Logjam at the top of the ladder

David Braithwaite

THE top three teams on the Gippsland League football ladder are only separated by percentage with two rounds remaining in the home-and-away season.

Second-placed Leongatha was upset by Drouin during the first weekend of the split round, while top side Maffra went down to Warragul on Saturday.

The Eagles remain on top with a healthy percentage, ahead of Leongatha, and Sale, which joined the top two on 13 wins for the season after defeating Bairnsdale the previous weekend.

The Eagles lost at Warragul on Saturday by 27 points, 12.10 (82) to 8.7 (55).

The Gulls adapted the wintry conditions better, flying out of a 16-point quarter-time lead.

Maffra wound the deficit back to just four points at the main break, but its failure to trouble the scorers for anything more than a behind in the third quarter let Warragul out to a 30-point lead at the final break.

The Gulls could have blown the margin out even further if not for some wayward kicking for goal during the final term. They added three goals and six behinds to their total to run out 27-point victors and move alongside Moe and Traralgon with nine wins for the season.

Brayden Fowler caused all sorts of headaches for the Eagles defence and was key for Warragul, bagging five goals, while Nathaniel Paredes and Luke Di Ciero scored two each.

Dylan Proctor was outstanding in defence, working well alongside Brad Hefford and Jake Hughes.

Playing off half-back and in the midfield, Jack Johnstone was Maffra’s best player, kicking two goals.

Ed Carr, Danny Butcher, Kel Porter were also solid in the midfield, helped by the ruck work of Kieran Jones. Jarryd Clohesy also contributed in defence.

Maffra will look to return to the winner’s list when its hosts Traralgon this Saturday, with much riding on the result for both teams.

TRARALGON bolstered its finals chances with an all-important win over Moe.

After their 14.10 (94) to 6.8 (44) victory, the Maroons held on to fifth spot on the ladder and are now level with Moe.

A loss and subsequent drop to sixth spot would have made finals a stretch for the Maroons but coach Mark Collison said the side was now “settled” and “good enough to beat anyone on our day”.

“We’ve been really unsettled the last five weeks with the side changing constantly and we hadn’t had much opportunity to get a good look at our best side but we’ve managed that the last two weeks and I thought we put in a good performance,” he said.

Three big ins helped the Maroons on Saturday — Haydn Hector, Mitch Mustoe and Adam Jaensch.

“Haydn was obviously our best player on the ground and he’s one of the highest credentialed players in the competition,” Collison said.

“Mitch Mustoe is the most underrated in the competition by a mile and he’s in the best 10 players in the competition in my eyes, and Adam Jaensch rarely gets beaten at full-back.”

Dylan Loprese was the main culprit up forward, bagging four goals for Traralgon.

Peter Ainsworth kicked three goals for the Lions. — with Kate Withers