IT WAS the half way mark of the season and another vital game for both Bairnsdale and the travelling Wonthaggi Power whose players enjoyed a satisfied trip home.
The odds appeared stacked against the Power and with four changes to their side they would be faced with an enormous challenge.
Bairnsdale have been playing good, confident football this season and were holding down fifth spot on the ladder while Wonthaggi, fresh from two recent wins, were breathing right down their necks.
With only one game, a small crowd turned out to witness an entertaining game, a game that was up for grabs right until the end – the result see-sawing towards one side then to the other.
Despite the cold, conditions were good.
The home side had the wind advantage to begin with but Wonthaggi had come to play, attacking the ball hard and displaying solid tackling to put the pressure on.
Redlegs’ champion, Tom Hams who has been in outstanding form this season, was leading from the front and he was well supported by the damaging forwards Link Robinson, James Gibbs and Deven Costigon and Wes Russell and Daniel Perron working hard around the packs.
Costigon scored Bairnsdale’s first goal after a strong mark but Troy Harley got one back immediately for the visitors.
It was a good battle already with Michael Kelly busy as ever on the ball, Toma Huther working well in the ruck and Aloysio Ferriera, Pat Ryan, Tom Davey, Byron Dryden and Ben Eddy all contributing strongly.
Huther marked and goaled to put Power in front but Robinson scored an important goal off the ground to bring the home side level.
Bairnsdale were cleaner with their delivery and the visitors were turning the ball over too easily.
Power, now with the slight wind advantage in the second term, had trouble hitting their targets and this was proving costly.
Bairnsdale made the most of two close calls around goal and then scored an easy goal through Robinson to sneak away to an important lead.
Adam Cook marked and goaled to bring Wonthaggi closer and Pat Ryan scored another soon after. Two more goals to the home side gave them a 19 point lead at half time.
Power lifted noticeably and it was all out attack as they started to take the game on after the main break.
Ben Eddy scored Power’s first goal for the quarter which was a reward for their increased intensity.
They were relentless and Troy Harley capitalised on a strong mark to bring them closer.
But Bairnsdale were not about to let this game slip without a fight. Robinson scored again and when they got another off the ground they had responded to the Power challenge to lead by 16 points at three quarter time.
It would take an enormous effort to win this game from here. But Wonthaggi have a reputation of doing just this.
Troy Harley gave Wonthaggi the best start with a great running goal.
Ferriera, Ryan, Kelly and Lindsay were providing the spark out of the centre, making the most of Huther’s dominance in the ruck.
Wonthaggi was up and running and its tackling was brilliant.
Cook goaled to make the scores level but Gibbs got one back for the home side with one of the best goals of the day – a snap around his body against the wind.
Bairnsdale made statement when Hayden Edwards goaled on the run and with a 13 point lead and only minutes to play, the Redlegs looked to have secured this vital victory.
However, Power weren’t done and unleashed a final assault with two more goals to Cook to bring them within a point.
This was a thriller as Harley marked and goaled to put them five points in the lead.
When Harley goaled again it was now Power who had taken the game by the scruff of the neck.
It had been a sensational performance, an exciting end to what had been one of the most entertaining games of the season.
Players who were down early lifted and contributed when they were needed the most.
Wonthaggi has now recorded three solid wins in a row and will look to consolidating further with a win over the Morwell Tigers following the split round.