Fish Creek vs Newborough

THEY’RE the reigning premier for a reason.

Strong home ground support and the unfurling of their 2023 premiership flag had Fish Creek in the right frame of mind to start the 2024 season as they had left 2023, as winners.

However, it was never going to be a cruisy day at the office against a hungry Newborough side.

Fish Creek held firm for majority of the four quarters, after gaining the lead in the opening term at home.

Newborough fought back to hold a halftime lead, but an explosive third quarter saw the lead change hands again.

Seven points up going into the last, Fish Creek had to defend their lead, and they did so, only just.

Despite not scoring a goal in the final term, the Kangaroos held on, keeping Newborough to only one goal.

Fish Creek had to call on their big game experience to snatch a two-point victory, 9.10 (64) to 9.8 (62).

“(The) day started off great for the Fish Creek community with the flag unfurling, and the game didn’t disappoint,” Fish Creek coach Jarrod Walker said.

“A bit scrappy at times but hardly-fought out by both teams. Relieved to get over the line in the end. Newborough will of course be within the top few teams this season so happy to pinch that one in the end.

“With the bye next week we will rest some sore bodies, get a good training block in and then get ready to get stuck into the season.”

The Kangaroos are deservingly seen as the early season premiership favourites, but the weekend’s clash indicates this season may in fact be tougher than the last. That is good news for the league, but it is also a clear indication that every match is crucial.

Newborough fell short again against Fish Creek, but will move their attention toward Round 2.

“We played the competition’s best and in a physical contest fell short again. We competed harder and for longer this time,” Newborough coach, Craig Skinner said.

“We played three 17-year-olds and they are going to be good. We play Yinnar next and know it will be tough so there will be no rest recovering and preparing as we search for our first win.”


MDU vs Thorpdale

TWO tight contests between these teams in 2023 alluded to much of the same to start 2024.

Meeniyan Dumbalk United got close to Thorpdale on those previous encounters, only to fall agonisingly short both times, but the home ground advantage and a strong preseason had the Demons believing that Round 1 this year would tell a different story.

There was nothing but a kick or two between these two talented sides – the Demons up by a point at quarter time, the Blues by 11 at the major break.

MDU called on all they had in the final quarter in an attempt to claw back a 14-point three-quarter time deficit, only to once again fall short by the barest possible margin.

Thorpdale picked up right where they left of toward the end of the 2023 season, claiming another four points, 13.6 (84) to 12.11 (83).

Thorpdale coach, Jason Winderlich expected a tough outing between the two sides, and wasn’t disappointed.

“As expected, it was another tough game down (in) South Gippsland against MDU. Both teams had momentum throughout the day but we were the lucky team to be in front at the final siren. Lots to work on though,” he said.

Thorpdale got the job done, but both of these two teams have their sights set on bigger and better things in 2024.

The Blues have the edge early, but there is much more footy to be played before we get a clearer picture of just who will be able to accomplish what, although there is little doubt there will be plenty more wins for both.

“Another close one between Thorpdale and us. Jason (Winderlich) has them playing a tough, skilful brand of footy again,” MDU coach, Nathan Allen said.

“We were unable to convert our chances when we got momentum. Proud of the fight our boys showed right to the final siren.”

MDU travels to Tarwin in Round 2, who are coming off the bye, while Thorpdale host Boolarra, which is set to hand one of those teams their first loss.


Yinnar vs Toora

THE clash of the Magpies; Yinnar and Toora, even in Round 1, was always going to be an important clash for a number of reasons.

It would give new Yinnar coach, Sam McCulloch an early look at what he had to work with after the disappointment his club faced last year.

For Toora, a new season brought new hope of improvement after a satisfying preseason.

At the weekend, it was home side Yinnar who indicated they may have progressed very quickly from last year’s finals miss.

Nothing was standing between Yinnar and the four points in this game, as they put the match beyond doubt early and continued to plough through Toora until the final siren sounded.

The game was all but over at halftime, with the home side holding a 10.10 (70) to 4.4 (28) lead.

Yinnar were home by 52 points after four quarters, getting their season off on the right track, 16.16 (112) to Toora’s 9.6 (60).

“Very happy to come away with the four points in what was a fast and physical game. The win was set up in the first half and it was pleasing with the even contribution from right across the field,” McCulloch said.

“Looking forward to the challenge of playing one of the premiership contenders in Newborough on their home turf in what will be a great opportunity to gauge where we are at.”

Toora has produced very strong sides at reserves level in recent seasons, but have made no secret of the fact they are hoping to develop a more competitive outfit in the seniors his season. At times on the weekend, you could see that was already starting to take shape.

“It was a decent Round 1 performance for us, in patches there was a lot to like. As a young developing squad, we will tidy this up and with improved consistency, I can see us being in games,” Toora coach, Jack Weston said.

“Ultimately, Yinnar’s spread and cleanliness away from the contest allowed them more quality looks at goal and to their credit, they did the damage.”


Boolarra vs Mirboo North

AS much as the new coaches (Boolarra’s Brendan Mason and Mirboo North’s Damien Turner) were looking forward to what Round 1 would present them, so too were the MGFNL supporters, unsure of just where each side would fit into what appears to be a very even and competitive league once again.

In this clash, it would be the Demons that walked away with the points on an impressive start to the year at home.

But it wasn’t without struggle, as Mirboo North dared to dream and didn’t back down from the fight at first.

The Tigers remained within striking distance in the opening half, before Boolarra busted the floodgates open to seize the four points.

Only up by a goal at halftime, the Demons went on to kick four goals to one in the third term, then five goals to two in the final quarter.

Boolarra were home by 43 points in the end, 14.13 (97) to 8.6 (54).

Mason said he was pleased to start his senior coaching career with a win.

“Always good to start the year with a win. (We) didn’t play our best footy but credit to the Mirboo North boys, they fought hard all game,” he said.

“We now look forward to next week’s challenge against the much fancied Thorpdale side. Which will give us a chance to see where we are at.”

There is no doubt that Thorpdale are likely to be a bigger mountain for Boolarra to climb, but attempt they will.

For Mirboo North, it will take time to improve in a few areas, with some focus on what is required both with and without the ball.

“We showed some really good signs against Boolarra. Especially the first half,” Turner said.

“Consistency is going to be a focus over the season, and unfortunately this let us down in the second half.

“It was a heated battle and credit to Brendan and his team for running the game out strong.”


Hill End vs Stony Creek

HILL END at home under the reins of MGFNL superstar, Ambu Uliando were always going to throw everything they could at anticipated improvers Stony Creek.

The question was, whether the Hillmen had the depth of talent to run with the Lions for the full four quarters.

The Lions took a little time to shake off a determined Hill End team, who stayed in touch up until near the halftime mark, before the visitors really started to open up.

A one-point margin at quarter time quickly turned into a five-goal margin for the Lions at the main break, and was extended further as the visitors took control.

Stony Creek piled on 14 goals to six after quarter time, closing out their first game of the season as 60-point winners, 17.17 (119) to 9.5 (59).

“Hill End came out playing some really good footy and had us changing a few things up in the second quarter,” Stony Creek coach, Chris Verboon said.

“I was happy with how we responded. We played good team footy and stuck to the way we wanted to play.

“We are hosting Morwell East next week who have had a great start with a win over Foster. We will need to be at our best to give ourselves a chance.”

Coach Uliando was under no illusions as to the challenges he would face as coach of Hill End, the goal is for his men to improve each week, and enjoy doing so, so that by years’ end they might be at a level from which to start to build another surge forward on the MGFNL ladder.


Foster vs Morwell East

THE early challenge for Foster appeared to be player availability, with the end of school holidays and weddings meaning that just putting a team on the park was going to be victory in itself.

A very close second challenge however was a talented Morwell East side eager to start their season with a win. The visiting Tigers side sent a clear message to not only Foster, but the league, that this year they are a more complete team than last.

The visiting Hawks started strongly and never took their foot off the accelerator, growing their lead at every change to record an impressive win.

Key signings Chris Wangman and Cain Iorangi hit the scoreboard with three goals each, as Morwell East charged to a 69-point win, 17.12 (114) to 6.9 (45).

“(It’s) just the way we wanted to start our 2024 season. Pleasing four quarter effort by our boys in what was a very physical contest against Foster on their home turf,” Morwell East coach, Paul Henry said.

That short, but succinct, observation by an experienced coach of what the Hawks produced is an obvious warning shot to every side in the competition.

But the season is long and at every turn there is a challenge, so it is always wise to take it one week at a time.

Foster coach, Sam Davies was impressed by the standard of football Morwell East rolled out.

“Reality check. They’re easily the benchmark this year,” he stated.