Feathers to fly in round one

ANOTHER chapter in the 115-year-old rivalry between Sale and Maffra will be written this Sunday.

The Battle of the Birds at Sale Oval will conclude the opening round of the Gippsland League football season.

The match will mark Shane Fyfe’s debut as Magpies’ senior coach, while Wayne Butcher remains in charge at Maffra.

The Magpies and Eagles will meet for the 278th time since the formation of the original Gippsland league in 1901. Over the years, only four wins separate the rivals, with Sale holding the edge.

The Magpies have had the better of matches played at Sale, leading the ledger 82-46. Since the Eagles joined the Latrobe Valley league in 1960, the Magpies have won 40 of the 59 matches at Sale.

While the Magpies have won seven of the past 10 Battles of the Birds, Maffra won both clashes last year.

Daniel Bedggood’s eight goals proved to be the difference in the four-goal round one victory. In the return match, the Eagles rebounded from a 31-point half time deficit to win by nine.

Both teams will be eager to begin 2016 following a disappointing end to 2015. The Magpies were knocked out of the finals in the first week by three points, while the Eagles, after finishing the home-and-away season in second place, was out-classed in the preliminary final.

THE season begins on Saturday with four intriguing clashes, headlined by the rematch of last year’s grand final.

Traralgon and Leongatha will return to the scene of the Maroons’ 2015 triumph, with the home side to unfurl its premiership flag before the contest.

Up until the grand final, the Parrots had won five of their past six games at Traralgon.

The sides met four times last season, beginning in round one, when the Parrots stunned the Maroons by more than 20 goals, then backed it up with a four-goal win at Traralgon in round 10.

The second semi-final was a thriller with a point separating them at the final break before Traralgon won by nine. In the grand final two weeks later, the Maroons jumped to a 25-point quarter-time on their way to claiming the flag by 30 points.

CONTINUING their recent rivalry, Wonthaggi will host Morwell.

Their past eight meetings have been split 4-4. Five of the past seven matches have had margins of three goals or less, including the Tigers’ victory in the 2014 grand final.

Wonthaggi won both meetings last year, a thumping 71-point win in round one Morwell, before the Tigers ran the Power to 10 points in the return match.

BAIRNSDALE will begin life under new coach Stuart Anderson at home against Drouin.

The Redlegs have had the better of their recent clashes against the Hawks, winning five of the past six clashes. Each team won on its home ground last year with similar margins, the Hawks in round one by 28 points and the Redlegs by 26 in round 10.

Bairnsdale has won its past four home games against the Hawks by an average margin of 76 points.

THE teams which finished 2015 on the bottom two rungs on the ladder, Warragul and Moe, will meet.

One of the Gulls’ two victories last year came against Moe. The young Gulls improved as the season progressed, and with some good recruiting, are likely to push for a better win-loss ledger.

After winning four matches in 2015, the Lions have also recruited well, with star player James Blaser taking the coach’s reins.

In a good omen for the Lions, the visiting team has won the past three meetings between these teams.