JUST back after a four-week layoff for COVID, would the teams be ready?
They were ready alright and what a fantastic match it turned out to be between top-of-the-table Moe and contenders Leongatha at Parrot Park on Saturday.
It was a match that had everything.
Fierce attack on the ball, so committed by both sides that it threatened to boilover at times.
Eight goals from power Moe full forward, Kristian Jaksch, who at 196cm and 95kg, looks every centimetre the AFL athlete he was when he played seven games each for GWS and Carlton, including 22 games in the NEAFL – he can seriously play.
And Leongatha equally well served on the ball by the likes of Aaron Heppell, Luke Bowman, Tom Marriott, Jake Van Der Plight and others with Heppell kicking five goals in a thrilling display as Leongatha found a way to win, with a come-from-behind effort in the second half.
You could tell both teams came off the ground full of respect for each other’s efforts, while there was a hubbub of excitement from the COVID-safe crowd as they savoured a great contest, and likely more to come in the finals.
In the end, the Parrots claimed the win by five points against a surging Moe team who came back late, but you’d have to imagine the Lions will be better on their home deck and, later, when the finals are hosted on Latrobe Valley grounds.
It’s going to be one helluva final series, with Wonthaggi very much in the mix after another strongly consistent display against Traralgon at Wonthaggi last Saturday.
And we’ll know a bit more about what to expect in September after this coming weekend when Leongatha travels to Wonthaggi on Sunday, June 27 and Moe hosts a resurgent Maffra at Moe on Saturday, June 26.
But the Parrots still have their worries, and in the absence of Chris Verboon at the weekend, their lack of key position height was a stumbling block on Saturday.
Josh Schelling had the unenviable job on Jaksch and while he got eight, the Parrots had more than enough of the ball to account for the scoring power of Moe’s main man.
The won all of the key indicators on the day but constantly broke down across half forward with Moe’s key defenders taking intercept mark after mark, and no one able to hit the ball up for the Parrots.
In the second half, Jack Ginnane took it upon himself to play that role and after Jaksch kicked his fourth to open the third quarter, Ginnane combined with Heppell to pull one back as the Parrots finally started to find a way home.
Josh Hopkins, making a welcome return after injury, hit the pack hard to get the ball forward to Jackson Harry, clearing the way for Jack Hume to goal and a brace of goals by Heppell right on the break had Leongatha primed for a big last quarter, one point behind.
Ginnane combined with Hume straight after the resumption with a goal as the Parrots hit the front and hit an outrageous snap for goal soon after and the Parrots were on their way.
Moe had a couple of really committed onballers in Ceppi and Wood, but Leongatha won the stoppages through the likes of Heppell, Marriott, Bowman, Willis and Harry and were getting good support around the flanks from the likes of Van Der Plight, Stone, Hopkins, Lamers, Drew, Sauvarin and others.
They had plenty of it but they’ll still need to put some thought into their scoring plan before meeting Wonthaggi and preparing for the finals.
All-in-all a gusty win by Leongatha against a worthy opponent but still with work to do.