A RARE chance to host interleague nemesis Bendigo was not enough to help the Gippsland League across the line in Saturday’s AFL Victoria Community Championships match at Warragul.
The host was outmatched in front of an underwhelming crowd as costly turnovers and a gulf in class became increasingly telling as the match wore on.
Gippsland was valiant in defeat but ultimately went down 17.8 (110) to 12.7 (79).
It was the fourth consecutive time Bendigo has defeated Gippsland, but the first time on Gippsland soil during the streak.
“I thought we had our opportunities but they just had too much pressure for us around the footy, and when we had possession we just coughed it up too many times which was disappointing,” Gippsland coach Steve Hazelman said.
“We definitely had our chances, we were more than competitive, they were probably a bit cleaner with the footy and had some forwards that took some inside 50 marks which we weren’t able to do.
“I was happy, we were trying to follow instructions and implement what we spoke about, but the game was definitely finals-like in terms of intensity and some of our guys haven’t played at that level and just didn’t cope with it.”
Bendigo came out with purpose and set about building a healthy 15-point quarter-time buffer.
“We started off really slow, they came out firing and had a really good first quarter,” Hazelman said.
“We worked our way back into the game, we just couldn’t get much reward on the scoreboard.”
Trailing by three goals at half-time, Gippsland edged ever closer during a tight third quarter, reducing the margin to 14 points by the final change.
The see-saw scenario gave way to free-flowing footy in the fourth term as Bendigo capitalised when the game opened up in lieu of tiring legs. Six goals to the visitors in the final term put an end to the flagging Gippsland’s hopes.
Traralgon coach Mark Collison stood out to be named best-on-ground for the Gippsland League.
Drouin coach and reigning league best-and-fairest Bob McCallum battled hard to win plenty of it in the ruck, while Leongatha’s Chris Dunne booted five goals on an otherwise off day for the Gippsland forwards.
“There was too much of a gap between our really good players and the rest of us – we just didn’t fire on the day,” Hazelman said.
“It was a strong side, we had a few out, but we thought we had a good enough side to win the game.
“We prepared really well, did our homework on the opposition, it was just the pressure they applied on us was too much and we didn’t perform under pressure.
“By the time we got ourselves back in the game the game was probably over.”
Sale was represented by John Gooch and Andrew Quirk, while no Maffra players took part.
The Gippsland League dropped to 13th in the AFL Victoria ranking, and is set to again battle last year’s opponent Yarra Valley in 2017.