Lions down the Parrots again

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THIS might actually be the year.

Three teams sharing equal first on the ladder became two at the weekend, after Moe defeated Leongatha for the second time this season.

The Lions won an absolutely brutalising affair against the Parrots, 10.6 (66) to 6.8 (44).

Ted Summerton Reserve might as well have been a battlefield, as players from both teams threw themselves wholeheartedly at the contest.

The body count ended up seeing Moe playing-coach Declan Keilty and ruckman Ben Morrow play with bandages around their heads, midfielder Trent Baldi retreat to the rooms early, while young ruckman Lachlan McGrath was knocked out in the last quarter.

Leongatha didn’t escape the carnage either, as Jack Hume was taken from the ground before halftime, along with Jake van der Plight in the second half.

Leongatha appeared to have the ascendancy early, getting out to a 12-point lead at quarter time.

From there however, Moe was able to turn the screws, and kicked seven unanswered goals either side of halftime.

The Parrots meanwhile, didn’t get a single one in.

Keilty was a colossus down back, and went straight to key Leongatha forward Noah Gown, back from the VFL.

While both coaches have to give votes at the end of each game, no one could criticise Keilty if he gave himself three – he was clearly best-on-ground.

Keilty played a close-checking game on Gown, but also managed to out-mark him.

When the game was there to be won, he took it upon himself to get his team up.

Down by 28 points at three-quarter time, Leongatha rolled the dice and went for everything.

The Parrots added two goals inside the first six minutes, and sent a shiver down their opponent’s spine as the ball seemed to live inside Moe’s defensive end for an eternity.

With Leongatha pushing all their numbers up however, the Lions were able to get out the back, thanks to a desperate smother from Luke Mulqueen at halfback, setting up a pass to Jacob Balfour in the centre of the ground, who in turn kicked it to Harry Pepper.

Pepper, with three goals to his name by then, ran all the way to the goal square to make sure of it, slamming through the winner.

Half-forward Harri Sim then put the game beyond doubt at the 22-minute mark, finding the ball in the goal square to seal the deal.

In between these goals, there was two shots that went out on the full from Leongatha, but Moe’s pressure was such that the reigning premier was forced into uncharacteristic mistakes.

Moe’s pressure was so high, Leongatha players Aaron Hillberg and Jesse Burns went for the same mark with no maroon and blue jumper around them late in the final term.

It is said even the best teams can only withstand so much, and that might have just encapsulated the amount of tension out on Ted Summerton Reserve.

Joining Keilty in the best for Moe was fellow defenders Scott Van Dyk and Luke Mulqueen, and midfielders Riley Baldi, Ben Daniher, and born-again wingman Ben Maslen.

Ben Willis was a pillar for the Parrots, along with Aaron Heppell, Cade Maskell, Jackson Harry, Will Littlejohn and Burns.

Moe moves to second on the ladder and equal-first, although some percentage short of top side Wonthaggi.

If results go as expected in the last two home-and-away rounds, the Lions will have a rematch with Leongatha in the Qualifying Final.

That match carries a lot of intrigue, as it is being played in Wonthaggi – a ground closer to Leongatha, but one in which Moe has won at this season.

Having now beaten the reigning premier twice, as well as every team in the competition, the Lions will surely be confident about their chances of ending the longest premiership drought in Gippsland League history, stretching all the way back to 1967.

Wonthaggi however will be out to create history of their own, as the Power is yet to win a senior Gippsland League flag itself. From where things sit right here and now, this is indeed looking like Moe’s best chance of winning a flag in decades – even more so than when they played off in Grand Finals in 1999 and 2000.

While those Grand Finals carried a certain amount of romance, what is often overlooked is the fact Moe only finished fifth and fourth after the home-and-away season in both of those years.

In 1999, the Lions only won seven games during the home-and-away campaign.

Moe of 2023 has now won twice as many, and with a double-chance sewn up, can enter finals with a great deal of surety they are one of the best teams in the competition.


THINKING cap on Mr Best.

In a stunning turn of events, Bairnsdale shocked the Gippsland League world by defeating Traralgon on their home deck.

The Redlegs scrapped in to win by a goal, getting up 11.5 (71) to 9.11 (65).

The victory broke the longest ground hoodoo in league history – Bairnsdale hadn’t won at Traralgon for 40 years.

In fact, before last Saturday, Bairnsdale had only won at Traralgon three times (1969, 1975, 1983).

All looked to be going to plan for the finals-bound Maroons at quarter time, as they led 4.3 (27) to 0.2 (2).

From there however, the Redlegs wrestled back momentum, and went into the main break just 14 points down.

Goals were shared in the third, before Bairnsdale stormed home with five goals to two to pinch victory in the last.

Will Mitchell, Lachlan Byrne-Jones, Ethan East, Andrew Nelson, Cohen Frith and Nic Bulmer were the heroes for the Redlegs.

Dan McKenna, Tye Hourigan, Connor Ambler, Jordan Cunico, Mitch Membrey and Kade Ruyters needed a few more to join them for Traralgon.

While the Maroons will play finals, they won’t finish higher than fourth, and will have every reason to be worried about the prospect of playing Sale in an elimination final.

The Magpies can now genuinely knock them out in the first week.

Traralgon’s form line has been indifferent, with their win-loss record since Round 13 reading loss, win, loss, loss.

The Maroons have to play Sale in the last round, as well as top-side Wonthaggi this week, meaning there is every chance they will enter a finals series with four consecutive losses under their belt.

Traralgon has certainly slipped in the latter part of the season, and looks a shadow of the team that knocked off Moe in Round 6 and annihilated Morwell in Round 3.

Granted those games were played at a time when grounds were firmer and more conducive to the open running style Traralgon is known for, recent statistics might suggest the issue for the Marrons is that they are in fact only running one way.

In the Round 15 loss to Moe, there was a staggering differential of 26 in the tackle count, while the numbers in the Round 8 loss to Wonthaggi were even more damning – the Power had 101 more uncontested possessions.


NED Kelly has been beaten at his own game.

In one of the greatest thieving efforts ever seen in Gippsland League history, Drouin came from the clouds to defeat Maffra in Round 16.

The Hawks trailed by 45 points at halftime, but stormed home with 11 goals to two after the main break to claim a famous win.

As Drouin walked off their home ground to rapturous applause, the Eagles were left to lament exactly how they had let such dominance slip.

Maffra kicked 10 goals in the first quarter – and yet lost the match by 13 points, 16.11 (107) to 14.10 (94).

It was only the second time in league history a team has kicked 10 goals in the opening term and gone on to lose.

Coincidently, Maffra now joins Sale in this unwanted slice of history – the Magpies led Traralgon 10.2 (62) to 4.3 (27) in Round 6 1978 before going on to lose.

For the Eagles however, this result will surely leave an even more sour taste in their mouths.

Traralgon won the flag in 1978 – Drouin is probably going to win the wooden spoon this year.

From a latitude perspective, with games against top-three sides Moe and Leongatha to come, it is almost impossible to see Maffra claiming another win for the season.

From a longitude perspective, one could nearly argue Drouin is actually ahead of Maffra as far as a rebuild goes.

While the Hawks are last with just two wins, a healthy percentage of more than 70 shows they have been more than competitive this season.

That percentage indicates the Hawks haven’t had any issue scoring, and they certainly showed that in the second half at the weekend.

Drouin slammed on seven goals to two in the third quarter, and closed with four goals to none in the last.

Actually, Maffra only managed one behind for the whole last quarter.

The man who has taken the competition by storm, Hugo Birks, had a day out, kicking eight goals for Drouin, giving him an overall tally of 41 for the season.

Anyone with the name Hugo Birks is bound to draw some attention, but the youngster has let his football do the talking in his first year with the Hawks.

His eight-goal haul set a new Drouin club record for individual goals against Maffra, breaking the previous best of six jointly held by Damian Carmody (2008), Brad Carmody (2009) and Darcy Irwin (2016).

Many opposition defenders have labelled Birks one of the harder forwards to play on.
Joining Birks in the best-on-ground honours was Joe Collins, Charlie Bethune, Clayton Kingi, Tim Hancock and James McKellar.

Although Drouin mirrors Maffra’s run home with games against the Parrots and Lions, they will surely take a great deal of momentum into season 2024.

Honestly, the Hawks could be the best wooden spoon team of all time.

If they can keep this group together, it could be watch out Gippy in years to come.

Better players for Maffra were James Read, Brayden Monk, Alex Carr, Sam Davidson, Ed Carr and Lachlan Allman.

Coming into this game following two wins in three rounds, the Eagles might be left to pick up the pieces of some serious collateral damage.

Losing is one thing, but losing to the team coming last after leading by 45 points at halftime can only be spoken about in a negative light.

At the risk of delving into hyperbole, from a historical context, there would be grounds to label it the worst Maffra loss since the 2005 Grand Final.


MORWELL, Sale, Wonthaggi and Warragul all had the week off, owning to the second week of the split round.