[Originally published in the Gippsland Times on Friday July 8.]

FINALS time has arrived early for Boisdale-Briagolong.

While the actual finals are still six weeks away, tomorrow be every bit a sudden-death final for the men in red and black.

The Bombers take on Paynesville, a team one position and one win ahead of them on the East Gippsland ladder.

With time running out, Boisdale-Briagolong simply needs to gain the four points to stay a realistic chance of taking its season past Round 18.

Results from other matches this round could assist the Bombers’ run for the rest of the season.

The likely outcome of the Wy Yung/Lakes Entrance game will be a win to the Tigers, and if third-placed Lindenow defeats fourth-placed Lucknow, Boisdale-Briagolong will only be one win outside the top four – provided they defeat Paynesville of course.

Tipping the Bombers however has been fraught with danger this season.

Boisdale-Briagolong has been the proverbial yo-yo in 2022, and its last six weeks have read: Win, loss, loss, win, loss, win.

Where it gets really tricky is when you try and determine ‘what is the real Boisdale-Briagolong?’

The Bombers lost to bottom side Orbost Snowy Rovers in Round 5, and then defeated top side Wy Yung two weeks later.

A fortnight after that they lost to Stratford by 53-points, and then beat finals-bound Lindenow by 50 the next week.

Throw in a two and three-point loss either side of the Wy Yung win, and you get a sense of what sort of season Boisdale-Briagolong has had.

As frustrating as these results have surely been, there is enough evidence to suggest the Bombers’ best is good enough, and coach Sam Bedgood will be hoping his side is able to deliver at home tomorrow.

With their season on the line, Boisdale-Briagolong does have a couple of big-game players at their disposal in Kel Porter and Andrew Quirk.

The pair have no shortage of finals experience playing for Maffra and Sale in the Gippsland League, and this could prove decisive.

As they say in football ‘you don’t send a Ferrari to plough a field’.

The stage is set for players like Porter and Quirk to grab the keys and go to work.

The ploughing can be saved for the cabbage patch next door.

STRATFORD is home to Orbost Snowy Rovers.

The Swans will head into the match a justifiable favourite considering the Blues have won just the single match this season, however they will also be cautious knowing Orbost Snowy Rovers may be due for an upset.

For a team on the bottom of the ladder, the Blues have been far from disgraced this season.

The last five weeks especially have seen marked improvement for Orbost Snowy Rovers, who have secured a draw and had two games decided by under 12-points.

Stratford coach Jarryd Clohesy certainly won’t be taking the opposition lightly, and will know the Blues are a much different outfit to the one the Swans defeated by nearly 100-points back in Round 6.

Stratford Football-Netball Club senior captain Nick French and coach Jarryd Clohesy wearing the Swans’ Indigenous jumper to be worn tomorrow. Photos: Supplied

In preparing to take on the Blues, Clohesy may well have reiterated the message ‘that was then, and this is now’ during the week.

The now currently sees Stratford second on the ladder.

A win tomorrow should see the Swans stay put for another week, and have a clear path in sewing up a double chance.

Regan Tait has been in sublime form for Stratford, and will be eager to put in another solid performance.

The match will carry added importance for the Swans, who will wear Indigenous jumpers in celebration of NAIDOC Week.

Former Stratford player and reserves coach Gav O’Shannasy will perform a Welcome to Country, didgeridoo performance and smoking ceremony.

Reserve footballers and B Grade netballers will join the senior and A Grade teams for the ceremony, along with team managers, coaches and club officials.

After the match, those adjudged best-on-ground will receive the ‘Reg Saunders Medal’.

Saunders was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army, and was a 1955 premiership player for Stratford.

The family of Reginald Saunders MBE say his indigenous culture and upbringing helped him avoid capture as a prisoner of war, having the confidence to survive on the land.

Local Stratford residents remember a speech Saunders gave at the Memorial Hall in 1989, where he spoke about his upbringing and how much support Stratford Football-Netball Club gave to him during his time in the region.

Best-on-ground medals between Stratford and Orbost Snowy Rovers will be awarded tomorrow, named in honour of Reginald Saunders MBE. Saunders was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army.

Stratford FNC committee member Paul Nichols said the club would be wearing its Indigenous jumpers with pride.

 

“We feel that recognising our culture and paying respects to the Indigenous land on which we play our beloved game is important,” he said.

“Days like today demonstrate the strong inclusive culture the Stratford Football-Netball Club has.

“We are a club that takes great pride in developing a culture where all feel welcome.”

IN other games, Lindenow and Lucknow face off.

The match could have drastic ramifications in determining not only who makes finals, but who finishes top-two.

The Cats sit in third position, one win ahead of the Magpies.

WY YUNG makes the journey to Lakes Entrance.

Differing narratives are attached to either side, with the Tigers four games clear on top of the ladder, while the Seagulls are battling to stay in contention.

With six home-and-away games left, it is virtually impossible to see Wy Yung dropping top spot. Lakes Entrance might look to use this to its advantage, and catch an off-guard opponent that could be managing its workload as it prepares for the real stuff.