Maffra sends scare through Moe

Liam Durkin

IF you went to Moe on Saturday for entertainment, it all happened before the senior game.

A huge crowd gathered at Ted Summerton Reserve to see a number of brave souls dunk their heads under ice cold water, all in the name of ‘putting a freeze’ on Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Former Socceroo Archie Thompson, a long-time friend and former Gippsland Falcons teammate of Moe Football-Netball Club president Manny Gelagotis, was there, as was larger-than-life media personality and North Melbourne premiership player Sam Kekovich.

The great Neale Daniher, the face of the Fight MND campaign, was also present, and watched on as the festivities unfolded.

Moe players all wore special Fight MND socks, and ran out with the iconic Fight MND blue beanies on their heads.

In a perfect script, Neale Daniher’s son, Moe footballer Ben, kicked the opening goal in the Lions’ win against Maffra.

That is about where the action ended, as the rest of the game was played out in a rather dull manner.

Moe eventually got the points in a scoreboard that read 9.19 (73) to 8.4 (52).

Maffra threw a curveball at the home side, dropping one winger into defence and shifting another inside attacking 50.

While the ploy was highly unusual, it worked to the extent of giving the Lions something to think about.

Playing without wings meant Maffra essentially backed their midfielders at the source to win the ball, and had an extra number at either end to help out.

The catch-22 of course meant Moe’s wingers were freed-up, and there was a clear discrepancy on the inside 50 count.

The Lions however were plagued by poor conversion, and their inaccuracy kept Maffra right in the game until early in the last term.

Moe led by 21 points at the main break, but 15 scoring shots to four told a story of missed opportunities – and they weren’t easy missed opportunities either.

The home side straightened up in the third, kicking 3.3 (21), but their opponents more than responded, with five straight goals of their own.

The Eagles were able to isolate key forwards Daniel Bedggood and John Butcher, and the pair played a hand in seeing the

visitors only 12 points down at the last change.

Butcher fired things up with a goal and subsequent melee that saw his jumper ripped, while skipper Bedggood flexed his muscle (literally), kicking a goal right on the siren in front of the pro-Moe crowd.

Moe forward Harry Pepper produced one of the rare highlights for the day at the other end, turning his man inside out and snapping through a bouncing goal.

Contrasting messages came out of the respective three quarter time huddles.

Moe playing-coach Declan Keilty called on his side to lift, saying they hadn’t committed their bodies.

Meanwhile, over in the Maffra huddle (which was positioned very closely to the centre circle), the Eagles could sense an upset.

When Kade Renooy burst off half-forward and set up a goal to Alex Carr within the first minute, they couldn’t just sense an upset – they could well and truly see it.

With the margin just six points, some Moe supporters may have been fearing the worst, however, a goal-saving tackle from Dylan Brooks, as well as a 50 metre penalty from Butcher, helped the home side steady.

Pepper scored a crucial goal at the six minute mark, followed by a Billy Gowers snap and salute to the Can Bar.

Gowers found himself at the other end of the ground a short time later, and was pinged for running too far.

The follow-up shot from Sam Robbins looked on target, but Moe’s defence was able to hold strong.

The Eagles’ last real chance to make a late charge came when Butcher had a set shot from 45 metres out but failed to make the distance. Had he kicked that, it would have cut the margin back to 10 points.

Moe threw some magnets around, with usual defenders Tyson Biffin and Ben Maslen playing on the wing at times. Maslen took a strong overhead mark next to the coaches box, while Biffin smartly took time off the clock, finding Luke Mulqueen at the 25-minute mark late in the game.

The Lions only kicked two goals in the final term, but it was enough to secure a 21-point win.

Despite a few nervy moments, it never felt as though Moe was going to lose the game. Without stating the absolute obvious, if they had of kicked straight, the game would have been over at halftime.

Daniher kicked two goals in the win, continuing his strong season that sees him among the favourites for the club best-and-fairest. Keilty should also feature prominently when the votes are read out, as will Scott Van Dyk and Brock Smith. The two Harrisons, Pepper (four goals) and Sim rounded out the best players. Sim has flown under the radar a bit in the goal-kicking stakes, and has a creditable 14 majors to his name as a small forward this season, working in tandem with Pepper who has 17.

For Maffra, the experience of Ed Carr, Brayden Monk, Daniel Bedggood (four goals), Ben Brunt, Alex Carr and Kieran Jones stood out.

As a team in transition, it was clear to see the future on display for the Eagles last Saturday.

Senior coach Anthony Robbins will be hoping to keep a core group together, with players the likes of Max Stobie, Tom Thatcher and Jett Killoran among the next generation.