WONTHAGGI Power has tasted its first premiership success since moving to the Gippsland League after the club’s Reserves triumphed in Sunday’s grand final over Warragul. The Power proved too strong for the Seagulls, winning by 12 points at Moe – handing the Power its first football premiership since the Senior and Reserves Alberton League victories in 2008. The Reserve’s flag, coached by Stu Gilmour and captained by Rohan Todd, was the club’s first taste of grand final action since the cross to the Gippsland League in 2010.
As predicted, this was a terrific contest between the two best sides in the Reserves competition. Wonthaggi and Warragul finished first and second on the ladder, sharing the spoils with one win each from their two matches coming into the battle for the ultimate prize. There was very little between the sides on paper either, both balanced units with an even spread of youth and experience. The crowd looked forward to this game in anticipation of another great contest and they would not be disappointed. A lot of rain in the days leading up to the final did little to alter the excellent condition of the ground and with brilliant sunshine the ground was drying out even further. The excellent conditions also meant there could be no excuses. Usually slow out of the blocks, Wonthaggi burst into the game attacking from the outset and were switched on, determined not to give Warragul a start. Adam Zanella marked strongly and kicked truly to open the scoring for the Power.
The key to setting up a win would be to contain the dangerous forwards of Warragul and Brendan Foon was prominent in defence, along with Gavin Coyne, Wayne Luke and Kye Atkinson who set up their run out of the backline into attack. Glen Jobe, Nat Jones, Josh Olden and Pat Ryan in particular were damaging around the packs. Wonthaggi appeared to be well on top but were still having trouble finishing off on the scoreboard. The forwards were working hard to keep the ball in and this was starting to cause some turnovers and mistakes. Dangerous on-baller Rohan Todd missed two shots on goal hitting the post on both occasions but youngster Pat Ryan put Wonthaggi further ahead with a goal from a tight angle. For Warragul, ruckman Ben Bowman was dominating the centre bounces and Brad Nott, Matt Nankervis and Aaron Rhodes were beginning to pick up the pace of the game and put pressure on their opponents. Warragul’s defence lead by Tim Webster, Cooper Minichiello and Ty Galley were steadily building up the pressure and lifting the intensity.
Brad Nott got Warragul’s first goal from a free kick but Aloysio Ferriera-Neto, another Power youngster, goaled again only seconds before the siren rang to end the first quarter with the Power leading 3.5 to 1.1. The second quarter saw Warragul lift noticeably, taking the lead into the main break. Nathan Kaljouw, Ben Bowman and their on-ballers were tackling hard but Wonthaggi were not taking a backward step as the game became a hot contest. Nick Edney goaled for Warragul to bring them closer as the Power was battling to hold their forwards. When Brad Nott goaled again it was Wonthaggi that was under pressure. Warragul’s gun forward Bryce Monahan gave his side the narrow lead after a strong mark and long goal. Despite the low scoring the big crowd were enjoying the intensity of the contest. It was obvious that the result could go either way. Warragul had sorted out the matchups and were playing with greater confidence as Wonthaggi could only manage two behinds for the quarter and trailed at half time 3.7 to 4.3.
Wonthaggi would need to rediscover the spark it had brought into the game if it was to remain competitive. With star ruckman Will Joplin now out of the game with concussion the pressure was on Adam Zanella and Wayne Luke to step up and this turned out to be a real turning point of the game. Luke to Rod Tack gave Wonthaggi the goal they were looking for and when Kye Atkinson goaled it was Power who was now playing better as a team. The ball continued to move between the half back lines and it was still a very even contest. Pat Ryan kicked his second for the Power but Nankervis got one back for his side with a goal off the ground. Warragul still looked very dangerous and were coming hard, but the Power led 5.10 to 4.3 at three quarter time. Could Wonthaggi hold off their charge in the final quarter? The Power faithful were fixed on the time clock as the ball moved back and forth. It was a real nail-biter, played with plenty of spirit and so much to play for. Bryn Hughes, John Rocotas, Nat Jones, Glen Jobe and Brendan Foon were closing the game down and were rewarded for their courage over the ball and strong tackling.
The siren rang giving Wonthaggi a hard fought two-goal victory. It had been a tough game full of character and spirit and it had everything, strong marking, great running and excellent skills. This was never going to be a high scoring match as both sides worked so hard to control the talented forward lines of the opposition. Sunday it was Wonthaggi’s win in a terrific display of team football. They received the reward humbly, acknowledging and appreciating the efforts of their opposition. With so many positives for the season the club will be eagerly looking forward to the 2014 season.