Leongatha earn chance to end 16-year drought
Leongatha earned another crack at ending a 16-year premiership drought with its second semi-final defeat of Traralgon on Saturday.
The Parrots, runners-up in each of the past two seasons, won a tough contest predominantly fought at close quarters at Moe and on a surface made slippery by some heavy rain on Friday night and several showers on Saturday.
At the siren it was Leongatha 11-5 to 6-7.
The victory was set up in the first half when the Parrots got out to a 6-2 to 1-4 lead.
Traralgon threw everything into the third term and clawed its way back into the contest to trail by just 14 points at the last change.
The Maroons missed a great chance to cut the gap even further within seconds of the start of the final quarter.
But the writing was on the wall when Aaron Hillberg goaled for Leongatha less than two minutes later and Tom Marriott followed with another at the five-minute mark. The 27-point margin that opened was simply too great to be reeled in given the conditions.
The slippery surface and a predominantly cross breeze blowing to the eastern side of the ground probably impacted Traralgon’s game style more than they did Leongatha’s.
Those and tactics used led to congested, tight play.
Both sides started with loose men in defence but it was Leongatha that used that more effectively.
The Parrots also got plenty of numbers around contests and at ball-ups where they were able to negate the ruck dominance of Traralgon’s Ben Amberg and they always had numbers behind the ball to stifle most of Traralgon’s forward moves.
It wasn’t until the Maroons reverted to the basic man-on-man in the third quarter that they mounted a challenge.
The match certainly wasn’t one for the forwards.
Traralgon’s Jay Neagle was well held by a combination of Chris Verboon and Sean Westaway, Leigh Stockdale had little impact and Leongatha’s main scorers Chris Dunne and Aaron Hillberg also found opportunities hard to come by.
Each was restricted to one goal for the game.
Parrot Jack Ginnane kicked a match high three goals with Zac Vernon and Tom Marriott, the latter really coming to the fore in the last quarter, getting two each.
Traralgon didn’t have a multiple goal kicker.
GIPPSLAND LEAGUE - SECOND SEMI-FINAL
Maffra players huddle together before the start of Sunday’s semi-final to reinforce their game plan to take on Moe. The plan worked to perfection with the Eagles jumping to a quick start and never being threatened in a convincing win that took them into next Saturday’s preliminary final.
Dynamic Moe coach James Blaser, escaping this tackling attempt, led from the front but it wasn’t enough to lift his side to a win against Maffra.