Pigeons farewell challenging season
In their fifth and final game for season 2021 at the picturesque JC Lowe Oval the Pigeons senior side were set the task of facing one of the premiership favourites, the Wangaratta Magpies.
This was to be the last game for the Pigeons for the 2021 Ovens and Murray home and away season with round 18 officially cancelled post the NSW snap lockdown on Saturday afternoon.
All over the field the Magpies have a number of high price stars but the ex-AFL twin towers of Newton and Reid are as an imposing set of forwards since the Fevola and Petiffer one two punch of the Pigeons back to back flags in 2012/13.
At the selection table coach Whiley had a few more aces at his disposal with Brandon Symes available along with veteran Seymour and Leslie raring to go.
Unfortunately though in true 2021 COVID style, he lost key defender Josh Tonna before the game. Josh would have been primed for a role on one of the twin towers but as with all set-backs an opportunity was created.
This opportunity consequently fell to Joel O’Dwyer who had been in solid form much of the year as a key defender in the reserves.
Also coming into the side were two debutants in Zac Cuppens and Brody Tyson.
Zac joined the Pigeons in 2021 from Finley and whilst he has struggled with injury from the word go, he has showed plenty with his zip and neat kicking a point of difference.
Brody had suffered a horrific injury in a nasty incident versus Wodonga early in 2019 and 2021 has been a slow burn (after the 2020 missed season) but under Coach Grinter in the Reserves he has eventually caught fire with a series of strong performances as a pinch hitting ruckman.
However, the injury curse continued for the Pigeons with Brody re-injuring his shoulder early and being unable to take further part in the match.
Putting that to the side the 1st quarter was a great quarter for the young Pigeons with a number of opportunities created but unfortunately the Pigeons could not capitalise on the scorebaord.
It was a hot contest in perfect conditions and the question on everyone’s mind, especially Coach Whiley at quarter time was, could the young Pigeons hang in there and deliver another 25 minutes like the first 25. The answer was no.
In the second quarter the cream rose to the top and Wangaratta’s class ball in hand and hard running forward was unable to be countered by the Pigeons. In particular Northern
Territorian Abraham Ankers who kicked 4 of the Magpies’ nine of the quarter.
Following a reset at half time Coach Whiley
maintained his faith and the Pigeons were able to fight their way into the contest.
Whist they were unable to reduce the lead the Pigeons were able to maintain the rage and prevent the scoreboard getting worse. In fact except for the second quarter the ball game was a three kick contest.
However, football is a four quarter game and lapses, whilst common in young teams, are fatal and the mechanism to minimise them is only obtained through repeated effort, session after session.
Yarrawonga 9.11.65 defeated Wangaratta 6.7.43.
In a game that would likely determine whether the Pigeons secured the double chance coach Grinter from the outset pleaded with his players to keep the line with his consistent game plan which had seen the Pigeons win 8 games from its last nine outings.
Whilst the Pigeons were able to fill a full team they were lucky David O’Dwyer answered the call with his first quarter goal the only major for either team in a tense first 22 minutes.
In the second quarter the game remained tight but Jacob Adkins and Matt McCabe were able to find space allowing the Pigeons to take a 20 point buffer into the main break.
However, the first 10 minutes of the third belonged to the Magpies scoring three goals in rapid fire succession.
In a great display of leadership Matt Dwyer, Bronson Schofield and Harry Haley simply refused to relent through the mid zone. Corey Pearn and Reid Clarke regained control of the back half Owen Conway took control of the air up forward.
The gap at the last break was 24 points with the Magpies needing to effectively double their score to secure victory.
Whilst the result on the scoreboard may have looked like a comfortable victory, after half time the difference was only 2 points and in truth but for a strong second quarter patch where the Pigeons kicked 3, for the majority of the day they looked well below their best.
Goals: O. Conway 2, D. O’Dwyer 2, J. Adkins 2, H. Haley, M. McCabe, N. Pendergast.
Best: M. Dwyer, B. Schofield, H. Haley, J. Hooper, N. Pendergast, C. Pearn.
Yarrawonga 9.6.60 defeated Wangaratta 7.6.48.
Fielding their strongest line up for the season the thirds were feeling bullish about their chances against second placed Magpies. The side for the first time for the season had all its original U12 Pigeons: Ned Pendergast, Ben Woodburn, Matthew Nieuwenhout, Zac Banch and Will Wheaton.
The young Pigeons started slowly and were under the pump with the Magpies jumping out to an early three goal lead.
A late surge forward from the Pigeons resulted in a timely late goal right on the quarter time siren.
A quick reset at quarter time saw a more composed Pigeon outfit regain control of the game. Early back to back goals closed the gap quickly, putting the Magpies under pressure for the first time in the game.
With a midfield now on top the momentum was starting to shift. A long 50m set shot bomb from centre half forward right on the half time siren had the Pigeons up at half time by 5.
In the 3rd, with a major upset brewing, the young Pigeons increased their pressure and attack on the Magpies.
Tackling with intent the Pigeons caused the Magpies to second guess themselves. This created turnovers and opportunities for the Pigeons to score, which they took full advantage of kicking a further 2 goals to take the lead out to 12 points at 3/4 time.
In the final stanza the Pigeons kicked the first 2 goals of the last quarter to effectively put the game to bed.
Despite two late goals to close the gap to 12 points, Yarrawonga steeled themselves running down the clock to close out the game for their best win of the year.
Goals: N. Pendergast 6, B. Coghill 2, G. Surrey.
Best: S. Hemphill, Z. Banch, N. Pendergast, J. Smith, B. Woodburn, J. Shaw.
2020 and 2021 will not go down as years to remember for heroics on the fields of community sport but they will go down in the annuls as the most challenging. From the outset, the Pigeons have fought to keep their teams on their respective decks.
However, at every turn they have doors slammed on them, whether they be virus or administration hands on the doors.
At this stage, the AWJFL season looks set to conclude prematurely and the AFLW U17 superstars have been left still trying to find a window to complete their preliminary final against the neighbouring Felines.
Thankfully, Friday junior netty/footy continues to entertain the masses and keep our kids “new covid normal”.
Thanks must go to all the special people behind the scenes such as Sheree Spiteri, Ellie Dickins, Phil Conway and Nathan Tresize, that keep the junior wheels spinning.
We in the Pigeon loft are not sure how you make it work in this environment, but we as a club and community are so thankful you do.
Our 2021 Ovens and Murray home and away season is now done and dusted with round 18 officially cancelled post the NSW snap lockdown on Saturday afternoon.
At this stage, it appears as though finals will start (COVID willing on August 28/29 in Wangaratta). We are proud to have 5 of our 7 teams competing.
Further, we were so proud to finish our season with 6 wins from 7 games on the weekend.
Lastly, we make special mention of the effort of Coach Whiley and his assistants, a tougher coaching assignment would be hard to name.
Also Craig Frauenfelder, our thirds coach, who has all year had his best players playing in the 2pm game or unavailable but he showed given the full complement how competitive his squad is.
On the plus side, the opportunities fasttracked the development of many and we wish Craig a speedy recovery from his back injury.
Lastly whilst there is much madness surrounding the troubles facing the community and our cross border bubble existence, do keep in mind whilst things are challenging, we are not on the tarmac of Kabul.
We are in a club where we are lucky to be surrounded by people that all want the best for each other and to see each other succeed.
It was Roosevelt that said: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot, and hang on.”