David Braithwaite and Liam Durkin
A FINAL quarter surge wasn’t enough for Maffra, which fell nine points short of Traralgon on Saturday.
The 13.8 (86) to 11.11 (77) result moves the sixth-placed Maroons within a win of the top five, but provides an almost fatal blow to the Eagles’ faint Gippsland League football finals hopes. With just two wins so far this season, the Eagles are four victories behind fifth-placed Drouin with seven rounds to play.
With both teams needing to win to stay in contention, the match carried a finals-type build up, and a grandstand finish was a fitting result.
Traralgon kicked five goals to one in the opening term to make the early running. While having enough of the ball, the Eagles were letting themselves down by their entries into the forward line.
Trailing by 24 points at quarter-time, goals from Thomas Thatcher and Daniel O’Brien saw the Eagles reduce the deficit to 11 points 10 minutes into the second term.
The momentum swung back the Maroons’ way when they kicked a “double goal” following two 50 metre penalties. After Ewan Williams kicked a goal from directly in front, the umpires then handed the ball to coach Jake Best, who kicked another from point blank range.
A highlight for Maffra was a great goal from Harry Gravener, who, along with Jamie McIntosh, were the Eagles’ two senior debutants.
The Maroons finished the second term with five goals, with a major after the siren from Andrew Petrou ensuring the home side only trailed by 29 points at the main break.
The Maroons led by 36 points at three-quarter-time, and looked to have the game under control. However, with their season on the line and the chance of their first finals miss since 1999 at stake, the Eagles refused to yield.
Maffra slowly but surely ate away at the deficit, and had cut the margin to just 10 points when the clock ticked over to time-on.
With all the momentum, Eagles’ forward John Butcher was given a free kick at the 30 minute mark with the chance to get his side within five points.
Bucher kicked from 40 metres out on a 40 degree angle, but his set shot sailed through for a minor score. From there, the experience of Traralgon players such as Mark Collison was able to maintain possession and force stoppages to take valuable time out of the game.
The Maroons did not score in the final quarter, but held on in the finish to win their fourth game of the season and stay only four points behind fifth-placed Drouin.
Collison had 34 touches and was among Traralgon’s best. Matt Northe also racked them up with 33, while Liam Farley played his best game for the club.
Tom Hamilton looms as an exciting prospect for the Maroons. The 17-year-old had 23 hit outs, kicked a goal and took a hanger in a best-on-ground display.
The Butcher brothers John and Danny were best for Maffra, along with defender Hudson Holmes, who had 29 disposals.
Alex and Ed Carr also performed well in the midfield, while Thomas Gray made a good contribution in attack.
Big win for Sale at Warragul
WESTERN Park was mistaken for a bakery after Sale creamed Warragul.
The Magpies put last week’s huge scare from Bairnsdale well and truly behind them, winning 20.20 (140) to 2.7 (19).
An even first quarter was followed by a four-goal effort by Sale in the second as they took a 34 point lead into the main break.
The Magpies really put the foot down in the third, adding seven goals to no score as the Sale defence was resolute. It was more of the same in the last, with Warragul again going goal less.
Sale’s back line allowed the Gulls to score just one behind in the second half, while up forward the Dessents had a day out, kicking 11 goals between them — Brad helped himself to eight and Jordan three.
Jackson Glenane also kicked two, and usual defender and senior games record holder Chris Laverty drifted forward to kick a cheeky two.
The win keeps Sale locked in outright fourth position with a two game buffer on its nearest
challenger, and only one win off joining the top three, with the opportunity to secure a double chance.
Best players for the victors were defenders Jamie Sweeney and Jack Leslie, midfielders Jack McLaren and Shannen Lange, and forwards Brad Dessent and Cooper Whitehill.
Sean Masterson, Sam Whibley and Nick Mulqueen put in honest efforts for Warragul.
The unfortunate Gulls are still yet to break the duck in 2021, but have winnable games against Morwell and Bairnsdale in the next three weeks.
MOE was never troubled by Bairnsdale.
The Lions led from start to finish in east Gippsland, winning 16.14 (110) to 9.7 (61).
Sunny conditions made for some great offensive plays throughout the day, highlighted by running goals to Hayden Presitidge and Jordan Ceppi, as well as a long bomb from Ben Maslen on the edge of 50.
Ruckman Simon Harris was best-on-ground, while Ceppi, Jaksch (who kicked six goals), Maslen, Scott Van Dyk and Lucas Forato also stood out.
With the sense of adventure always prominent when playing in Bairnsdale, Moe players and
officials would have felt it was a job well done on the drive home.
In a good sign of the entire Moe senior squad working together, Casey Demons player and injured Lions senior player Riley Baldi did the running for the reserves earlier in the day.
Liam Giove, Harry Gibbs and Randall Stewart were the Redlegs’ best.
MORWELL was outplayed by Wonthaggi.
The Power kept the Tigers goal less in the first half, and only allowed them to kick one goal up to three-quarter-time on its way to a 13.10 (88) to 3.8 (26) win.
Troy Harley kicked four goals and Jack Blair was in the thick of the action with three of his
own, while Tyler Brown, Josh Hecker and Tom Caile were Morwell’s best performers.
LEONGATHA was too strong for Drouin.
The Parrots kept top spot with a 14.13 (97) to 6.5 (41) win away from home.
Leongatha exploited the absence of Drouin’s star ruckman Bob McCallum, as Ben Willis hit the ball down the throat of Tom Marriott time after time. Todd Beck, Ed Morris and Joe Collins were best for Drouin.