Magpies seniors, thirds into grand final
WANGARATTA has charged into the Ovens and Murray Football League’s senior grand final in thrilling fashion after outlasting a vastly improved Yarrawonga by 11 points at Bunton Park yesterday.
The Magpies looked down and out at various stages of the contest and trailed by 10 points heading into the final stanza, with Mark Whiley, Xavier Leslie and Tyler Bonat dominant in the middle for the Pigeons.
When Yarrawonga scored the first goal of the last quarter the Pigeons appeared headed for a date with Albury on the big stage, in what would have been an almighty turnaround after losing to the Magpies by 76 points in the qualifying final.
But Yarrawonga’s ascendancy, which began in the second term and lasted through to the opening minutes of the fourth, wasn’t enough to get it over the line, with the Magpies kicking the last four goals of the game to secure the win.
Wangaratta’s ability to stay in the contest despite being outplayed was critical, and when the game was up for grabs in the final quarter the Magpies lifted all over the field.
Tom Whittlesea and Josh Porter were outstanding in at- tack for the Magpies.
Porter didn’t miss a beat despite playing his first match in two months, leading up strongly and showing strong hands.
Porter kicked a goal in the second term, but it was in the last quarter that his influence hit its peak as he kicked the last two goals of the game.
His third goal put Wangaratta up by 10 points at the 16-minute mark, with only one more point registered in the last 12 minutes of play as the pressure went into overdrive.
Wangaratta’s fitness shone through in the last.
In warm conditions, Yarrawonga’s inability to break the game open earlier proved telling as the Pigeons tired.
But the Magpies’ young stars, many of whom had been quiet up to that point, played finals football in the last quarter, with Daniel Sharrock and Riley Smart leading the way with their efforts.
The backline held firm under pressure, with Dylan Van Berlo, Michael Bordignon, Ben Douthie and Zac Hedin all performing.
Van Berlo was one of the keys for the Magpies early when Yarrawonga was attacking relentlessly, forcing a number of turnovers and getting the ball going the other way.
Zack Leitch won his ruck battle with Collingwood VFL product Lachie Howe, while Matt Kelly’s in and under work was superb in the last quarter, and Daniel Boyle’s efforts to smother and tackle set an example for his teammates.
The Richards brothers, Nick and Joe, were both lively in attack, providing forward pressure while also making the side more potent.
Joe in particular was a big in for the Magpies, booting two goals and setting up others.
Overall it was a get-out-ofjail scenario for the Magpies, who didn’t look like winning up until the final quarter.
But it was the sort of performance they will be happy to have got out of their system as they prepare to face the league juggernaut in next Saturday’s grand final.
GRAND FINAL BOUND: (From left) Jessie Smith, Zack Leitch and Josh Porter in action yesterday.