LEONGATHA advanced to the Gippsland League football grand final after defeating Moe 6.12 (48) to 3.8 (26) in the preliminary final.
The final score reflected a strange match, as only nine goals were kicked – despite the match being played in ideal conditions at Morwell Recreation Reserve.
Moe made a late change with Jayden Van Dyk coming in for Tristan Gum, while the Lions’ nemesis from their round 17 annihilation, Cade Maskel, did not take part for the Parrots because of injury.
As the match got underway, Moe squandered a few forward entries early as Leongatha’s desperate lunging blind-side smothers stood out.
Leongatha half-back flanker Colin Sanbrook had the ball on a string in the first term, collecting 10 disposals as the Parrots kicked two first quarter goals to Moe’s none. At quarter-time, Leongatha held a 13-point lead, as 19 inside 50s to six the Parrots way told the story.
The second quarter saw just the one goal kicked, as Moe brought some physicality to the contest.
Lions veteran Tom Long flattened Kyle Cooper, who spent some extended time on the bench as a result.
Moe finally got its first goal on the board at the 18-minute mark when captain Jacob Wood found some space at the city end of the ground.
Both teams dropped plenty of numbers into defence as high balls were repeatedly intercepted by players the likes of Chris Vernoon for Leongatha and Joel Braragnolo for Moe.
Holding a 10-point lead at the main break, Leongatha kicked away within the first 90 seconds of the third when Tom Marriott booted a classy snap. Moe got a quick reply through Harri Sim, who was rewarded for a good second effort and steered one home to bring the margin back to the half-time deficit.
Unfortunately for Moe, that was the only joy it had for the term, as Leongatha dominated with 10 consecutive inside 50s during red time to give the Parrots a 23-point lead at three-quarter-time.
As the final quarter got underway, Moe was unable to make the most of its early chances. The Lions had the first seven inside 50s and only managed minor scores, while the first time Leonagatha went inside 50, it scored a goal – again through Marriott.
As the game neared its end, the result became a foregone conclusion – the Parrots’ 22-point victory was not any higher because of errant kicking.
Perhaps Moe’s day was best summed up when the ball bounced over seven foot ruckman Dylan Farrell’s head during the final quarter, when he was on his own, inside forward 50.
Chris Verboon continued the form which saw him win this season’s Most Valuable Player award, with Colin Sanbrook and Josh Schelling also among the Parrots’ best.
For Moe, Tyson Biffin, Joel Bragagnolo and Tom Fleming all played well for their team.
Leongatha will now meet Maffra for a shot at this season’s premiership. It will be first time in Gippsland League history the same two teams have played in the grand final for four consecutive years.
Having been forced to use an astonishing 42 players this season because of injury, many have paid testament to the Parrots’ coaching and management in getting the senior team peaking at the right time.
Both Maffra and Leongatha will also be well represented in other grades, with the Eagles taking on Traralgon in the reserves and Leongatha playing Maffra in the under 18s.
The Parrots under 18s made the grand final after a thrilling finish in the preliminary final saw a dribble goal with only 55 seconds remaining win them the game by three points. Traralgon will play Warragul for the under 16 premiership.
Saturday at Traralgon Recreation Reserve:
Seniors: Maffra v Leongatha, 2.30pm.
Reserves: Maffra v Traralgon, 12.30pm.
Under 18s: Maffra v Leongatha, 10.30am.
Under 16s: Warragul v Traralgon, 8.30am.