Finals fever strikes as season comes to a close

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AS we entered the last round of the home and away season, seven football clubs’ years would end, whilst for six, the pre-season dream of finals footy would commence.


Fish Creek v Yinnar

It was only 12 months ago when Yinnar made a late season rush to scrape into the finals before dazzling with a superb month of football culminating in premiership success.

The contrast could not have been any more different this year with the last month a long way off of where the Magpies needed to be, falling out of finals contention after their heart-breaking six-point loss.

Fish Creek 5.10 (40) to Yinnar 5.4 (34).

“Very heated and physical game on Saturday, with our season on the line we left it all out there but we came up just short,” Yinnar coach Daniel Taylor said.

“Unfortunately our premiership defence has come to an end with injuries being the story of our season, Kane Grinstead Jones was a late out on Saturday which meant we had nine walk up start players unavailable from what our best side looked like at the start of April, unfortunately sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

“With that being said, for our season to be alive up until the final siren and our twos making the finals it just goes to show the depth, grit and determination of the group.”

The final game for the senior Yinnar side was also to be the final game for Daniel Taylor as coach, the man affectionately known as Tac opting now to spend more quality time with a young family and two daughters.

The Kangaroos on the other hand still have some unfinished business, and will use the week off they have earned to recover from the brutality of the weekend’s game to prepare for an even bigger challenge the following week.

“A scrappy game on the weekend, but it was a hot contest,” Fish Creek coach Jarrod Walker said.

“With Yinnar needing to win to make finals they were throwing everything at it. The boys showed some great grit and determination to get the win and finish the home and away season on a high.

“Looking to come against clearly the best team of the year in Newborough in the first final will be a massive challenge. Something I feel our group has been building towards all year. A slightly different side to the first time we played them so can’t wait to see how we go.”

In a fortnight both Fish Creek and the top of the table Newborough side will be fighting for a direct route to the 2023 MGFNL Grand Final, and for both teams that can’t come around quick enough.


Foster v Stony Creek

As good as the Tigers had been, there was still no certainty that a finals campaign was guaranteed unless they could manage just one more win over their weekend opponents in Stony Creek.

Foster, even with a handful of changes, proved too strong in winning 15.11 (101) to the Lions 6.11 (47).

“Proud of our guys today – another five changes from last week bringing in another debutant from the 18s and we honestly played the best four quarters of footy for over a month,” Foster coach Sam Davies said.

“We preach roles and discipline and it showed in spades, everyone got their chance and they all took it when they had to go.

“We’ll celebrate the A Grade girls having their first win for the year tonight and then back to recovery tomorrow.”

In an open season, Foster is very much still in contention for bigger and better things in the weeks ahead, while for Stony Creek it will be 2024 before the Lions can get another opportunity.

“Disappointing end to the year for our boys. Skill errors cost us at crucial times in the game,” Stony Creek coach Chris Verboon said.

“The focus is now on building on what we have learnt this year. We haven’t been able to win those close games but this group has played some good footy to match it with the top sides, and it was great to see the improvement throughout the year.

“We will support our twos side next week who have played good footy to make the finals so congrats to Bryce and his team and good luck!”

It is only in reflection that coaches and players can understand just what those one or two moments that can turn games can mean for a club within a season.

For Foster, it means finals and a look at Thorpdale in an elimination final next week, for Stony Creek it means lessons learnt from which to build next season.


Thorpdale v Morwell East

Touted as quite possibly the match of the round between two of the big improvers in the MGFNL, the Blues and the Hawks clashed, with the result capable of turning Morwell East’s season on its head if results – both theirs and others – didn’t go their way.

In the end, one result did and one didn’t with Thorpdale winning 6.14 (50) to Morwell East 6.4 (40).

“As expected it was a great finals like game against Morwell East. Tough and scrappy conditions ensured it was close all day. Our focus now turns to Foster,” Thorpdale coach Jason Winderlich said.

“We feel they are one of the top three teams in the comp this year which is backed up by their percentage for the season.

“They play a good brand of footy and have hit good form again defeating Stony by nine goals who we rate highly.

“All we can do is head down south and give it a crack. Our players will do everything possible to get the win.”

The Blues will get their chance, but so will Morwell East despite their loss, the Hawks remain in the top six after Yinnar failed to secure a fairy-tale finish for the second season in a row.

“We knew the scenario coming into this game. We win, we play finals. It was a tough contest all day against Thorpy,” Morwell East coach Paul Henry said.

“We gave it everything, unfortunately we fell short. Fortunately though, a result went our way, so finals here we come.”

Morwell East will now turn their attention to an elimination final next week against MDU, a big challenge you can be sure.


Tarwin v Newborough

Mathematically possible but realistically unlikely, Tarwin hosted unquestionably the best team in the competition with just one goal in mind, win and the chance to play finals might happen, but lose and there would be nothing for the Sharks beyond the weekend.

The result speaking for itself, Newborough 16.19 (115) to Tarwin 5.6 (36).

“After a wet drive over the hill we arrived to a good ground and conditions at Tarwin,” Newborough coach Craig Skinner said.

“After a quick start with a nice breeze we headed into quarter time with a handy lead, Troy’s boys brought the heat after that and we were happy to finish the season off with a hard fought win.

“We now get a week off to reset and prepare for Fish Creek in two weeks.”

Newborough are where they deserve to be, a terrific season that has yet to taste defeat, but the mountain now gets higher for the Bulldogs and you expect they look forward to the challenge, it’s a challenge that Tarwin would have been happy to face, but in 2023 it wasn’t to be.

“We finished up against the top of the table and I’m proud of the boys as they played in good spirit right to the end!” Tarwin coach Troy Hemming said.

“We didn’t quite get it right this year but we enjoyed the journey and saw great development from the group and also the club!

Three netball teams in finals and reserves minor premiership, we will be rallying around our club for the next month to hopefully add to our trophy cabinet!”

The senior Sharks might not have made it, but as with every club, it’s about all grades, all sports and local community, so let’s hope the weather is kind and the crowds support their towns teams.


Hill End v Mirboo North

Coach Mike Santo had hoped to bid his team and club a successful farewell in his last game at the helm for the Rovers, the Hillsmen brave, but falling short of what was needed eventually going down by 26 points, Mirboo North 13.9 (87) to Hill End 9.7 (61).

“That’s a wrap for 2023 and another season done for our senior playing group. Our clear focus was to finish the right way and that’s what we did as a club with two good wins,” Mirboo North coach Peter Mongta said.

“A three to four-goal breeze towards one end got us off to a pretty good start but to Hill End’s credit they put up a great fight and were always in the contest.

“Hill End’s Ruckman, Lachlan Wilson’s stoppage work dominance was hard to watch but our midfield group fought hard at ground level to get momentum back our way.

“Josh ‘Ubby’ Taylor and Rhys Kratzat looked dangerous up forward and both came into the game with big injuries so to get seven goals between them was pleasing.

“In the end the game played itself out, Jacob Blair was solid in defence all day and cleaned up a lot of loose ball and our captain Hudson Kerr was best once again.

“We sang the song and then reflected on the year that was. Riddled with season-ending injuries to very good players but on the flip side it also presented us with new opportunities.

“But it was then our all round great clubman in Josh Taylor stood up and announced his retirement to the playing group and families in the rooms.

“Ubby took a step back from coaching after five years but he certainly didn’t stop his leadership in the background. Congratulations Ubby and we thank you mate.”

The retirement of Josh Taylor is a loss for the league, a popular player and person on and off the field, as is Hill End coach Mike Santo who has also coached his last game for Hill End, but was robbed of a win in his bid farewell.

“Strung together some of our best passages of play for the season. A 10-minute patch in the first quarter was the difference in the match,” Hill End coach Mike Santo said.

“It was a a tightly contested battle. Basic skill errors have been our worst enemy all year and that trend continued yesterday.

“Josh Taylor retired … hats off to him for a great coaching and playing career.”

As some of the good guys call it a day, the game goes on, but all the better for having these men a part of it.


MDU v Toora

The result was of no real surprise, but what was important was how the Demons went about their business just a week out from a finals campaign in which they hoped to play a big part.

The final score line of 14.15 (99) to 2.1 (13) indicates that MDU are well and truly in contention for bigger and better things.

“Today was a great way to finish the season. A four-quarter effort in trying conditions was really impressive,” MDU coach Nathan Allen said.

“Ends a really successful home and away season for the club with all three footy sides finishing in the top three. Looking forward to next week, we now know we have Morwell East out at Mirboo.

“They have been in really good form to finish off the year and have a lot of talent on their list. Going to be a lot of fun and hopefully we are good enough on the day to move on.”

The Demons have managed to find a way to victory more times than not in season 2023, but from here there are no second chances, Toora may have fallen short at senior level, but will throw their support behind a reserves side that is looking to back to back.

“Meeniyan showed why they finished top three today. Slick away from the contest and with a focal point like Darren Sheen, they’ll give sides trouble in the finals,” Toora coach Jack Weston said.

“Looking forward to what looks like it’ll be a terrific final series. Good luck to all sides, especially our netball and reserves sides.”

The attention now turns to a finals series that promises to deliver quite possibly the best football the league has seen for many years, Newborough will enter as deserving favourites but a pack of clubs are closing in very quickly.


BYE – Boolarra