now add Gary Ablett Jr to the list of names he has kept stats for.

Lost in all this was the slight Morwell connection to Ablett, as current Gold Coast player and Morwell local Ben Ainsworth played a year with Ablett in Queensland.

Ainsworth kicked four goals in Ablett’s 300th AFL game in 2017.

While the Tigers led at every change last Saturday, they were challenged the whole way through – and very nearly lost it.

A five goal opening term gave the visitor’s a solid base, and halfway through the third quarter, Morwell was 42 points up.

Then strange things started to happen.

Drouin added three goals in seven minutes against the run of play, and cut the margin back to 22 points at three quarter time.

Ablett kicked his first goal on the eve of three quarter time, and added another five minutes into the last.

An Ablett sidestep and left-foot finish was followed by Ryan Taylor finding the middle four minutes later.

Morwell held sway, but a goal to Hawk James McKellar at the 21-minute mark left the match on a knifes edge.

Three points down in front of a huge home crowd and with a 350-game AFL player in your team – the script appeared to be written especially for Drouin to steal a famous win late.

Zac Carlson however had other ideas. The Morwell youngster kicked the last goal of the game, and the Tigers’ only score for the quarter at the 26-minute mark, netting a huge sigh of relief from all those wearing yellow and black.

If they had of lost this game, it would have just about been season over.

The Tigers walked off however living to fight another day in 2023.

Morwell sits a game off Sale in fifth position. As it stands, it is looking all the more likely the Round 16 clash between the Tigers and Magpies in Morwell will decide who plays finals.

With Morwell needing Sale to keep losing, and with the Magpies travelling to Moe this Saturday, it will be one of the very rare times Morwell will be barracking for Moe.

Fancy being Morwell in the last two seasons – nearly every game after Round 9 has been an elimination final.

While the Ablett festivities had the potential to derail the Tigers’ preparation, they were able to get out of Drouin with the four points they desired.

Sam Walsh did well for Morwell, as did coach Boyd Bailey, Dan Musil, Aidan Quigley, Blake Couling and Brandon Mcauliffe.

Looking at things holistically, one has to wonder how Morwell felt by the whole episode.

Granted it would have been a great thrill to play against Gary Ablett, a club generally selects a marquee player for a game they think they are a good chance of winning.

Would Morwell have been insulted by that?

For the Drouin players lucky enough to play alongside Ablett, those who made a good impression were Jarrod Marshall, Kye Quirk, Tim Hancock, Charlie Bethune, Jordan Kingi and McKellar.

As for what Ablett brought to the club, an estimated crowd of 2500 came to Drouin, forcing parking restrictions to be placed on the reserve.

Ablett stayed on for a social function later that night, and walked off the ground to chants of “Gaza … Gaza” by some enthusiastic youngsters.

Continuing a proud Drouin tradition, Ablett was presented his matchday jumper by Lionel Rose Junior.

Rose and Ablett are undoubtedly the two most famous sporting names from Drouin.

Legendary boxer Lionel Rose also grew up in Drouin, and went on to become the first Indigenous Australian to win a world title.

The Ablett-Drouin connection extends far beyond Gary Senior.

Senior was one of three Ablett boys, along with Kevin and Geoff, to play AFL football, while sister Fay married Michael Tuck, who went on to become the AFL games record holder.

Interestingly, the Abletts only put their family farm at 10 Walton Road, Drouin on the market in 2021 after 40 years of ownership.


WE’VE said it before and we’ll say it again – ya still gonna have to beat Leongatha to win this premiership.

The Parrots reminded everyone in league circles why they are on top of the ladder, doing a number on Traralgon and winning with relative ease, 14.14 (98) to 4.8 (32).

Coming into the Round 13 match equal on points, the stage was set for an epic battle at Parrot Park.

The home side however showed no interest in making it a close contest, and put up five goals to two in the opening term.

Traralgon broke even in the second, and went into the sheds only four goals down.

With 16 scoring shots to seven though, the visitor’s may have been fortunate to still be in the game.

The Parrots really turned it on after halftime, and put the game beyond all reasonable doubt early in the last.

Well-known for their ruthlessness, Leongatha was exactly that – they kicked 3.2 (20) to 1.2 (8) in the third, and then 5.2 (32) to 0.2 (2) in the last.

Jackson Harry was prominent for the winners, as was defender Sean Westaway, who saw the visitor’s only kick one goal after the main break.

Aaron Heppell and Tallin Brill also did a good job, as did team leaders Cade Maskell and Ben Willis.

The Parrots had VFL-listed player Noah Gown play his second match in the green and gold.
With Gown’s VFL club Sandringham only having one more bye this season, it will be interesting to see if the Parrots can get him back for two more games needed to qualify for local finals.

Gown, from Warragul, was joined by fellow Warragul and now Leongatha player Kim Drew in the side. There had been some uncertainty over whether or not Drew would play following a tackle on Wonthaggi midfielder Ryan Sparkes, which left the playmaker concussed the week before.

Better players for Traralgon were Tye Hourigan, Tom Schneider, Max Jacobsen, Luis D’Angelo, Harvey Neocleous and Sammy Hallyburton.

While the Maroons are outright fourth and would need something to go drastically wrong in order to miss finals, there could be a couple of warning bells for coach Jake Best.

Traralgon has now lost to top-two sides Wonthaggi and Leongatha comfortably, and been kept to just three goals and four goals in those games respectively.

However, if recent history is anything to go by, Traralgon has one thing working in its favour.

When it comes to peaking at the right time, the Maroons have been like Bart Cummings preparing Melbourne Cup runners.

In 2015, Traralgon lost to Leongatha by 123 points in Round 1, and beat them in the Grand Final.

In 2018, the Maroons made finals by a game, and got within five points of making that year’s decider.

As they say, premierships aren’t won in July.


MOE did what they had to.

The Lions ticked the box of qualifying for finals, after beating Warragul 19.12 (126) to 7.9 (51).

The game blew out after halftime, as Moe added 10 goals to four at Ted Summerton Reserve.

If the Gulls’ intentions were to get under the skin of the opposition, they succeeded in that regard, as a huge number of 50 metre penalties were paid for retaliation and backchat.
Most of Warragul’s goals came from 50 metre penalties, and with their Gippsland Power players available, the Gulls competed well up until the main break, before fading as the game wore on.

The match was far from spectacular, and unfortunate Moe forwards had to deal with negative tactics from the visitor’s, who dropped balk numbers back.

Key forward Billy Gowers had an especially torrid time, with as many as four Warragul players converging on him at once.

As dull as the contest was, the Lions still won by 75 points, and could have easily taken the margin closer to triple figures.

The crisp air made it a good day for long sleeves, and Riley Baldi’s saw him rack up touches for the victors.

He received good support from Nick Prowse who kicked four goals, and Harry Pepper who nabbed five.

Prowse completed what was surely the tallest lot of canteen staff in local footy history earlier in the day, doing a shift with brother Chris and fellow ruckman Ben Morrow.

Tyler Pratt also played well, as did Tom Long and Jacob Balfour, who kicked three goals on return to the senior side following shoulder surgery.

Speaking of returns, reigning Moe best-and-fairest winner Trent Baldi played his first game for the year in the main game, while returning player Mitchell Stanlake had a run around at 12.30pm.

Jasper Alger kicked three goals in a losing cause, while Tom Stern, Jake Hughes, Nick Stevenson, Tom Hobbs and Patrick Ireland were all handy.

Moe is now third on the ladder (equal-first), but five games clear of fifth, making it mathematically impossible for them to miss out on finals.


WONTHAGGI was just too good.

The Power led at every change against Sale, and won 13.4 (82) to 10.9 (69).

While the scoreboard indicated a close game, the visitors led by 39 points at three quarter time.

The Magpies saved face with five goals to one in the last, but by then the damage had been done.

Jack Blair stood out for the winners, as did Noah Anderson, Jakeb Thomas, Josh Bates, Jack Hutchinson and Isaac Chugg.

Best for Sale was Hudson Holmes, Shannen Lange, Kane Martin, Rohan Diamond, Jarrod Freeman and Jack McLaren.


MAFFRA enjoyed some reward for effort.

The Eagles put a difficult month behind them, to defeat Bairnsdale 17.9 (111) to 14.10 (94).

Having copped the rough end of the stick in terms of the fixture, playing the top five sides all in succession, Maffra was finally able to play a side at their level.

A high-scoring match ensued, with more than 30 goals kicked for a game in the middle of winter.

Maffra skipper Daniel Bedggood nailed seven, while Sam Davidson kicked three. Brayden Monk did a good job, as did Kade Renooy, Nathan Pollard and Noah Christy.

Having blooded more than half-a-dozen under 18 players this season, any victory the Eagles can achieve will no doubt do wonders for their confidence and growth.

Bairnsdale was only 10 points down at the last change, but the Eagles were able to finish the better at home.

The Redlegs were well-served by Nathan Dennison, Ethan East, Will Mitchell, Lachlan Byrne-Jones, Xavier Richards and Andrew Nelson.

With finals out of the equation, both sides will now be looking to pick up as many wins as they can before the season is out.

When asked for a premiership tip, Maffra coach Anthony Robbins said Wonthaggi had been the side he was most impressed with.

Then: Gary Ablett Senior playing for Drouin. Photographs supplied