A five-year journey to put things right at the Leongatha Football Netball Club ended in thrilling style last Saturday, in the Gippsland League Grand Final, when coach Beau Vernon and his heroic team took the premiership cup by a solitary point at Moe. And there to celebrate with him immediately after the game were family members Zac, Kerry, Darryl, Mia (C Grade medallion), young Layla and Lucy.

One of the big moments in the game when Jack Ginnane is sent off for this challenge on his opponent Alex Carr late in the first quarter. The added aggression from the Parrots was welcome and Ginnane redeemed himself with a crucial goal in the last quarter. M463917

Parrot defenders Chris Verboon and Cade Maskell were brothers-in-arms down back on Saturday, forced to put some close-checking work on Maffra’s danger man Darren Sheen who nonetheless kicked five or six goals. M493917

Up she goes. Co-captains of Leongatha Chris Verboon and Hayden Brown are joined by coach Beau Vernon in raising the Gippsland League 2017 Premiership Cup for Leongatha on Saturday. M423917

IF Joel Sinclair doesn’t pass a tough fitness test during the week and play a slashing game with a ruptured medial ligament, Leongatha doesn’t win.
If Cam Stone doesn’t lay a shuddering smother in the last quarter to stop a thumping kick forward by Maffra’s danger man Darren Sheen, Leongatha doesn’t win.
If big Benny Willis doesn’t stop the progress of pacey, little Eagles’ onballer Daniel O’Brien out on the wing in the last quarter or lay a crunching tackle on key Maffra defender James Huts.
If Jack Ginnane doesn’t take a great hit-up mark early in the last quarter and slot through a pressure goal from 35 metres.
If Chris Dunne, playing with a fractured thumb, does kick six including two from the boundary after courageous pack marks at the start and end of the last quarter.
If the Parrots’ army of supporters don’t lift and drown out the Eagles crowd late in the game, Leongatha doesn’t win.
If, it must be said, a seriously fit-looking, 202cm Trent Knobel was a player instead of Maffra’s runner on Saturday, maybe Leongatha doesn’t win.
If Zac Vernon doesn’t go forward in the first half to apply unrelenting forward pressure, if Cade Maskell doesn’t add his secure talents in defence, and if Ben Chalmers doesn’t limit Daniel Bedggood’s opportunities…
…Leongatha doesn’t win.
A lot of things had to go right and a few things had to go wrong for Leongatha to win the Gippsland League premiership for the first time in 16 years by an agonising one point last Saturday.
Every incident was crucial but nothing mattered as Leongatha clung doggedly to a two-point lead and then one point as the seconds tickled away agonisingly slowly on the big electronic scoreboard at the Ted Summerton Reserve at Moe, the scene of many of Leongatha’s great triumphs over the years.
“It was one of the best games of country football you’d ever want to see, our best grand final win I’d say,” said club stalwart Frank Welsford.
He’d have his own reasons for saying so but the 1997 grand final in which Morwell’s Rod Taylor kicked 10 goals and Leongatha’s Adrian Campbell kicked his 100th for the season; and Leongatha still won by four points. That would take some tossing.
Also, Frank’s own breakthrough win, in 1970, when he was president in the club’s first Gippsland/Latrobe Valley premiership year, after joining the league a season earlier, set the tone.
But, Saturday’s triumph is right up there, don’t worry about that.
What a day is was, what a game, what a win, and what a relief… after three consecutive appearances in the Gippsland League grand final, Leongatha’s magnificent 22 finally delivered and there wasn’t a happier or more deserving person than Parrots’ coach Beau Vernon.

More photos from the day in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.
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