Eli Richards was busy around the goals for Wonthaggi Power. N133714
FOOTBALL is such a great game; exciting, fast and furious, unpredictable and often fickle.
And when the game appears done and dusted it can take another twist.
It all comes down to the will to win, desperation under pressure when it all matters and the ability to play out four quarters.
Whoever wrote the script for this game between the Sale Magpies, aiming for their third consecutive grand final; and the young Wonthaggi Power side striving for their first senior grand final since returning to the Gippsland League, could not have dreamed of such a heart stopping, inspirational finish to the match.
This was predicted to be a close game, certainly closer than their last encounter.
Into the Power side came key forward Troy Harley and talented youngster Eli Richards while for Sale, the experienced goal kicker Mitch Davis and Luke Collins were additions this week.
All was set for a big game with the winner to go into the final that matters the most, and mothballs for the defeated.
Sale began more confidently but Wonthaggi were quick to show that they would not be intimidated as they tackled strongly and applied pressure all over the ground.
Sale’s first goal came from a good lead and mark by their coach Matt Ferguson and their second from good play from Justin McLay onto Tye Morrison.
Wonthaggi was now more settled with Aloysio Ferriera-Neto, Aiden Lindsay and Nathan Jones getting into the game.
Ferriera-Neto into Earl Shaw resulted in a much needed goal and Power was noticeably lifting.
Sale’s predictable and disciplined game of kicking to space and switching play to create opportunities was worrying the Power backmen but they were responding with desperation and supporting each other well.
A 50 metre penalty saw Shane Fyfe goal and then McLay got another with a brilliant check-side kick on an impossible angle.
Everything was going to plan for the Magpies with ruckman Jack Lipman in control at the centre bounce and John Gooch controlling the ruck around the ground.
Down back Ben Eddy, Matt Coyne, Jarrod Membrey, Byron Dryden and Chris Wylie were battling to stem the strong Magpie attack.
Ferguson goaled again but Shaw replied for Wonthaggi.
Michael Kelly, Aiden Lindsay and Jack Blair were gathering valuable touches for Wonthaggi, but the stoppages were proving costly as the physically stronger Sale players were dominating in and under the packs. It had been a competitive quarter of footy but Sale was in control.
Blair was dangerous around the ground and Shaw goaled following some great work up forward from Richards.
Richards followed this up with a brilliant goal himself, but again Sale steadied through Josh Dunkley and Jack Lipman to give them more than handy six goal lead at half time.
It was already a big ask for Power to come back from this position as Sale dominated play and their confidence was high.
When the busy Jamie Sweeney goaled for Sale it looked only a matter of how far for the Magpies.
They continued to find space and Wonthaggi looked gone.
Aaron Ware goaled for the Power against the run of play and at least Wonthaggi were showing some fighting spirit.
Ware goaled again and the small but enthusiastic crowd were willing the Power on to make a game of it.
But it looked to be too late as Bodhi Walker who usually controls the action in defence for Sale went forward and goaled to put them a commanding 45 points in front at three quarter time.
Wonthaggi had been competitive but again had lost the quarter.
Now it was about pride and finishing off the season positively.
Coach Rob Railton quietly urged his players to take the game on and he switched players around, from one end to the other.
No one could have predicted what was to happen next!
A long goal to Troy Harley set the tone and it was all Power now doing the attacking.
Ben Eddy to Nathan Jones gave Wonthaggi another goal and Sale was under pressure.
Jack Blair was playing inspirational football as he passed to Shannon Bray for another goal.
A couple of shots at goal just missed for Wonthaggi but their confidence had certainly lifted.
They were now only four goals down and the crowd was getting excited at every contest. A great series of hand ball saw Ferriera-Neto goal under pressure and when Chris Wylie goaled, the margin was back to 10 points.
The crowd could not believe the transformation in the game and were urging their teams on.
Would the time beat the young Power side?
When Nathan Jones goaled, there was now only four points in it.
The ball went forward for Sale and a goal seemed inevitable but a desperate smother saved the day and the resulting free kick put Wonthaggi into attack once more.
At the 30 minute mark Michael Kelly snapped a goal to put Wonthaggi in front for the first time in the match and seconds later the siren sounded to end what had been a remarkable game and an even more remarkable result.
This game will no doubt be long etched in people’s memories.
Sale had failed to score in the final quarter for the second time in two weeks of the finals and this time it had cost them big time.
Wonthaggi had risen to the challenge many thought impossible. It had lifted the intensity, been desperate and had stormed into next week’s grand-final.
There were unbelievable scenes after the game; excitement and celebrations on one side naturally and disbelief and disappointment on the other.
The crowd had been treated to a great game and had witnessed the largest comeback from a three quarter time deficit in the Gippsland League’s history.
The result makes next week’s contest even more interesting when Morwell Tigers take on Wonthaggi Power.
It will be a game not to be missed.