A GOAL after the siren from coach Matt Stolarczyk took Traralgon-Tyers United into the North Gippsland football finals.
Going into the contest locked on 10 wins apiece, only percentage points separated second-placed TTU from sixth-placed Woodside as they battled it out for a finals berth at Tyers.
Stolarczyk had been awarded a free kick before the final siren sounded with the Wildcats in front. The coach’s goal saw the Bombers snatch a finals berth from the Wildcats’ grasp.
Trailing for the majority of the contest, the Bombers mounted one of the greatest escapes that will see them make their first finals appearance in nine seasons, winning, 13.12 (90) to 13.9 (87). For the Wildcats, it can be best described as a tail of heartbreak.
Coming into the match winning their past three matches, the visitors were found flat-footed in the opening minutes of play with Brian Graham scoring the first goal for TTU.
Both sides worked hard to lock down play before Woodside kicked a goal with its first movement forward.
Rob Michaelides made it two in a row for the Wildcats as his shot was aided by the wind. Team mate Adrian Fazoli added another as the visitors booted five consecutive majors to take a 20-point lead at quarter-time.
The Wildcats continued where they left off after the first change, with Damien Kerr registering the side’s sixth major as the midfield of Matt Scholz, Kerr and Fazoli began to dominate their opponents.
Stolarczyk provided the spark TTU needed, reeling the margin back with a goal before Wade McNeill added another as the Bombers began to press the visitors.
Graham added the second of his four majors on the run to lift his side as they closed into under 10 points at half-time.
The battle continued to intensify in the third term with hard physical clashes a feature. The Wildcats out-scored the Bombers by a major to lead by 18 points at the final break.
With season ambitions on the line, it was the Bombers who fought hard to ensure their chances remained alive.
With its club leaders standing tall, TTU took command in the final term with Stolarczyk and Graham taking the Wildcats on. Midfielder Pat Sharp held the opposition, Luke Middleton was working hard around the ground and was crucial in the pack contests, while Callum Laurie-Rhodes played a crucial role in the back line.
Booting four goals to one for the quarter, the Bombers reeled in the margin and overran the Wildcats in the dying stages.
Cougars upset Kangaroos
FIVE unanswered goals in the third term provided the impetus for Churchill to defeat minor premier Heyfield 13.20 (98) to 9.18 (72).
With finals in their sight, Saturday’s match against long time foe and flag favourite Heyfield was a must win for the Cougars.
The Kangaroos struggled to shake the home side in a tight physical opening term as they at times appeared they would kick themselves out of the contest.
Churchill didn’t look back after booting 5.7 to nil in the third quarter to boast a three-goal lead at the final change, a lead that they would further in the final term to register to 26 by the final siren to secure its position in the top five.
Mick Higgins led from the front and was well-supported by Brad Knowles. Ruckman Andrew Brown provided Churchill with first use of the ball, while captain Chris Williams was a workhorse in the engine room. Callan Egan was the Kangaroos’ best, while Scott Anderson was stretched but demonstrated why he is one of the best defenders in the competition.
Heartbreak for Saints
DESPITE claiming the points against Gormandale, it was heartbreak for Cowwarr, who, after an indifferent month of results, fell two points shy of the top five.
Needing not only to win, the Saints required other results to go their way.
The Saints dominated the first quarter, holding the Tigers scoreless. Ben Plozza and Tim Johnston registered goals early as the Tigers struggled to withhold the onslaught.
The second term was an entirely different scenario as the Saints scoring just one goal as the Tigers found their groove to outscore to boot three.
The Saints were again on the march in the third term, beyond Gormandale’s reach.
Cowwarr went on to win 18.11 (119) to 8.9 (57) with Shane Morgan, Brett Street and Cory Bannister among its best.
EIGHT goals from Josh King was one of the highlights of Glengarry’s clinical crushing of Boisdale-Briagolong.
The Bombers who scored just one major in three terms before matching the Magpies in the final quarter.
The Magpies won 22.15 (147) to 8.9 (57).
The baby Bombers were no match for the Magpies, who were desperate to maintain their hold on a top three finish and a place in next Saturday’s qualifying final.
Hitting the ground running, the home side booted five goals in the opening term, a further seven scored in the second to extend their lead to 70 points at the long change.
It didn’t get any better for the visitors in the third term, with King on song in front of goal, and Chris Wangman and Lochie Little dominating play, as the Magpies registered a further six majors as they run into finals on the back of some solid form.
For the visitors, John Gooch was judged best afield, finishing the match with two majors.
Light work for Blues
ROSEDALE made light work of Sale City, winning by 65 points.
The Blues posted three unanswered majors in the first term before adding a further six in the second to have the Bulldogs’ defenders on their knees at half-time.
Three goals to Jack Wyhoon, Chris Graham, Brad Caldwell and Andrew Flanagan set the Blues alight as the Bulldogs forwards could only watch at the opposite end of the ground, as they failed to register a major in the first half.
The Blues were closely matched in the second half with Joel Brayshaw and Mitch Bennett booting two goals each to ensure a more respectable score line at the final siren.
The Blues won 16.12 (108) to 5.13 (43).
NGFNL finals draw, week one:
Qualifying final, Saturday at Churchill:
Seniors: TTU v Glengarry, 2.15 pm.
Reserves: TTU v Cowwarr, noon.
Thirds: Cowwarr v TTU, 9.45am.
Elimination final, Sunday at Tyers:
Seniors: Churchill v Rosedale, 2.15pm.
Reserves: Churchill v Rosedale, noon.
Thirds: Sale City v Gormandale, 9.45am.