New-look teams start the season

MOE opened its savings account at the weekend.

The Lions deposited four points against Morwell, winning by nine points in a scrappy affair that returned a bland 7.14 (56) to 7.5 (47) scoreline.

The match at Ted Summerton Reserve never reached great heights, as players from both sides blew the cobwebs out across four quarters for the first game of the season.

Moe kicked three goals to one in the first term, from which time it was able to maintain a lead in the vicinity of 20 points for most of the game.

The Tigers made some late running, and cut the margin back to under two goals in the last, but watching on, it never really felt like Moe was in danger of losing the match – and the body language of players on both sides seemed to indicate the same.

Coming back from the main break, the Lions were able to keep Morwell at bay, thanks to multiple goals from Tom Blackshaw and one to Harri Sim.

Sim, the returning Moe vice-captain, received a hit-up from his newly appointed vice-captain Riley Baldi at the 25-minute mark, while Blackshaw nailed two timely set shots either side of this.

Blackshaw looks to be a player who has benefited from Moe’s football program. He spent almost the entire year last season in the reserves, before receiving a call-up in Round 17. He then kicked five goals in Round 18 to hold his spot for the first final. With ex-AFL player Billy Gowers now out of the picture for Moe, an opportunity has opened up for young Blackshaw.

The Lions took a 22-point lead into three quarter time, but were forced to stave off a persistent Morwell in the last.

The Tigers dominated most facets of the game, not allowing Moe an inside 50 until well past the 10-munite mark.

Morwell was disadvantaged by playing-coach and key midfielder Boyd Bailey needing to play forward in the last, managing a troublesome calf. Turning that into a potential positive however, the Tigers had little to no trouble winning clearances – especially in the second half.

Morwell more than doubled Moe in the clearance count after halftime, (25 to 12), while the final tally read 46-28.

The Tigers had a few scoring opportunities late, but failed to convert some half-chances.

A goal to Cohen Campbell getting goal-side made it an eight-point ballgame, however a follow-up snap from Aidan Quigley that missed everything, a long range effort from Tylier Hillier that hit the point post, and an appeal for a soccer goal amid a tangle of bodies on the goal-line from Brandon McDonald that was deemed touched by the goal umpire, perhaps summed up their luck.

As is often the case when a side dominates an inside 50 count but doesn’t put it on the scoreboard, Moe was able to make the most of its first opportunity forward during the last, which saw debutant Callum Nash kick the Lions’ only goal for the term.

Nash, and all about 50 kilograms of him, benefited from a smart kick from Sim to the fat side, where the debutant was able to gather and snap it through for his first goal in senior football.

Being a left footer, it was ironic his first goal was kicked on his right given most left footers are notorious for hardly ever using their opposite foot.

However, Nash grew up playing soccer, a sport requiring players to be proficient on both sides of their body.

It was said of former GWS coach Leon Cameron during his playing days with the Western Bulldogs and Richmond, people didn’t know exactly which foot he kicked with, such was his skill level.

Nash was one of four senior debutants for Moe, along with Liam Masters, Tom Matthews and James Maslen.

Maslen became the second of the third generation in the family to play senior football with Moe, following older brother Ben, dad Gary (who presented his jumper) and grandfather Wilson.

One of the bars at Moe Racing Club is named after Wilson, and the junior Maslen could now be on the path to creating his own legacy.

Unfortunately, Ben didn’t see out the game, and hobbled off at the 10-minute mark of the last, while another Moe defender in Luke Mulqueen did similar not long after.

Blackshaw was sent back to cover Maslen’s absence, which was around the time Morwell started to repeatedly pump the ball inside 50.

On a day where highlights were few and far between, Matthews provided a glimpse into why he is so highly touted.

Still only in bottom-age thirds, and standing all but 170cm, Matthews launched from the runway in the third term to very nearly pull down a hanger for the ages.

Moe ruckman Chris Prowse, like most at the ground, were in disbelief, so much so he was heard to jokingly say “want to play ruck mate?”.

The Tigers had a few first gamers themselves, including Yinnar product Harri McColl, who showed some good signs playing as a tall interceptor.

Morwell debutant ruckman Charlie Burr (one of a host of Mornington-based recruits) provided one of the humorous moments of the game, when play was stopped after his sports goggles became detached at a centre bounce.

Burkeley Macfarlane and Trent Baldi also became engaged in their own karma-related subplot in the last, after the latter gave away a 50 metre penalty for a stand infringement. Macfarlane was quick to offer some less than complementary verbal advice, but Baldi however had the last laugh, nabbing Macfarlane holding the ball right in front of the Moe bench and their fervent supporters a little while later. You probably didn’t have to be a lip-reader to know roughly what was said back.

While last Saturday marked the start of a new season, it was the usual suspects in the best for Moe.

Riley Baldi got the nod as the Lion’s best, picking up where he left off last season when he came runner-up in the Trood Award and Rodda Medal for league best-and-fairest.

Others to play well were Ben Daniher, Chris Prowse, Scott Van Dyk, Nick Prowse and Declan Keilty – although even he perhaps highlighted just how rusty most players were, getting pinged for an unrealistic attempt in the last quarter, an action one would describe as very out of character for arguably the competition’s best intercept defender.

Zac Anderson, Tom Gray, Hillier, Jackson Burr, Tyler Brown and Campbell Blewett were prominent for Morwell.

Morwell showed their class before the game, joining Moe for a tribute to the Lion’s last senior premiership captain, Allan Steel, who died earlier this year.

Attendees heard from Gus Eaton and Danny O’Brien, both teammates of Steel, as the Moe 1967 premiership flag flew at half-mast.

While some will argue football has changed for the worse over time, if there is one thing that has improved, it is the relationship between clubs.

A number of former Moe players now tied to North Gippsland and Mid Gippsland clubs were also in attendance last Saturday, and were welcomed into the changerooms and social rooms.

Such hospitality would have nearly been unheard of in a previous era, when tribalism ran so strong players from rival clubs wouldn’t even dare step foot in the opposing town’s pub.

Stepping up: Yinnar product Harri McColl played his first game for Morwell at the weekend.


Positive signs for Maroons

TRARALGON learnt more than they lost against Leongatha.

In an ironic outcome, while the scoreboard indicated a five point defeat for the Maroons in Round 1 of the Gippsland League, the way in which things transpired meant they would have walked away from Leongatha Recreation Reserve feeling as though they were in fact, the beneficiaries.

That an extremely youthful Traralgon only lost 6.13 (49) to 6.8 (44) against arguably the greatest side of any Gippsland League era, perhaps validates the pathway the Maroons are heading down.

Traralgon kicked all the goals in the first half, while at the other end, Leongatha could only manage a string of behinds.

The Parrots registered a staggering 0.10 (10) by halftime, as the visitors took a 12-point lead into the sheds.

Leongatha clicked into gear from there, slamming on 5.1 (31) in the third to wrestle back the lead.

Both teams shared a goal apiece in the last, with the siren beating Traralgon before they had a chance to snatch what would have been a memorable win.

Tye Hourigan led from the front for Traralgon, and received good support from Max Jacobsen, Tom Hamilton, Connor Ambler, Luis D’Angelo and Joel Scholtes.

Best for Leongatha were Jake van der Plight, Cam Olden, Sam Forrester, Jack Hume, Mitch Bentvelzen and the Benjamin Button of Gippsland footy – Cade Maskell.

It only took the Parrots one round to spring a surprise on everyone, naming VFL-player Noah Gown in their reserves last weekend.

Having got themselves into a winning position, it is likely nerves and inexperience played a part for Traralgon. Much like when a young up-and-coming batsmen is sent out to face the new ball in senior cricket, they may be able to survive the first 10 overs, but eventually, there has to be a circuit breaker as they are surrounded by an unrelenting opposition.

That being said, the profile of Traralgon’s performance is sure to put the competition on notice, particularly Moe, whom the Maroons face this Saturday under lights at home.

Traralgon and Moe will again compete for the Riley ‘Choppy’ Pearce Cup, which has become a strong connector for the clubs in the last few years, shining a light on mental health.

Wonderment at Western Park

WHOEVER backed Warragul to beat Wonthaggi would now have enough money to bring the Commonwealth Games back to Gippsland.

The Guls shocked the local football world on Saturday, beating last year’s grand finalists, Wonthaggi.

In what was surely their best win since rolling eventual premier Maffra in 2016 to gain a spot in finals, Warragul rose to new heights at Western Park, and possibly signalled the start of something special, defeating the Power 8.9 (57) to 7.6 (48) in Round 1 action.

The home side came out firing after halftime, kicking four goals to one to take a 14-point lead heading into the last.

The Guls then managed to hang on, staving off a three-goal effort from their opponents, to win by nine points.

Ruckman Mitch Smart was mighty in the win, as was Tom Stern, Jack Lewsey, Sean Masterson, Isaac Wallace and Patrick Mulqueen.

This win arguably surpasses the one Warragul achieved over Maffra in 2016, which came late in the season when the Eagles ‘rested’ a number of key players.

The Guls therefore can take an enormous amount of credit from the fact they knocked off a Wonthaggi team that contained VFL-listed player Ryan Sparkes and former Collingwood player Isaac Chugg, as well as former VFL players Aiden Lindsay and Jack Blair.

Blair was best-on for the Power, while his brother and Wonthaggi coach, Jarryd was a notable absence.

Others to play well were Jakeb Thomas, Toma Huther, Sparkes, Cooper McInnes and former Morwell player, Brayden Duve.

SALE extended its winning streak over Maffra.

The Magpies defeated the Eagles for the sixth consecutive time in a high-scoring game to start the season, 16.15 (111) to 12.7 (79).

An eight-goal second term essentially broke the game open for the visiting Sale, from which time Maffra was unable to come back.

Like most Battle of the Birds clashes, there was plenty of spice in the contest, which resulted in a high number of free kicks and 50 metre penalties.

Maffra kicked four goals from 50 metre penalties, making for 25 per cent of their final tally.
The Eagles however found more conventional avenues to score, headlined by Luke Dyer who finished with four majors.

Having recently moved to Maffra, the former East Gippsland champion showed early signs he will have no trouble jumping up into a higher level – even if he is approaching the age of 40.

As one Sale barista once told this writer when discussing local cricketers in a certain age bracket: “good players are always good”.

Dyer was named in the best for Maffra, as was Jett Killoran, James Read, Kade Renooy, Alex Carr and Daniel Bedggood, who kicked three goals.

Sale was well-served by its own familiar/returning recruit, Jesse Collins, while Jack Leslie, reigning league best-and-fairest Shannen Lange, Jake Hutchins, Hudson Holmes and Bohdi Walker (four goals) also contributed positively.

The Magpies were able to manage a few players late in the game, gearing up for what is suddenly an intriguing match at home against Warragul.

BAIRNSDALE led at every change against Drouin.

The Redlegs secured their first win of the season, (after losing during ‘Opening Round’), holding off the Hawks to win 9.11 (65) to 6.13 (49).

Brayden McCarrey returned to the line-up and kicked three goals in the win, while new recruits Tom Blenheim and Hugh Longbottom also played well.
Ryan Quirk, Jordan Kingi and Caleb Quirk were best for Drouin.