Final five all decided

Lining up: Morwell's Tom Gray prepares to take a set shot on Saturday. Photograph Liam Durkin





AND with that, the top five is set.

Just one game was needed in the first week of the split round in the Gippsland League to determine finals-bound teams for season 2023.

That game was one of only two played in the first week of Round 16, and saw Sale secure a finals berth, all the while sending Morwell out of contention.

Book it in now, Traralgon versus Sale Elimination Final.


YOU couldn’t accuse Sale of tanking this time around.

Unlike last year, the Magpies couldn’t afford to manipulate the finals – as they had to make it themselves.

With their season on the line at Morwell Recreation Reserve, the Magpies got the result they desired, beating the Tigers 13.12 (90) to 9.10 (64).

The result means Sale is now two games clear in fifth with two rounds to play.

With Morwell, in sixth, now also more than 20 per cent adrift of Sale, the Tigers’ chances of playing finals are virtually mathematically impossible.

An overcast day may have made for perfect photography conditions, but the crisp Morwell air made for something of a non-atmospheric spectacle, quite disappointing given what was at stake.

Nevertheless, Sale would have been pleased to walk away from the game with a finals position secured, and will now be afforded the luxury of going into the second week of a split round at ease, knowing they will be taking part in September.

The Magpies loaded up as best they could for the do-or-die clash, bringing in Kane Martin, Jayden Allison, Rohan Diamond and key forward Brad Dessent.

Lack of scoring had plagued the Magpies at times this season, and while Dessent only managed the one goal, his work competing and flying for marks made a noticeable difference.

Sale looked the more dangerous side in the first term, and easily outnumbered Morwell on the inside 50 count.

A goal from a 50 metre penalty for late contact took Harry Ronchi to the goal square for the Magpies’ first.

At the other end, Morwell was able to respond through Boyd Bailey pouncing on a blunder across half-back, in which the Morwell coach picked off an inboard kick and made sure the opposition paid the ultimate price.

While the Tigers were able to capitalise on a skill error in that instance, it was actually Morwell’s disposal by foot that absolutely killed them on multiple occasions as the game went on.

The Bailey goal proved to be the Tigers’ only real scoring opportunity of the first until late in the term, when a Brandon McDonald set shot took them into the break trailling 3.3 (21) to 2.0 (12).

In between these goals, the Magpies had several looks forward, highlighted by a neat finish from Bohdi Walker giving himself some extra room from a set shot to wheel around on his left.

The imbalance of inside 50s may have played a part in Morwell deciding to play a plus-one defender, although the sight of an extra behind the ball as early as the 10-minute mark couldn’t help but give rise to the notion the Tigers were employing negative tactics far too early.

Things opened up in the second quarter, where Sale really made their running.

The Magpies added five unanswered goals in the first 20 minutes to blow the margin out to 31 points.

Shannen Lange had his own footy, with 12 touches alone in that timeframe.

Morwell was able to get a much-needed goal after an opportunistic crumb in the goal square from Josh Galea.

While that goal could have been considered lucky after a number of Sale players protested it was touched, Galea could have considered himself just as unlucky a few moments later, after taking what looked to be a strong contested mark hugged up against the boundary line, only for it to be deemed out on the full.

Had he been playing cricket, Galea would have been well within his rights to call for a review.

There was no such doubting a contested mark from McDonald as halftime approached, and the resultant goal from 20 metres out directly in front cut the margin back to 25 points at the main break.

Although not exactly a highlight, Sale defender Hudson Holmes found himself in the unusual position of needing to ruck at one stage during the second quarter at half-back. Showing his soccer skills, the undersized Holmes produced a bicycle kick out of the contest, sending the ball some 20 metres toward the boundary for a throw in.

Those running the boundary included Liam Smith, who has been completing work placement with the Express. The man known as Junior was back in action after coming down with a terrible bout of the flu during the week. The effects of his illness were clear, as the youngster looked as though he had literally lost 15 kilos and was going to snap in half.

His dad, field umpire Mark Smith, and Sale playing-coach Jack Johnstone had a chat at halftime, clarifying why Johnstone had been penalised 50 metres for breaching the stand rule.

The third quarter produced more of a stalemate, as it took the best part of 10 minutes for a goal to be scored.

Morwell skipper Aidan Quigley gave his side a spark, however, the manner in which Sale scored their two goals for the quarter were demoralising to say the least for the Tigers.

The first came after Jordan Dessent picked off an inboard kick from centre half-back, handballed it to Lachie Ronchi, who then kicked it to Lange, who calmly gathered a loose ball to slot his third.

Morwell got one back through Galea getting goal-side of Mitch Bown and running into an open goal, only for another horrendous skill error in the back half cost the Tigers dearly.

This time, it was Johnstone intercepting the ball, and kicking it to Jack McLaren, who waltzed in to keep the Magpies lead hovering at four goals as time ticked down to the sounding of the three quarter time siren.

Some slight controversy followed after Brad Dessent was paid a mark bordering the three quarter time siren, and a behind from the resultant kick from the pocket saw Sale win the quarter by just that margin.

Come the last change, the general feeling was that if Sale, with a 25-point lead, could kick the first goal, they would just about be home.

The Magpies cheer squad were in full voice as players broke from the huddle, with the KC and the Sunshine Band song Give It Up, blasted from a portable speaker. Sale midfielder Patrick Tainsh enjoyed some sort of cult status, with supporters replacing the lyrics ‘baby give it up, give it up, baby give it up’ with ‘Patty, Patty Tainsh, Patty Tainsh, Patty, Patty Tainsh’.

Like the third term, it took the best part of 10 minutes for a goal to be kicked, but the Magpies were able to wrap things up.

McLaren broke away from a contest at half-forward, and kicked it to the top of the square, where Jordan Dessent was able to take a one-on-one grab.

The former captain then put the result beyond all reasonable doubt, extending the lead beyond five goals.

Morwell fought the game out admirably, adding three goals for their trouble, but were never able to bridge the 20-point gap that had existed from about midway through the second term.

Again like the third quarter, Brad Dessent had a shot for goal right on the siren, this one however split the middle.

His older brother Jordan was among the best players with three goals, as was Lange and McLaren who kicked just as many.

Will and Jack Leslie were also prominent, along with Cooper Whitehill.

Best for Morwell was Tyler Hillier, Bailey, Sam Walsh, Zac Anderson, Tayler Weatherill and Galea (three goals).

Despite sewing up a finals spot, there was some concerns to come out of the Sale camp.

Rohan Diamond did not play the final term after doing his hamstring, while Martin hobbled off in the last after landing awkwardly in a marking contest.

His right leg was heavily iced after the game, and his situation will no doubt be monitored closely as he is a player of utmost importance for Sale.

While availability has plague last year’s grand finalists this season, the Magpies at least have depth in their squad.

How often do you see a VFL player in country footy twos?

Cody Henness played limited minutes for Sale in the early game at the weekend, and will surely need to be fitted into the senior side come finals.

With the Magpies more than likely going to finish top-three in the reserves, it should theoretically help selection holistically.

Speaking of reserves, those checking the team sheets may have noticed an interesting name for the Morwell twos at the weekend – Joel Soutar.


DID anyone even know this game was on?

Like Australia playing Zimbabwe in a one dayer in Townsville last year, the match between Warragul and Wonthaggi went on largely unnoticed.

Unlike the Australian cricketers however, the Wonthaggi footballers did as expected, whitewashing the Gulls in a one-sided affair, 20.11 (131) to 3.1 (19).

An inaccurate Power kicked 2.7 (19) in the second term, but turned it around completely after that, nailing 9.1 (55) in the third, and a further 4.1 (25) in the last.

Warragul on the other hand was held scoreless in the third quarter, and was down by as good as 100 points by the last change.

Wonthaggi went to the top of the Gippsland League ladder after the win, although only by virtue of the fact it was the only top-three side playing in the first week of the split round.

With no Cooper McInnes in the line-up, it was left to Jack Hutchinson to do the goal-scoring. Hutchinson kicked five, while Noah Anderson and Hunter Tiziani kicked four each.

Ryan Sparkes was again best-on for the Power, and perhaps took a step closer to winning the Trood Award and Rodda Medal as the competition’s best player.

Kyle Reid also did a good job, as did Jakeb Thomas, Tiziani, Brodie Mabilia and Isaac Chugg.

What a contrast it must be for Chugg. This time last year he was playing for the biggest club in the country, alongside names such as Daicos, Sidebottom, Pendlebury and De Goey – now he’s playing for a country footy team in Gippsland.

Better players for Warragul were Sean Masterson, Lucas Monacella, Luke Garner, Lucas Carter, Jake Hughes and Tom Hobbs. Warragul continues to look to the future, and has re-signed Patrick Carpenter, Luke Garner, Tom Stern and Sean Masterson in recent weeks.


THE second half of the Round 16 split round in the Gippsland League will be completed this weekend.

Following Sale’s victory over Morwell in the first week of the split round last week, finals-bound teams are now decided, although in the case of top-three sides Wonthaggi, Leongatha and Moe, there could still be some jostling of positions.

Those three teams have all shared equal-first position on the ladder for a few weeks now, but that could change this weekend when Leongatha makes the trip to Moe.

As it stands, most league insiders are calling the premiership a three-horse-race between the Parrots, Power and Lions, and the odds for any of those teams might just shorten after the full completion of Round 16.

THIS is the big one.

Moe and Leongatha meet in match of the round at Ted Summerton Reserve.

This isn’t only a game between second and third, it is a game that could even go some way to determining the minor premiership, and it is being played after both sides have had a week off, so expect most players to be fit, fresh and raring to go.

Wonthaggi holds top spot for now, but the winner of this game will remain equal with the Power on points.

Discounting a draw, which isn’t totally outside the realm of possibility, the winner of this match will also gain a psychological edge, as it is likely the Lions and Parrots will face off at some stage during the finals.

Moe became the first team in more than two years to defeat Leongatha when they did so earlier in the season, and the home side will be out to prove that performance wasn’t a once-off.

The Lions successfully took away the Parrots ability to swing the ball laterally and make the ground big on that occasion, which increased Moe’s chances of generating turnover.

As confidence is key in football, the Lions will look to reference the areas that served them well last time, as well as in recent weeks in victories over finals-bound teams Traralgon and Sale.

Equally confident though will be Leongatha, as any side who has only lost two games from 44 starts would be.

Selection leading into the match holds just as much intrigue as the end result.

The Lions have been without a senior ruckman in the last few weeks, while Leongatha still needs to get at least two games into VFL-listed player Noah Gown to have him qualify for the finals series.

Multiple premiership Parrot Josh Hopkins returned from an overseas trip last round through the reserves, and could be another to come back into the main game.

Nick Prowse is coming off a bag of six goals for the Lions, and forms part of a potent forward line alongside Billy Gowers who has kicked 33 goals for the year, as well as Harry Pepper (28) and Harri Sim (21) and Prowse himself (23).

If Leongatha veteran Sean Westaway is fit, one would assume he goes to Gowers. Where things get interesting however is the fact the rest of the Parrot’s defence aren’t really traditional lock-down types. While the creativity of Cade Maskell, Sam Forrester and Jackson Harry coming out of defence can be damaging, there could be enough class inside 50 from Moe to keep them accountable.

Coming up against an opponent not accustomed to losing can also work in favour for the underdog, as the Lions discovered last time they played the Parrots.

Those who believe in karma might also be watching this game with a critical eye, after reports emerged some Leongatha supporters were not entirely gracious in defeat after losing to the Lions.


TRARALGON should have little trouble taking care of Bairnsdale.

The Maroons will be preparing to play finals at the same time the Redlegs will be rolling into Mad Monday.

Playing at home for the second game in a row, Traralgon will look to take down an opposition that has probably checked-out for the season.

Brett Eddy remains two goals clear on top of the league table, and is expected to go even further ahead by 5.30pm Saturday.


DROUIN and Maffra meet in an even-money game.

The Eagles make the journey east to face an opponent looking for its second win of the season.

Although Maffra is 14 points clear of Drouin, the Hawks have a greater percentage, meaning they are certainly a better team than their current one-win, 14-loss record would suggest.