Mag­pies se­niors, thirds into grand fi­nal

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - By SCOTT AN­DER­SON

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.

PHOTOS: Marc Bongers

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