THE Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League competition is again proving to be one of the closest in Gippsland football.

After six rounds, there is just one game separating first from eighth, which even then only tells part of the story.

Incredibly, the team in eighth has won the same number of games as the team in first.


Newborough 18.10 (118) def Thorpdale 11.8 (74)

DON’T let the scoreboard fool you.

For much of the Round 6 match between Newborough and Thorpdale in the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League, the contest played out in relatively even terms.

The difference however came at the bookends.

The Bulldogs kicked three goals in the first four minutes of the game, and then finished with seven goals to two in the last quarter.

Oh, and there was a bloke called Josh Hecker who had about 45 touches and kicked seven goals.

In a game decided by 44 points, it wouldn’t be too much to say he was ‘the’ difference.

Hecker, who by all reports found the ball more in this game than he had in the previous four this season, was a clear best-on-ground as Newborough withstood a number of Thorpdale challenges, to win 18.10 (118) to 11.8 (74).

The Bulldogs, in front of a packed home crowd, admittedly swelled by the fact there was no Gippsland League games and byes to neighbouring clubs Hill End and Trafalgar, took to the field wearing special pink guernseys in support of the Breast Cancer Network.

The subplots that were current Thorpdale players Anthony and Michael Rosato and Chris Gardiner coming up against their old side also added further intrigue to the game.

The trio had all played in senior Grand Finals for Newborough, with Anthony Rosato part of their most recent senior premiership in 2016.

Pleasingly, there appeared to be no hostility toward the past players, as all concerned made the ball their primary focus.

The only moment that may have boiled over was when Newborough defender Alex Skinner perhaps got a little too overzealous in wanting to prove Anthony Rosato wasn’t as ‘un-tacklable’ as is commonly thought. Skinner was up to task, at least in the act of stopping the midfielder in his tracks, yet the lifting action meant the tackle was deemed dangerous. The resultant free kick gave Rosato a goal for the day to go with his own best-on-ground performance.

In some games, the two best players from each team are absolute standouts, and that was certainly applicable for this match.

The chivalry extended away from the ball, as players from the home side even took the time to engage in pleasant conversation with Gardiner as they were waiting to come on at the interchange gates.

In this respect, football has arguably changed for the better. Among the crowd at the weekend were members of Newborough’s 1990 premiership, who defeated Trafalgar in ugly scenes. The Grand Final that year was marred by controversy, as more than a dozen reports were handed out.

When people talk about football being ‘better back then’, there is cause to question if it really was.

A Newborough person now even coaches Traf. Who’d ever thought that would have been possible?

The Bulldogs three-goal burst to start the game sent alarm bells ringing on the Thorpdale bench.

The Blues were without one-half of their co-coaches, with Jason Winderlich away ill, but they were able to work their way back into the game, and went into the quarter time break having registered the same number of scoring shots as their opponents.

Thorpdale had to accept their fate to some extent, as Hecker and Kyle Jennings each kicked neat goals from deep in the pocket, however, a 50-metre penalty for dissent taking Nathan Whieldon to the goal line meant some of their wounds were self-inflicted.

Further up the ground, the Bulldogs were owning space out wide.

A call from the Thorpdale bench for someone to “go to number 20” was made midway through the term.

Sending a tagger to someone in their mid-40s probably isn’t a ringing endorsement for the standard of a competition, although the guy wearing number 20 for Newborough is well and truly an exception.

The man wearing number 20 is of course, Peter Ainsworth, still proving a handful after more than 350 senior games for Moe in the Gippsland League.

Ainsworth showcased every bit of that experience in the first quarter, at one stage turning his opponent inside out before sending the ball forward.

As the second quarter got underway, it appeared Newborough were well on their way to a commanding win, as they extended on their 15-point quarter time advantage.

Just four minutes into the second term, Anthony Rosato could sense things were getting out of hand, and called out to Thorpdale runner (and also co-president) Jason Carpinteri to ring some changes.

There appeared to be mismatches galore in defence for the Blues, as Josh Pearce and Hecker were constantly found on the lead.

Thorpdale was noticeably short a few players, as indicated by what happened earlier in the day when their reserves lost by more than 200 points.

With that in mind, it was clear the Blues had not only hit the phones to field a team in the lunchtime league, but were then needing to call upon players who (in the greatest respect) fitted the description of ‘genuine fill ins’ for the main game.

That description was at least accurate in a physical sense.

Any structural changes didn’t take immediate effect, as Thorpdale didn’t have an inside 50 until the seven minute mark of the second quarter – and even then it was quickly rebounded.

A desperate, lunging tackle from Newborough’s Nathan Curtis on Michael McMahon at centre wing opposite the grandstand showed the Bulldogs were prepared to do the hard work, however, what followed was 15 minutes of dominance from the Blues.

Thorpdale kicked back-to-back goals within five minutes to keep the game within reach, and when Anthony Rosato kicked truly from straight in front at the scoreboard end, the margin was suddenly only two goals.

Young gun: Brandon Watson clears the ball for Thorpdale. Photograph: Liam Durkin

The Blues made it four goals in nine minutes when Cougar Millsom nailed a set shot, after taking what looked to be a very deliberate, stabbing approach, choosing to kick a tracer bullet from 40 metres out.

With just one goal the difference as the clock ticked past 20 minutes, the tempo of the game was left somewhat up to guest work, as players only had a vague idea how much time was left.

Why? Because the clock on the scoreboard at Newborough stops as soon as it gets to 20 minutes. Part technical glitch, or perhaps to add to any suspense that comes with a close finish.

Thorpdale was denied the chance to potentially add another goal before the halftime break, as the siren sounded as the ball was in mid-air literally seconds before it looked certain to fall into the hands of key forward James Holland-Burch.

Newborough had the ideal start to the second half, with a goal to Jennings just 30 seconds in, before Hecker added another a short time later.

Scoring had become easier, and the game opened up, allowing both teams some clean looks.

Jordan Ceppi got one back for Thorpdale to help stem the flow, one of his three for the day.

The left footer added yet another subplot to the game, being a former Moe player fronting up for his first game in the area since leaving the Lions.

Much as Thorpdale tried however, there was simply no stopping Hecker.

He kicked three goals for the term and did work at both ends of the ground, securing a holding the ball in defence as the Blues looked certain of getting through.

Some gasps were felt among the Thorpdale faithful when Anthony Rosato hobbled at the 16-minute mark, however, with the game still alive, he willed himself to find Millsom inside 50, who in turn handballed it off to Travis Patten to see the Blues get back an important goal.

Gasps turned into expletives however not long after, following a suicidal turnover deep in defence that landed straight in the arms of Hecker – of all people to accept an inboard kick gone horrendously wrong.

Fortunately for the Blues, Hecker made his one blemish for the day, missing the goal and giving them a huge let off.

Some sore bodies were starting to show as three quarter time approached, notably Newborough swingman Luke Webber, who was cramping so badly he couldn’t even walk from the interchange gate to the bench.

Webber even sought the assistance of a nearby photographer (ironically working for Thorpdale) to help stretch, who proved to be a much greater citizen than the fellow media counterpart standing by.

For all of Hecker’s dominance, the difference was just 13 points at three quarter time, setting up a grandstand finish.

Newborough coach Craig Skinner delivered an impassioned speech at the last change, telling his troops the “stage is absolutely set”.

The Bulldogs were instructed to chance their arm using the corridor, which had remained vacant for most of the game, as their opponents showed a preference for turning the match into a congested game.

The instructions did not fall on deaf ears, and while Thorpdale carried the weight of sentimentality, a home team kicking toward a bar full of parochial supporters was always going to be hard to stop.

The game opened right up in the last, and the Bulldogs went on their way to eventually blow the margin right out.

Who else but Hecker to kick Newborough’s first goal of the last term, which came just three minutes in.

Another major followed after a goal-line scramble, the precursor to which saw Jennings almost kick goal of the century using his soccer skills, sending a bobbling ball at a right angle from close range.

Webber made a miraculous recovery to kick a set shot at the 10-minute mark to just about seal the deal.

Thorpdale kept coming, and a goal to Holland-Burch at the 12-minute mark made it a 26-point ballgame.

From there, the Blues would have needed the next goal to be any chance, but gave away a 50-metre penalty at the very next centre bounce to virtually put paid to any chances.

Anthony Rosato was joined in the best by Travis Patten, who kicked two goals, along with Matt Richardson, Heath Ferguson, Joel Monger and Holland-Burch.

The Blues won no shortage of admirers, and showed strong character after Newborough blitzed them in the first 10 minutes – lesser sides would have conceded there and then.

Thorpdale co-coach Ray Pickering would have reason to be optimistic after what he saw last Saturday, as his team kept touch with a quality opposition for the best part of three quarters.

Had they won this game considering the resources available, it would have arguably topped their two finals victories last year.

Both teams now sit with four wins and two losses from six games, although there is a four-spot separation on the ladder.

The Bulldogs are fourth and the Blues eighth, a somewhat bizarre outcome given Fish Creek are on top with the exact same number of wins.

Hecker had daylight for company as second best-on, although officially that mantle went to Zac Skinner. Patrick Charles also played well, as did Liam Flahavin, Wheildon (two goals) and Pearce.

The Bulldogs will be relatively pleased with how things sit with one game left in autumn, having dropped just the two matches thus far (one by two points to reigning premier Fish Creek).

Perhaps the most pleasing sign for Newborough however is seen scrolling past the results section on PlayHQ.

From the 21 players chosen at the weekend, the total player points amounted to just 25. Emphasising that point even further, the only players attracting multiple points were Jennings and Jack Hudson, who can be classed as every bit ‘local’.


Yinnar 12.10 (82) def Morwell East 9.16 (70)

YOU could have been forgiven for thinking Morwell East’s loss to reigning premier Fish Creek just a week earlier was one they were due to have, but arriving at the home ground of Yinnar, the Hawks were absolutely committed to not losing two in a row.

The Magpies, with the Hawks already somewhat wounded from their first and only loss, took no prisoners, slowly wearing the visitors down to secure perhaps their most impressive win of the year.

Yinnar fought back from a 27-point deficit at halftime, to win 12.10 (82) to 9.16 (70).

Morwell East, despite leading for most of the day, paid the price for inaccurate kicking in front of goal, and in doing so, left the door ajar for a Magpies team ready to pounce.

Winning coach Sam McCulloch was full of praise for his side.

“Was a tale of two halves. Morwell East were on top in the first half and we were second to the ball. We worked our way back into the game and managed to play our brand of footy in the second half,” he said.

“Was a real character building win in front of a strong home crowd. Another challenge this week facing Mirboo North who are always a different team at home.”

The same could not be said by Paul Henry in the Morwell East camp.

“We were out worked and outclassed in the last quarter. Inaccurate kicking and poor skill execution was a huge contributor to the outcome. Another disappointing loss!” he said.

The loss has contrasting outcomes for each side, with the Hawks now falling back to the pack, while for Yinnar, top spot is now only percentage away.

Yinnar is well placed as the competition closes in on the halfway mark of the season, and the Magpies certainly have the attention of all the big players in the MGFNL.


Boolarra 8.16 (64) def by Foster 14.5 (89)

A WEEK off with a bye, the return of several first choice players and a home ground contest had Boolarra fully prepared for a talented and in form Foster.

The Demons had produced some patches of very good football, but were under no illusions it would take all of 100 minutes of their very best to get the better of the Tigers.

At halftime, it appeared that a major upset might well be on the cards, with the Demons not only in the game, but leading it, before the Tigers really got their teeth into the contest, running away to a 25-point win.

The final scoreboard read Foster 14.5 (89) to 8.16 (64).

Foster coach Sam Davies said his side was made to work hard for the points.

“Hard fought win against a very persistent Boolarra side – we turned it on in the third quarter and that was the difference,” he said.

“They’re a better team than the ladder suggests. Bye week – can’t wait.”

Boolarra coach Brendan Mason was willing to put things in perspective.

“It was a really good game of football. Foster just came out after halftime and played the better footy. Disappointing to once again fall short,” he said.


Fish Creek 22.10 (142) def Mirboo North 2.2 (14)

FISH CREEK, having produced one of their better performances of 2024 the week before against Morwell East, firmed as heavy favourites against the winless Tigers.

The home side showed every bit of that favouritism, winning 22.10 (142) to 2.2 (14).

The Kangaroos never appeared in any real danger of losing this game, but a coach is always interested in how his team wins as well.

“Solid win on the weekend, it was good to get the game on our terms for most of the day and start playing to our system,” Fish Creek coach Jarrod Walker said.

“Still a work in progress but some good signs. Starting to develop some good synergy which is pleasing.”

The margin a concern, but far from a disaster for the Tigers, according to coach Damien Turner, who is well aware of where they sit at the moment.

“It was a similar story again and although there was many forced changes to our senior side which made it a little harder, it is always a tough trip down to Fish Creek and they were brilliant,” he said.

“They have some great talent and will go deep again. Our boys really rallied at halftime and pulled back what looked like could have been an even tougher day.

“I’m proud of how the boys continue to stick at it in the tough days, this will build some real resilience in the future.”

The weekend loss was not about 2024 for Mirboo North, it was, and is about the seasons ahead, which can be testing for clubs on the journey, but a genuine belief in reaching the destination is the key to future success.


MDU 12.9 (81) def Stony Creek 7.8 (50)

IT had come to that stage of the year where the jostling for the all-important ladder positions was starting to intensify, as clubs looked to firm up a grip on a position further up the leader.

Meeniyan Dumbalk United, although seventh on the MGFNL ladder prior to their weekend clash, and unbelievably just a game off top position, knew they were in for a challenge from the visiting Stony Creek, who themselves were just a game behind the home side.

Needless to say, a win for either side was crucial, and in the early part of the game, it was the Lions that appeared to want it more.

Leading by nearly five goals at quarter time, Stony Creek still led the way until the final break, before the Demons really put the heat on, eventually rolling on to a comfortable 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) win.

Demons coach Nathan Allen said it was a strong reversal.

“Stony got a hold of us early with some slick footy,” he said.

“We were able to hold them up late in the first and early in the second as we started to get our game going. Was a big day for the club and great to celebrate with a win.”

The victory has MDU right where they need to be, inside the league’s top six, while for the Lions, it was another one that appeared to get away – a perhaps worrying trend for coach Chris Verboon.

“We started the game doing everything right, kicking the first six goals,” he said.

“We knew Meeniyan would keep coming and it was always going to be tough to maintain a lead.

“Meeniyan used the space well which opened up the middle for them. Hit ups and overlap run were hard to stop. We had our chances in the last quarter to put scoreboard pressure on but couldn’t convert the goals.

“I was really happy with our backline who did a great job all day. There’s positives to take from the game but in the end it’s another one that got away.”


Tarwin 11.13 (79) def Toora 9.6 (60)

TARWIN was well aware of just what was on the end of this game, and it was so much more than just the four premiership points.

A win would keep them in touch with the very top of the table, while a loss would see them fall back to the trailing pack with still plenty of work to do in the back half of the season.

That pressure to win was enough to see the Sharks fight their way into, and inevitably run away with, a contest that no doubt could have gone either way.

The Sharks did enough in the end, winning 11.13 (79) to 9.6 (60) at home.

The home side looked in trouble early, trailing by four points at the first break and falling to 10 points behind at the main, before starting to work into the game through the efforts of Ricky O’loughlin, Ben Chalmers and Ben Allen.

Tarwin coach Jason Kennedy pleased enough with what was produced.

“It was a solid day for the club, our new group are starting to see the reward for effort,” he said.

“It’s great to have our first win at home and also now two on the trot.”

Toora coach Jack Weston said there was legitimate reasons why his side fell away.

“A half of footy at Tarwin wasn’t enough to get the job done, 18 fit players after halftime meant we just ran out of gas,” he said.

“It was a disappointing result, but credit to Tarwin for hanging on and running out the game better.”


HILL End had the bye.