MAFFRA will meet Sale in the Gippsland League football grand final for the third time in seven seasons following the Eagles’ thrilling one-point preliminary final win over Leongatha.
It will be Eagles’ ninth grand final appearance since 2002.
After trailing for much of the match, a late Daniel Bedggood goal gave the Eagles the lead, which they were able to hold on to during the frantic final minutes and win 15.9 (99) to 15.8 (98).
It was the closest preliminary final in league history, with a lower margen than the three points in 1964 (Bairnsdale over Morwell) and 1973 (Sale over Leongatha).
It was Maffra’s running brigade which led the way with Alex Carr superb, his effort including four goals, alongside Ben Coleman, Gary Jones, Kel Porter and Matt Lee. Owen Booth also provided great service in the ruck.
Adrian Burgiel was again dangerous in attack, finishing with five goals.
Burgiel kicked the first goal of the match within the first minute before a tough 10 minutes of play led to Leongatha claiming the lead through majors from Murray Fleming and Dwayne Holt, who would go on to kick eight goals, the equal third highest total in a preliminary final.
With straight kicking for goal serving them well, the Parrots kicked four of the next five goals to take a 16-point lead into quarter-time.
The Parrots maintained their 16-point lead heading into half-time with Holt again dominant, kicking three more goals to take his match tally to five, while Burgiel already had four.
Maffra made inroads into the deficit early in the second half with the Eagles winning the opening centre clearance, leading to Burgiel finding Brent Connelly in the goal square for a goal.
Bedggood then won a free kick with a resulting 50 metre penalty helping him cut the deficit to four points.
With the Eagles seemingly having the ascendancy, Holt kicked his sixth goal from the boundary line for the Parrots.
The teams went goal-for-goal for the remainder of the third term with Carr’s brilliant goal on the run cutting Leongatha’s lead to just one point at the final change.
Four minutes into the final term, Maffra gained the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a goal from Porter.
The Parrots reclaimed the lead after Holt’s eighth and final goal. The lead was extended to eight points after Michael Otto’s major.
Maffra responded with another Carr major on the run which cut the margin back to within a goal.
After both teams missed chances to kick goals, the Maffra midfield surge ended with an unmarked Beddgood who kicked what would be the winning goal.
The Parrots had a final chance to win the game, but the shot fell short and the Eagles were able to clear the ball out of defence.
A LATE Tom Jolly goal against Bairnsdale booked Sale a berth in the Gippsland League under 16 grand final against Traralgon.
AFTER fighting hard for three quarters, Sale’s under 18 team lost to Bairnsdale by 29 points. The Redlegs will meet Warragul in the grand final.
LEONGATHA will meet Sale in the reserves grand final after defeating Morwell.
For more read Tuesday’s Gippsland Times.