Eagles lose epic

Maffra’s physically and emotionally exhausted players are consoled by a loyal band of supporters after their devastating one-point grand final loss to Leongatha.

Maffra’s physically and emotionally exhausted players are consoled by a loyal band of supporters after their devastating one-point grand final loss to Leongatha.

IN one of the best grand finals in recent years, Maffra was denied back-to-back Gippsland League football premierships by the narrowest of margins.

Leongatha won Saturday's grand final at Moe by one point, 15.10 (100) to 15.9 (99). It was the closest Gippsland League grand final in 44 years.

With the temperature reaching 30 degrees by the time the match began, it could also have been one of the warmest grand finals.

Premiership success for the Parrots followed two consecutive grand final defeats. After winning a hat-trick of minor premierships, the Parrots finally have the major prize, their ninth in this league and first since 2001.

The highlight came during the presentation, when coach Beau Vernon was lifted in his wheelchair onto the podium to accept his medal and the premiership cup. Vernon has been in a wheelchair since suffered a spinal injury playing for the Parrots in 2012.

The grand final victory came in Vernon's final game in charge of the Parrots.

Leongatha co-captain Hayden Browne was outstanding in the midfield, winning the Stan Aitken Medal for the best-on-ground, adjudged by members of the media.

The umpires saw Chris Dunne, who kicked six goals, as the best player, awarding him the AFL Victoria Medal.

The Parrots dominated early, but the Eagles fought back in the second term and led by two points at the final change.

Leongatha regained the lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Dunne kicked a goal from the pocket.

Maffra reclaimed the lead a minute later. Jack Johnstone broke a Leongatha tackle to get the ball to Jarryd Clohesy, who passed to Darren Sheen, whose handpass set-up Kade Renooy's goal.

A left foot snap from Sheen from a stoppage resulted in a goal and Maffra's lead extending to eight points six minutes into the term.

The Parrots pegged a goal back through Jack Ginnane, following a strong mark.

The Parrots were getting more of the ball than the Eagles, but managed two behinds to level the scores by the 11-minute mark.

Two minutes later, Sheen was awarded a free kick, and truly converted to give the Eagles a six-point advantage.

Leongatha continued to press forward, and regained the lead with a goal from Dunne with the quarter heading into time-on.

What followed was a tense final 10 minutes, with both teams desperate to create scoring opportunities and prevent their opponents'.

In the 29th minute, the Eagles had a final chance to snatch victory, but Mitch Bennett's shot from out wide resulted in a behind. Moments later, the final siren went with Leongatha in front by a point.

Maffra's hopes were boosted by the return of forward Dan O'Brien from injury.

The Parrots began strongly, kicking seven goals to three in the first quarter.

In a portent of things to come, Dunne kicked the opening goal after Maffra failed to clear the ball out of defence.

Sheen kicked the first of his five goals for the day, following a pack mark.

Running hard with the ball, Maffra took the lead at the 14-minute mark when Hudson Holmes sent the ball to Sheen for his second major.

Dominating the centre clearances, the Parrots kicked the next six goals to lead by 30 points.

The Eagles' cause wasn't helped when Tom Jolly was shown a yellow card, and sent from the ground for 15 minutes. The incident showed the level of tension among the players in what was a heated contest.

Soon after, Ginnane was also given a yellow card following a late hit on Maffra captain Sam Pleming.

A goal from Bennett before quarter-time reduced the Parrots' lead to 24 points, but the Eagles still had plenty of work to do, with turnovers proving costly.

A goal from Eagle Dylan Alexander early in the second term was answered by consecutive Leongatha goals.

A Johnstone centre clearance led to a goal from O'Brien for the Eagles, who needed to deal with their ill-discipline to get back into the match.

The Parrots also had to consider their conduct, after Luke Bowman saw yellow.

The Eagles were not letting the Parrots get away from them on the scoreboard. Their efforts led to goals from Sheen, Bennett and Alexander, reducing the deficit to seven points by half-time.

The Eagles were harder at the hall during the third term. After the Parrots kicked the first goal, majors from Danny Butcher and Renooy put Maffra within a point.

A tackle on James Huts resulted in the key defender injuring his leg midway through the third quarter. Huts would not return to the field, requiring the Eagles to shuffle their back line.

The sides each kicked two more goals to round out the term, with Maffra leading by two points.

The Eagles look the lead for the first time in the match in the 21st minute, when Kel Porter's long kick forward found O'Brien, who set-up a goal for Daniel Bedggood.

Two of the Eagles' behinds that quarter came from kicks hitting the post. If one of those shots went a couple of centimetres a different direction, the Eagles could well have been celebrating another premiership.

Sheen, with five goals, was Maffra's best player, while Bennett kicked three. O'Brien was also troubled the Parrots' defenders.

Porter and Alexander worked hard in the midfield alongside Johnstone, who moved into defence late in the match.

Gippsland Senior
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