Morwell 15.8 (98) drew with Traralgon 15.8 (98)

THERE is no more need for conversation around the water cooler in the office.

The ceiling has been broken.

Shattered even.

The ceiling is now in the clouds. Perhaps unreachable.

If the football gods reside in the clouds, they delivered an epic for the Latrobe Valley at the weekend.

Given the combatants, given the end result, and given the scarcely believable nature of what transpired, there will surely be nothing that ever tops it.

Recency bias aside, what happened at Morwell Recreation Reserve last Sunday was the greatest home-and-away match in Gippsland League history.

Latrobe Valley rivals, Morwell and Traralgon contested a Round 9 top-five battle that saw four goals kicked in red time; the Tigers getting their last to snatch back the lead, only for drama of the highest order to unfold.

The entire league was left dazed when the final siren (barely audible given how loud the crowd was in the grandstand) rang, showing a scoreboard reading 15.8 (98) apiece.

If Shakespeare had been tasked with writing about this game, it could have easily fitted into one of his tragicomedies. Although even he might have struggled to adequately do it justice.

Let’s not forget, it wasn’t fictitious either. This really happened.

Extrapolating even further from the ‘this’, was a number of mesmeric, almost supernatural, events that took place.

The A Grade netball match also ended in a draw, and there was more than 70 free kicks paid in the senior football game.

Veteran umpire Steve Esler certainly won’t be forgetting his 600th game in a hurry.

Former Morwell player Tristan Waack, now with Traralgon, was rested, reportedly owing to VFL directives, adding another layer to the subplots from the day.

It is said timing is everything, and Morwell Football-Netball Club picked either the best or worst day to hold their sponsors event. Moe certainly picked the worst week to win a game after the siren.

Traralgon coach, Troy Hamilton, who himself was involved in two of the most miraculous premierships with Mirboo North a decade ago, must have felt history was rhyming.

This was ‘so Mirboo North’ it wasn’t funny.

Shakespeare had the basis right there for a comedy, and even more so for what Traralgon captain Tye Hourigan managed to pull off.

It was almost laughable how dominant he was.

Hourigan was a combination of Glenn Maxwell in the last World Cup and Chris Judd in the 2013 Elimination Final.

Playing deep forward because he was barely able to run, Hourigan put 21 maroon and white jumpers on his shoulders and said “come with me”.

He kicked six goals, and ironically missed a seventh (seemingly the easiest) that would have given the visitors the win.

Poor Tyler Hillier played the game of his life for Morwell, only for Hourigan’s heroics to virtually overshadow every other player on the ground.

So, to the crux of every drawn result – who lost it and who salvaged it?

There can be little doubt Morwell was better as a collective, and for this reason, the Tigers will feel as though they lost two more points than Traralgon gained.

The home side was 20 points up early in the last quarter, and started the match with 3.4 (22) to one behind when the quarter time siren blew.

At that stage it appeared how far Morwell, as the Tigers were dominating most facets of the game.

Hourigan’s dominance had not yet fully materialised, and he was actually pinged for deliberate out of bounds in defence after his attempted handball through goal hit the behind post.

Accepting the free kick and slotting the resultant goal was Riley Loprese, brother of Dylan – current Traralgon 100-game player and former captain.

Just another subplot.

Traralgon got up and running around the 10-minute mark of the second, and kept a bleeding scoreboard in check with back-to-back goals.

Sensing the need to change, Hourigan, who has carved a reputation as one of the best intercept marks in the league, was sent forward, and responded with two goals.

At halftime, the Tigers led by 10 points.

Hillier kicked a neat set shot from deep in the pocket on the side of the old scoreboard at the three minute mark of the third, before Hourigan hit back with his own three minutes later.

Hillier was then involved in a goal assist, hitting up Brandon McDonald, stretching the Tigers’ lead out to 15 points.

McDonald was to kick four goals for the day, including two insane finishes during the last.

Hillier might as well have been walking on water by this stage, as he kicked another incredible set shot from the opposite pocket at the 15-minute mark.

Traralgon got two much-needed goals through Liam Willaton and Max Jacobsen as the clock ticked over into red time, while Morwell was given a let-off after an uncharacteristic miss from Jackson McMahon right on three quarter time stopped the margin getting under single figures.

With his side 14 points up at the last change, Morwell playing-coach Boyd Bailey cut a composed figure as he addressed the charges.

The left footer kept the message simple, with his line “you can’t attack unless you hunt” offering an appropriate analogy to win the ball first and foremost.

Bailey instructed his troops to play to win rather than save the game, ensuring them the match would open up.

He was right, although even he probably didn’t anticipate just how much it would.

Murmurings of “three goals will win it” from the Tigers camp seemed logical given how the match had played out to that point, but as it turned out, even four was only enough to tie it.

Morwell had the perfect start, with Bailey dribbling home a goal inside the first 30 seconds, seemingly landing one hand on the Hunter-Stanistreet Cup.

Giving up however is not in Traralgon’s DNA, no matter what is at stake, and goals to Willaton and Kade Ruyters suddenly cut the margin back to eight points just four minutes in.

Some chaotic moments followed, with a 50 metre penalty called by one umpire and reversed by another who saw the whole picture, and then a Traralgon kick-in gone horrendously wrong landed the ball in the hands of Morwell excitement machine Ricky Mentha, who snapped the goal to push the lead back out to 15 points.

By now tensions were at a game-high, and a host of missed opportunities from Traralgon was eventually broken when Chance Doultree goaled at the 16-minute mark, making it a one-goal ballgame.

Josh Hamilton, back from a three-week concussion-induced break, then levelled the scores, only for Tyler Brown to momentarily give Morwell a one-point lead following a free kick for a throw inside 50.

Then came Hourgian.

At the 22-minute mark, he was found on the lead, well in front of Morwell defender Max Linton, and goaled to get Traralgon in front by five points.

A couple of minutes later, he marked just inside 50. Immediately putting his hand up, he took it upon himself to go back and kick the goal.

He did, from right on the arc, as the ball lobbed in, narrowly missing a set of hands and the left goal post.

That goal made it six for the day, and with it, the Maroons led by 11 points.

Morwell wasn’t done with just yet.

From the next centre clearance, the Tigers forced the ball forward and found McDonald charging out on the lead.

Meeting the ball right on 50, McDonald wheeled around on his right, making the distance at the Princes Highway end.

Five points the difference.

Next goal wins.

The Tigers surged forward again, but this time, Hourigan was in defence, taking an uncontested mark on the last line.

His clearing kick however was met by Boyd Bailey, who took a strong grab and sent the ball back inside 50.

Calling the game for TRFM, commentator Daryl Couling said “good luck getting a goal here”, as virtually every player on the ground was inside Morwell’s 50.

Somehow however, Morwell did, with two people sharing the same surname with different spelling combining.

Following a mad scramble, Cody Macdonald sent a Hail Mary back inside 50, where an alert Brandon McDonald slid in to take the mark deep in the pocket on the Morwell Cricket Club side.

Needing his best kick, McDonald nailed his fourth goal, regaining the Tigers lead by one point at the 27-minute mark.

There could not be long left.

Morwell sent everyone back, while Hourigan returned to the forward line for what was surely the last roll of the dice.

The Tigers looked to keep the ball in tight, and some desperate efforts from Dan Musil with a smother and captain Aidan Quigley with a potentially goal-saving tackle personified his leadership.

From the next stoppage, the Maroons got the ball in space. McMahon was awarded a free kick for high, he then gave a handball to Connor Ambler, who sent the ball long inside 50.

Guess who?

Within a pack of six players, Hourigan got both hands up, and caught the ball as he fell to the ground, juggling the mark before emerging triumphantly.

Disbelieving players surrounded the area. Morwell appealed for a touched ball, while Hourigan held the ball aloft as he walked back.

With a set shot of only about 30 metres on a slight angle, it appeared almost certain Hourigan was about to kick his seventh goal and be chaired off the ground.

But… almost unexplainably, he missed.

A collective gasp was heard as the kick sailed wide.

Now with the ball back in their hands, and only needing a point to win, Morwell went full throttle from the kick in.

The Tigers found Musil, who gave it to Burkeley Macfarlane, who kicked long inside 50. Traralgon however had more numbers, and were able to force a couple of stoppages to take vital seconds off the clock.

Time for one last plot twist.

From a stoppage, the ball landed in the arms of Macdonald, who sent it back inside 50.

Waiting underneath it was an unmarked Brown, who was about to mark 40 metres out directly in front.


The Hourigan miss came at 29:53. The final siren at 31:30.

Morwell denied a shot at victory by two seconds – possibly less.

Bailey could not do much more for his side, collecting their best afield honours. Linton had his hands full with Hourigan, but considering he was named second-best, perhaps showed just how well he did limiting any potential further damage. Quigley, Macdonald, Hillier and Macfarlane also stood out.

Awarding best on presented a mere formality for Traralgon. Joining Hourigan in the list was McMahon, Willaton, Joel Scholtes, Jacobsen and D’Angelo.

The first draw for the 2024 season, and sixth in Gippsland League history for Round 9 also presented some poignancy for the Maroons.

Traralgon as a team will go back to the drawing board, and have some serious drawings to consider as a club regarding their new change rooms, currently in the works (more on that later).

For now, it is worth acknowledging the players that took part last Sunday, who are are etched into a famous two hours of Gippsland football history.

This game will be talked about for generations to come – and rightly so.

You only need to bring water bottles to work from now on.


Moe 11.9 (75) def Wonthaggi 11.6 (72)

MOE and Morwell can never get away from each other – even when the Lions are playing an opponent who has travelled more than 100 kilometres.

A kick after the siren from former Morwell player Brayden Duve against Moe was all that stood in the way of Wonthaggi victory at the weekend.

In a pulsating last few minutes, with Moe leading by just three points at Ted Summerton Reserve, a free kick was plucked following a marking contest on the edge of 50.

Duve was the man to emerge with the ball, and lined up for a shot needing to clear the best part of 55 metres.

While it would take a mighty effort, the Power’s pulse still beat, as Moe players rushed to the goal line.

As it turned out, the kick became an anti-climax, smothered off the boot by Riley Baldi.

With the stand rule permitting players to jump, Baldi did just that as the ball connected with Duve’s boot, ensuring the Lions escaped a huge scare, winning 11.9 (75) to 11.6 (72) in Round 9.

The act of a high-flying smother was perhaps fitting for someone with the nickname Eagle, and equally fitting that the man judged best-on-ground also had the last touch of the game.

Baldi was yet again the standout for Moe, and would have likely added to the MVP votes that saw him enter the round already seven votes clear on top.

Declan Keilty was also prominent yet again, as was Ben Daniher in what was a special day for him and all the Moe Football-Netball Club family.

The Lions again hosted their own Big Freeze event, welcoming dignitaries and special guests for the annual Fight MND fundraiser.

The great Neale Daniher was present, as a number of locals took part in the traditional ‘freeze’ event, going under the ice water.

Back on field, Nick Prowse also played well for Moe, along with Trent Baldi and Brock Smith.

The Lions led at every change, although a classic, dour winter struggle ensured for the most part, meaning the lead never extended far beyond 15-20 points.

Moe appeared to have the game under control before Wonthaggi’s late surge, and the Power certainly had chances to win.

Issac Chugg was everywhere for the visitors, while Mitch Hayes, Noah Anderson, Toma Huther, Kaj Patterson and Shannon Bray were industrious.


Maffra 10.12 (72) def Warragul 7.9 (51)

MAFFRA coach Anthony Robbins probably never thought he’d share similarities with Alastair Clarkson.

On the same weekend North Melbourne recorded their first win of the AFL season, so too did Maffra in the Gippsland League.

After nine rounds, the Eagles finally clicked over a digit in the ‘W’ column, defeating Warragul 10.12 (72) to 7.9 (51).

Maffra at home had clearly had enough of losing, and started with four goals to two in the first term.

Warragul responded, keeping the Eagles scoreless in the second, to see things all tied up at 4.5 (29) as teams retreated into the sheds.

That trend continued in the third, until back-to-back goals to Caleb Calwyn late in the term saw the home side take all the momentum into the final change.

Jack Casson had the chance to get the visitors back within two goals at the 13-minute mark of the last quarter, but his kick sailed wide.

Warragul coach Jed Lamb, back from a horrific knee injury last year, marked and goaled from 30 metres out to keep the Guls in it at the 17-minute mark.

However, a strong mark and sneaky play on from Maffra youngster, Zach O’Keefe saw him steady the home side with a classy left foot major from 40m.

His goal left Maffra 14 points in front with 22 minutes played.

As if that wasn’t the final nail, Calwyn marked from the top of the square a short time later, making no mistake to seal a hard fought, 21-point win.

Emotions of relief and jubilation spilled over in the Maffra camp, their victory made all the more meritorious by the fact a staggering 11 players in the Eagles line-up were under 19 years of age.

Those young players showed their absolute class on and off the field, gathering on the sidelines to sing the club song for a terminally ill supporter, watching on from an ambulance.

Calwyn kicked five goals in the win, while others to play well were John Butcher, Max Stobie, Kade Renooy, Alex Carr and Seth Smith.

Best for Warragul were Isaac Wallace (three goals), Jack Lewsey, Jake Hughes, Sean Masterson, Brad Hefford and Patrick Carpenter.


Bairnsdale 17.9 (111) def Sale 7.8 (50)

WHEN Bairnsdale are strong, the Gippsland League is strong.

Unfortunately for Sale, the Magpies had to suffer a ‘good for football’ defeat in Round 9 action, losing to the Redlegs on the road.

Bairnsdale, more specifically, Brayden McCarrey, were unstoppable, on their way to a commanding 17.9 (111) to 7.8 (50) win.

The pocket rocket ended the match with eight goals, at one stage having seven out of a Redlegs total of 10 to his name.

There was simply no stopping the long-sleeve wearing dynamo, at least while the game was somewhat alive.

Sale stifled Bairnsdale and McCarrey in the last term, keeping the Redlegs to just three behinds, but by then, the damage had well and truly been done.

The home side opened with five goals to three, before the floodgates completely opened.

Bairnsdale kicked four goals to one in the second, and dominated even further with eight goals to one in the third. In the carnage, that spelt two goals to 12 either side of halftime for the Magpies.

Things went from bad to worse for Sale, with Jack Leslie sent off and likely to have a further case to answer for this week.

The Magpies were clearly not in a favourable mood when handing out the best, naming only five players.

Those who did do enough to rate a mention were Shannen Lange, Chris Byron, Mitch Dowse, Hudson Holmes and Leslie.

The result leaves Sale with five wins and four losses at the halfway mark of the season, equal with Bairnsdale, who hold fifth by percentage.

The Redlegs have shown enough signs to suggest they will be a danger this season, especially at home, where they have only dropped one game thus far.

McCarrey took the plaudits for best afield, working alongside Lachlan Byrne-Jones, Will Mitchell, Matt Corbett, Link McKenna and Logan Austin.

Also a noted cricketer, McCarrey can be found plundering runs around the Bairnsdale district during summer.

Just why so many attacking batsmen in cricket are also prominent and creative forwards in football may have a crossover effect in terms of skillset. Much like cricket, they are always looking for gaps in a confined space.

Think Daniel Bedggood and Adrian Burgiel at Maffra, Jack Ginnane at Leongatha or Lee Stockdale at Traralgon/Woodside.

Most also carry a certain creative flair or healthy individuality as well.

Bedggood has the dreadlocks, Burgiel wore number 77, Ginnane always wears long sleeves, while McCarrey wears number 40 and long sleeves.


Drouin 6.13 (49) def by Leongatha 17.12 (114)

LEONGATHA just did Leongatha things.

The Parrots gave Drouin no legroom, on their way to a commanding 65 point victory.

Travelling to the Hawks nest presented the only challenge for the ladder leaders, who won 17.12 (114) to 6.13 (49).

Jenson Garnham kicked eight goals, and may have had his eye on top spot on the league goal-kicking until Brayden McCarrey bobbed up with the same amount.

Jackson Harry was best for the Parrots, followed by Jack Hume, Luke Bowman, Jake van der Plight, and Darcy Hume, who is looming as a good story after winning the reserves league medal last year.

Will Papley, Caleb Quirk, Will Brewer, Jarrod Marshall, Max Williames and Ed Morris battled hard for Drouin.

Leongatha are now two games clear at the halfway point of the season.

How strange to think the Parrots don’t seem ‘as good’ this season, yet are still two games clear.