THERE was no getting away from the bad memories of Saturday, September 26 last year when Leongatha hardly fired a shot in their grand final showdown against Traralgon at Traralgon.
It was back at the same venue last Saturday, between the same clubs for the opening match of the new season, with the Roosters unfurling both their senior football and A Grade netball pennants from 2015.
But on a different day, with a substantially different team, the Parrots produced a far better display and a dramatically different score line to at least be able to rule off the events of last year and start afresh.
And what a promising start it was with Leongatha leading all day, from the first goal in the first seconds of the match, by one of the new players, Tommy Olden.
In fact there were 10 changes from the team that played in last year’s decider with the likes of Aaron Heppell, Dale Hoghton and Jake Best all moving on, several Parrots returning or stepping up and a nest of new players joining in. They all played well:
• Chris Dunne, who played in the 2005 TAC premiership team alongside Beau Vernon and kicked four goals for Wanderers in last year’s NEAFL Grand Final looks a seriously good player and started with three goals. He’s not big but he’s mobile and has an excellent goal-kicking routine.
• Jack Ginnane, last year’s league Under 18 best, flashed in an out of the play and looks a good prospect up forward.
• Tommy Olden started up forward where he kicked the season’s first goal and gave big Ben Willis a chop out in the ruck.
• Josh Hopkins took the opposite wing to Shem Hawking, showing a preparedness to take them on in a fine first-up effort.
• Luke Bowman played on the ball all day and was a key to the result winning numerous clearances.
• Josh Sinclair played a slashing first quarter and set up dozens of attacking plays off half back throughout the day.
• Hayden Brown made a welcome return and played his role well.
• Aaron Coyle contributed strongly to an excellent effort by the defenders.
• Brok Davidson set up Dunne’s first goal and laid some memorable tackles in a handy start.
• Tom Marriott went straight back into the centre and was back to his pack-bursting best.
Traralgon too had made changes and a scan of the ground in the opening minutes showed Zac Vernon picking up Traralgon’s high-profile recruit Jason Winderlich, at half forward, the former Bomber returning to Gippsland after 129 AFL games. Vernon did the job, limiting Winderlich’s effectiveness but it’s only round one.
It was noted on the day that his mate Dustin Fletcher had also signed with the Roosters but was ruled out due to the supplements issue.
It was a promising opening by the Parrots who kicked three goals to Traralgon’s one point; Olden, Dunne and Marriott the scorers. Particularly pleasing was the dominance of the defence which continued throughout the match, Traralgon getting 41 inside 50s to Leongatha’s 45, but only converting five of them on the day, partly due to their own bad kicking for goal.
Ben Willis was competing strongly against Amberg in the ruck but also contributing his one percenters like getting back to mark on the goal line.
The teams kicked two goals each as it settled down into a tight contest; Dunne and Jack Ginnane on the run for Leongatha the scorers.
Shem Hawking was in everything on his wing and within the first minute of the third term passed to Aaron Hillberg to stretch the lead to four goals. Traralgon, by contrast, actually had 13 inside 50s to Leongatha’s 10 but couldn’t hit the side of the barn.
Great lead-up play saw Cade Maskell kick great goal late in the term and Leongatha were on their way and when Nick Argento got the first of the last term, the victory was assured.
Coach Beau Vernon was delighted with the win, making special mention in the after-match of the new players and the defensive effort but warned the team that Leongatha defeated Traralgon by more than 20 goals in the same fixture last year.
Full coverage of the weekend football in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.
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