SALE’S quest for the Gippsland League football premiership is over, after they lost the first semi-final to Traralgon on Sunday by 10 points.
The Maroons won 10.7 (67) to 8.9 (57) at Maffra, and will play Maffra in the preliminary final.
The Magpies welcomed back three important players, leading forward John Gooch, strong bodied midfielder Adam Wallace and captain Kane Martin, who didn’t play in the qualifying final loss to Leongatha.
Windy conditions were exacerbated by the open Maffra ground. Traralgon was intent on playing numbers behind the ball, causing plenty of congestion in the Sale forward half.
With what has been a common theme for Sale at stages throughout the year, the chances created up the ground couldn’t be capitalised early on in the contest. The wind made it tricky for goal kicking.
The pressure of both teams was outstanding, players were putting their body on the line and showing great commitment to the cause.
Traralgon kicked the only goal for the quarter as the Magpies booted four points. The Maroons led by one goal at quarter-time.
A free kick courtesy of a dangerous tackle got Sale’s first goal, Jack Mapleson making easy work of the set shot. Sale kicked another shortly after, a strong clearance by Kane Martin found Mapleson who goaled on the run.
Sale was being bold with its ball movement and gaining reward as it looked to open up the angles against the Traralgon numbers. The Maroons were just managing to keep up with the Magpies, as Lee Stockdale kicked two very good goals.
Brad Dessent was getting involved, his strong mark from a long Jayden Allison kick and set shot got Sale its third goal.
A tough mark by Jackson Glenane in the middle resulted in run from behind by Brad McKay, who found Gooch, whose goal gave Sale the lead.
The Sale forward pressure resulted in a turnover before Glenane kicked a steadying goal which gave Sale an eight-point lead at the main break.
Sale began the third quarter well, but its avenues for goal dried up.
Laying multiple tackles and gaining plenty of advantage from the stoppages, the Magpies were about to crack the game open.
Ten minutes of play went where Sale was in control, but Traralgon would take the ball down and score with a bit more ease. A 50 metre penalty and injury to Jamie Sweeney gifted Traralgon its second and suddenly Sale’s good work was going without reward.
A strong spoil from Jordan Dowsett on the wing, saw him gather run and kick long to Dessent, whose left foot dribble kick was classy and put Sale within touch. A three-point advantage was the Magpies’ at three-quarter-time.
Stockdale continued to give the Magpies headaches, everything he touched turned to gold with his kicking in the conditions a highlight. The Maroons kicked the first two goals early, their run from behind leaving the Magpies reeling.
Sale wasn’t done though, bold play by Allison found the running McKay, his kick found Martin, who went back to McKay, who running goal from 35ms out gave the Magpies a real chance.
Brad Dessent took another strong mark, his set shot went through. Suddenly, the Magpies had the momentum and, with a couple of minutes, left a genuine opportunity to win.
Stockdale again stood-up, a clever mark and shot for goal from a tight angle for the Maroons sealed the victory.
The Magpies ran out of time as Traralgon won by 10 points.
A sense of hollowness and disappointment swept through the Magpies, a great home-and-away season where they won 14 games saw them lose two finals and bundle out.
Jack Mapleson was terrific up forward, as always his class and clarity by foot set up plenty of forward play.
McKay gave plenty of run to Sale, his willingness to compete on the inside and outside let the Magpies be bold.
Jayden Allison was composed as a midfielder, showing toughness in tight and good skills on the outside.
Brad Dessent pressure and presence was on the Maroons front of mind often him and other forwards in Freeman and Gooch were double teamed, Dessent with three goals was a good reward for his effort.
Jack Lipman was solid in the ruck, Andrew Quirk was good deep in defence, while midfielders Kane Martin and Mitch Dowse were reliable throughout the day.
Despite the loss, the young side would have learned plenty from the match, it clearly played good enough football to win but it was the opportunities that slipped which cost the Magpies.
THE season is also over the Sale under 18s, who lost their first semi-final to Bairnsdale, 8.7 (55) to 6.2 (38).
Accurate kicking for goal gave the Magpies a four-point lead at quarter-time, before the Redlegs drew level by half-time.
The Redlegs kicked two goals to one in the third term, before repeating the effort in the final.
Taylor Stephenson and Lewis Staplehurst were Sale’s best players.
IN the reserves, Leongatha defeated Moe 9.10 (64) to 7.3 (45).
DESPITE three unanswered first quarter goals by Morwell, Wonthaggi won the under 16s match by four points, 6.4 (40) to 6.6 (36). — with David Braithwaite
Gippsland League preliminary final
Saturday at Ted Summerton Reserve, Moe:
Seniors: Maffra v Traralgon, 2.20pm.
Reserves: Traralgon v Leongatha, 12.30pm.
Under 18s: Moe v Bairnsdale, 10.30am.
Under 16s: Bairnsdale v Wonthaggi, 9am.