IT’S an unforgiving competition this Gippsland League.
The margins from the five games last Saturday totalled just 21 points, making it the third closest round in league history, and closest in 55 years.
The ladder is starting to look like what most people predicted in the preseason, with Leongatha and Wonthaggi taking the top two positions.
Away from the on-field action, the round also provided a moment to reflect, as it marked 10 years since Leongatha player Beau Vernon suffered the horrific injury that left him a quadriplegic.
Any teams or players seeking motivation for the rest of the season could well draw inspiration from what Vernon has been able to achieve since that time.
Not only in his rehabilitation, but in coaching the Parrots to three consecutive grand finals.
MAFFRA did what it needed to do against Drouin.
The Eagles had to fight off a persistent Hawks outfit that proved hard to totally shake.
In the end though, Maffra did enough to win its fifth match for the season 10.10 (70) to 9.5 (59).
The victory keeps the Eagles hovering in sixth position on the ladder and in line to knock out an opponent above.
An even first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game at Maffra Recreation Reserve.
Drouin took a narrow four-point lead early in the piece before the Eagles got up and running.
On the scoreboard at least the second quarter proved to be where the game was won and lost. Maffra added five goals to establish a 15-point lead, which appeared to be a manageable margin to work around for the rest of the game.
The Hawks however enjoyed a dominant third term, and kicked three goals while also keeping Maffra goalless.
Just one point was the difference at the final change of ends, but the Eagles finished the better of the two, scoring three goals to one to secure victory.
Danny Butcher was best for Maffra. Others to play well were Lachlan Channing, Dylan Alexander, Kade Renooy, Tom Thatcher and Hudson Holmes.
Best for Drouin were Jarrod Marshall, Aden Quirk, Kyle Quirk, Joseph Collins, Charlie Wans and Seth Calway.
Mitch Bennett kicked two goals in his 100th match for Maffra, and shared the goals with partner in crime Daniel Bedggood who scored twice and Tom Jolly who scored thrice.
Bennett has been one of the most successful goal sneaks in the Gippsland League in recent years, consistently among the top scorer’s at seasons end.
FLU season of a different kind hit Sale Oval.
The Magpies had kicking-flu in front of goal, losing their match against Wonthaggi by one point 14.6 (90) to 13.11 (89).
The Power’s Harry Dawson proved to be the torn in Sale’s day, kicking a goal with a minute left in the match to seal the Magpies fate.
Sale was slow out of the blocks, dropping five goals in the first quarter, before making its way back into the match.
The Magpies responded in the second, adding four majors to trail by only nine points at the main break.
Teams went goal-for-goal in the third, as the game opened up to see umpires at either end wave the flags half a dozen times.
Sale found themselves in exactly the same position at three quarter time as it had the previous break, nine points adrift.
An exhilarating final quarter unfolded, with the Magpies and Power fighting it out right to the end.
Sale looked set to hold on for dear life, before Dawson bobbed up and made himself the real Star of the South.
Brad Dessent kicked four goals for the Magpies and featured in the best players. Jack McLaren was best on ground, followed by Mitch Thacker, Shannen Lange, Tom Campbell and Finn Stephenson.
Dawson featured in the best for Wonthaggi, as did Tom Davey, Jordan Staley, Kyle Reid, Ryan Sparkes and Toma Huther.
The result saw the Power climb to second on the ladder, the first such time they have been in that position.
Wonthaggi has caught a few teams napping in recent weeks, and having now strung together some wins after losing a couple by under six points, has catapulted itself into the top two.
For Sale, the repercussions of losing a game by one point were not overly severe, although they now find themselves outside the top three on percentage.
TRARALGON proved they are the real deal.
The Maroons stormed home in the last quarter to very nearly hand Leongatha its first loss of the season, only to go down 12.5 (77) to 11.8 (74).
Trailing by 21 points at the last change, Traralgon found something extra to kick four goals to one in a dramatic finish.
While they were unable to secure the four points, the Maroons can now rest easy in the knowledge they can genuinely beat the Parrots.
With Traralgon key forward Brett Eddy not playing either last Saturday, there can be little to no doubt his inclusion if these two teams happen to meet come finals makes it a whole new ball game.
Liam Farley played his best game in a Traralgon jumper, while captain Dylan Loprese, Sam Hallyburton, Haydn Hector, Tom Schneider and Hugh Dunbar also did a good job.
Best for Leongatha was Cameron Stone, Travis Nash, Aaron Heppell, Tom Crocker, Tom Marriott and Steve Forrester.
Hector was assigned Marriott to tag, and put in a determined display against one of the prime movers in the competition.
Judging by the atmosphere in the Traralgon social rooms post-match, the Maroons were not at all dejected.
While most acknowledged it was a game they ‘should have won’, they took solace in the knowledge Leongatha are certainly beatable – something not many people were thinking four weeks ago.
The Maroons know the format of tournament play better than most, and as one official was heard saying “we only have to beat them once”.
And given the fact Traralgon has only lost to Leongatha by less than 10 points on both occasions this season, it is clear they not only have the personnel, but the system to do it.
In looking at just how you go about defeating Leongatha, the take-out from conversations within the social rooms was that two things are an absolute necessity: Apply elite levels of frontal pressure and tag Marriott.
Exiting the social rooms on Saturday night, a half-familiar face walked past this writer. Taking some time to process who it was, it was none other than former Geelong player Jordan Cunico, who has Traralgon listed as his home club when not on VFL duty for Box Hill.
Gippsland League followers will be watching on with interest to see if he makes an appearance for the Maroons this season or not.
MORWELL kept its finals dream alive.
The Tigers defeated Bairnsdale in a hard-fought tussle, getting up by five points at home.
Morwell had to dig deep, trailing at every change, but were ahead when it mattered most, with the final scoreboard reading 12.18 (90) to 12.13 (85).
Cody Macdonald had the ball on a string for the Tigers, collecting 37 touches and best on ground honours. Tristen Waack continued his terrific season of development, as did Nathan Noblett, while experienced campaigners Boyd Bailey, Tyler Brown and Dun Musial were prolific.
Byron and Kieran Vickery were best for Bairnsdale.
Others to play well for the Redlegs were Liam Giove, Damon O’Connor, Andrew Nelson and Daniel Preston.
MOE certainly make life hard for themselves sometimes.
The Lions ventured to Western Park to take on Warragul, and retuned defeated by one point.
That measly point could have been overcome had a series of points gone through for goals at the Lions’ end of the ground, but instead … well … you know how the saying goes.
The final scoreboard did not make for pleasant reading for those wearing the maroon and blue: Warragul 10.6 (66) defeated Moe 8.17 (65).
The game probably should have been over at the main break, but Moe’s inaccuracy not only kept Warragul in the contest, but allowed them to stay alive.
Come three quarter time, Warragul was only three points behind.
The Gulls then kicked two goals to one in the last to hold on.
Mitchell Smart was best for the home side, and received good support from Nick Mulqueen, Tully Loomes, Micah Williames, Patrick Ireland and Sam Fennell.
Best for Moe was Matt Heywood, Brock Smith, Ben Daniher, Jess McGrath, Harri Sim and Charlie Rieniets in his first game for the seniors this season.