WHEN you go through a home and away season undefeated, not only winning, but generally blitzing the opposition by 10 goals or more, you’re bound to attract a lot more criticism when you don’t go on and win the flag.
Not only from opposing clubs or people who want to see you fail for one reason or another, but also from your own.
And that has certainly been the case since Maffra played a more committed, finals-hardened brand of footy last Saturday at Moe to overcome the pre-finals favourites Leongatha and win the 2016 Gippsland League premiership by 21 points.
What made it even more crushing for the club on the day was that all three of its football teams in the grand final lost, leaving the B Grade netballers, as once again, the only shining light.
“They haven’t played well for the past month,” said one Parrot insider.
“They didn’t learn anything from the second semi”
“The mid-field isn’t up to it,” said another.
“Why didn’t they go two-up in the ruck against Trent Knobel?”
“Why didn’t someone give Tom Marriott a chop out when he was being so heavily tagged?”
“What happened to the blokes who have been playing so well during the season?”
“They shouldn’t have played injured players.”
“The changes they made didn’t come off.”
“Don’t go easy on them in the paper. Tell it like it is,” was the challenge from a neighbouring club supporter, still talking down the Parrots on Sunday.
The tall poppy syndrome is alive and well in local footy, especially when you lose.
Everyone, it seems, had something to say as the purple haze of disappointment spread from the ground, where spent Leongatha players had slumped to their knees after the siren sounded in exhaustion, bewilderment and despair.
The Maffra crowd, who had played no small part in their team’s win, especially heckling and hounding Leongatha players as they lined up to take crucial shots at goal, were jubilant.
The sea of green and gold, that had risen high throughout the day, ebbed away quietly leaving the flotsam and jetsam of anticipation; a few discarded streamers, a hopeful sign on a fence and a beer can or two.
The worst thing about it is that you don’t get the chance to burn off that negative energy for six months, and the next grand final is 12 months away… hopefully it’s not 55 years away!
And as one Leongatha observer said afterwards, the load gets a lot heavier after losing two in-a-row.
By their own admission, the Parrots hadn’t played well, but the truth of it is that they were still right in it at the 15 minute mark of the last quarter after Cade Maskell had kicked a long goal to cut the margin to just eight points.
The Parrots had all the momentum for the next five minutes and might have got another through Chris Dunn only moments later but only a point resulted.
Even later in the final quarter, when a prospective kick forward by Josh Hopkins bounced and bounced through for an unlikely goal, they were still only nine points down but they couldn’t quite ignite the flame and the Eagles answered each challenge.
Time was ticking away with Maffra in attack and finally their shaggy-headed forward, Daniel Bedggood, who had hit-up the ball with some ferocious charges earlier, found himself alone 25 metres out. He accepted a simple pass, went back and slotted it through and Leongatha was gone.
A late goal, featuring the most thrilling passage of play for the day, in which the fleet-footed Eagle Lachlan Channing ran and bounced the ball for 100 metres around the outer side wing, was the coup de grace.
Where do you go from here? You suck up the criticism and you go again. Every dog, they say, has its day, eventually, hopefully!
Full coverage of the Gippsland League Grand Final Day in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.
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