LEONGATHA started the season in fine style with an impressive win against Bairnsdale at Parrot Park, despite missing some key players and some early injuries.
Co-skipper Chris Verboon will be missing for a few weeks after breaking his collarbone in a heavy collision while Luke Bowman gave his hammy a tweak.
Both injuries came in the first quarter leaving the Parrots with two on the bench – fortunately this season the bench has grown from three to four.
Also missing were key forwards Cade Maskell and Aaron Hillberg but deadeye Chris Dunne was on target early with some superb goals in the tricky breeze.
The Parrots kicked with a three or four goal breeze towards the town end but Bairnsdale, featuring ex-AFL players Damian Cupido and Brodie Holland, showed they were up for a battle.
New Leongatha recruit Josh Schelling was very impressive from the outset, using his great leap to feed onballers like Pat McGrath, Tom Marriott and co-captain Hayden Browne.
He also pulled in some big grabs a jagged a goal.
Sean Westaway had the job on Cupido and tried to run off him at every opportunity. He succeeded to set up Justin Pellicano for a goal.
Jake Mackie was also happy to run from half back, kicking a nice goal to cap off some great team work and give the Parrots a 26 point lead at quarter time.
But Bairnsdale fought back with the use of the breeze in the second half.
Cupido was a great target and used his strength and off-the-mark speed to mark twice but he missed both from close range.
He made up for it soon after with a huge bomb from the boundary and before the day was out he’d booted three goals and showed he’ll be a handy acquisition for the Red Legs.
Holland too was busy, setting up forward moves and playing lose across half back.
Bairnsdale continued to press early in the third quarter before they began to tire.
Leongatha, despite having fewer rotations, controlled the midfield.
Pat McGrath played an incredible match. He would have had close to 40 possessions and kicked four goals.
Tom Marriott also dominated in the middle and kicked a couple.
Ryan Olden was a clean user of the ball across half back along with Joel Sinclair.
The future looks bright for the Parrots with Harrison McGannon and Sam Forrester making promising debuts, while Louis Riseley played his best senior game, even defying severe cramp to kick a goal in the last quarter.
Full football coverage in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.
To subscribe to our digital edition: https://sgst.com.au/ezine-publication/