THE Maffra Eagles secured their ninth premiership since 2002 after beating the Leongatha Parrots by just eight points in an extraordinary game where the Parrots came within an inch of winning in the last term.
Maffra led at every break in the clubs’ fourth consecutive grand final clash before the Parrots turned up the heat to boot four goals in the last term. At one stage, the Parrots were leading by five points – the strongest lead they had experienced all afternoon.
Technical issues plagued the final minutes of the game, including a temporary scoreboard blackout and the final siren scarcely being heard.
But one of the most contentious moments was the final goal of the game by Maffra to secure their eight-point win.
With less than three minutes on the clock, Maffra’s Kade Renooy took a mark in the midfield to boot it into a pack of half a dozen players where the Parrots thought a mark was paid.
But the whistle didn’t go and Maffra’s Jack Johnstone picked up the ball and sprinted, handballing it to Mitch Bennett in the goal square to kick it through the big sticks just a fraction of a second before Tim Sauvarin had the chance to intercept.
But from the start, both teams struggled to make a dent on the scoreboard.
There was only a light breeze and the rain had cleared, making for perfect conditions for the grand final.
The Eagles kept the Parrots scoreless for the first term, but Maffra didn’t do much better – missing six shots at goal.
They dominated territory, but the Parrots kept the pressure on to stop them from getting too far ahead early on.
A scoring opportunity opened up in the last minute of the quarter, with a boundary throw-in seeing Jackson Harry soccer it to James Lloyd who went for a goal on the run – but it went out on the full.
The Parrots picked themselves up again, dogged to make their presence felt on the scoreboard after taking 13 grabs in the first term.
Cam Stone went for goal within the first few minutes of the second quarter but with no luck.
But the Parrots didn’t have to wait long for another scoring shot, as Josh Hopkins was awarded a free kick for tackling a Maffra opponent holding the ball.
He wasted no time in quickly booting it over to Olden to try again inside 50 and sure enough, he made it from about 40m out to secure their first goal of the game.
And boy, did the crowd go wild with the Parrots now in front. The grandstand of mostly Parrots’ supporters at the old oval end were cheering like they had won the premiership.
But it didn’t take long for the Eagles to catch up, with Danny Butcher slotting the first goal for Maffra – subsequently followed up a major by Bennett.
The Parrots regained control to see Matt Borschman put one through the big sticks, while Jackson Harry was awarded a 50m penalty for a late bump in a marking contest to put another on the scoreboard.
With just a few minutes left on the clock for the second term, Maffra’s Sam Pleming took a mark at 50m. He booted it to Butcher who had a straight shot for the Eagles to finish the half three points up.
At the change of ends, Maffra came out firing – with Alex Carr kicking off proceedings from 30m out just as the breeze began to pick up.
The Parrots had a brief moment of glory after Stone snapped another, but he was outdone by a major to Bennett.
The Parrots’ Chris Dunne then topped off the third term with a major to trail by 15 points going into the last term. Maffra took nine marks inside 50 in the third compared to the Parrots’ 2.
So, it was all or nothing in the last term, as Parrots coach Paul Carbis reiterated the importance of the game at the final break.
“They’re absolutely buggered, so it’s gonna come down to work rate.
“Boys, there’s a massive prize in history if we work harder than what they do.”
And with those final inspiring words, the Parrots leapt into action with a breeze in the final term.
Marriott was off to a flying start, booting two goals in the first ten minutes alongside another to Olden to hold a three-point lead midway through the last quarter.
It was back and forth as the Eagles retaliated through Bennett.
Josh Hopkins slotted his first for the match to maintain a four-point lead with ten minutes on the clock.
But it’d be the last goal for the Parrots as the Eagles’ Pleming and Bennett each sent one through the big sticks to secure the premiership cup, eight points ahead.
Full football coverage in this weeks edition of the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times.
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