Best player on the ground for Leongatha, Tom Marriott, gives his opponent Adrian Slottje of Traralgon the slip as he drives the Parrots goalwards again.
LEONGATHA started its new era under coach Beau Vernon in the most emphatic fashion possible, careering away from one of the powerhouse teams of the Gippsland League, Traralgon by 20 goals.
But no one is under any illusions about it being a pattern for the rest of the season.
At one stage in the second quarter, Traralgon looked likely to mount a challenge but simply didn’t have the cattle to go with a slick, fast, talented and motivated Leongatha side.
The visitors were without their main ruckman, also on-baller Jennings who withdrew at the ground on the day after a sudden illness, several others have injuries and there are one or two to come back. They’ll be better next time around.
And Wonthaggi, an 11-goal winner over the reigning premiers at Morwell, now lies in wait for the Parrots in what’s set to be a Saturday night blockbuster at Wonthaggi.
But, for all that, there was a lot to like about the Parrots, turning out in the best-prepared form for years.
Jake Best roved freely across the forward line and was absolutely untroubled, kicking nine goals in a mercurial display of marking, leading and ground level mobility.
His partners in crime, Aaron Hillberg and Chris Verboon, worked as well together with him as any forward trio and will make a potent and flexible scoring capability all season long.
Foster recruit Shem Hawking was an excellent inclusion, whether it was through the centre or down the flanks. He’s a quality, one-touch player who’s yet another go-to man for defenders, along with the likes of Tom Marriott, Aaron Heppell, Sean Westaway, Zak Vernon, Dale Houghton, Tas Clingan and Rhett Kelly who rarely let down a team mate under pressure.
The Parrots were delighted to include Heppell after his pre-season with Essendon and he displayed all the signs of that higher level training he’s experienced.
In fact, right across the lines, Leongatha has got plenty of talent this year and it will be quite something to even rate a game in the ones.
Big Ben Willis in the ruck, Nick Nagle in an unfamiliar but promising role as a key big-man defender and promoted for the under 16s, Kyle Kelly, did well, kicking a goal and earning the high praise of his coach afterwards.
It was a wonderful start and the Parrot faithful welcomed them off the ground in spirited style.
At the presentations afterwards, club awards went to Aaron Heppell (1%ers award), Tom Marriott, Dale Houghton in his first game for the Parrots and young Kyle Cooper.
There were some very close netball matches to with the A Graders going down by one but also with a promising season ahead.
Long-time trainer Graeme Beasley was named the club’s number one ticket holder in recognition of his years of volunteer work going back decades.