LEONGATHA finished strongly in the final term to win a tight, at times scrappy contest in wet and often windy conditions, seeing off Traralgon by 7 points.

By Andrew Paloczi

LEONGATHA finished strongly in the final term to win a tight, at times scrappy contest in wet and often windy conditions, seeing off Traralgon by 7 points.

After being sternly challenged, the Parrots belted out a stirring and loud rendition of their club song, with “We are the boys from Gatha town” ringing out in the rooms.

Traralgon held sway by 10 points at the final change, but a Sam Forrester goal on the run 10 minutes into the final stanza pulled Leongatha back within a straight kick and Aaron Hillberg delivered that shot.

He reeled in a contested mark, calmly slotting his set shot and punching the air in celebration as the Parrots edged their beaks a couple of points ahead of the Maroons.

Teammate Jack Hume then added polish to his impressive day, marking and goaling from a difficult angle near the boundary, with his third major coming early in time on and making it tough for Traralgon.

The Maroons battled it out until the final siren but couldn’t get back ahead, despite a Matthew Northe mark and goal having Traralgon just a goal adrift at the 24-minute mark.

However, the only remaining score for the day was a rushed behind to the Parrots, with the final siren ringing out a moment later.

New Parrots coach, Trent McMicking got the response he needed after delivering a calm but honest three-quarter time address.

“We’ve got to be cleaner,” McMicking said, imploring his players to stop Traralgon’s intercept marks and bring the ball to ground.

“It’s just an arm wrestle and a typical round 1 game in tough conditions,” he accurately surmised.

While the Parrots had plenty of the footy throughout the day, they were more direct in the final term.

At quarter time, McMicking noted his players’ overuse of the footy, and that pattern remained in the next couple of terms.

However, as well as the slippery, swirly conditions, the Parrots had to contend with strong pressure from a determined Traralgon outfit.

While the Maroons had the wind in the first term, Leongatha was able to create opportunities up forward but failed to capitalise on them as well as Traralgon.

Approaching time on, the Maroons led 2.2-14 to no score.

Minutes later, Hume applied strong pressure to an opponent, keeping the ball in the Parrot’s forward line and setting up a mark and goal for teammate Josh Hopkins, giving the Parrots much needed confidence as quarter time approached.

Traralgon enjoyed an 8-point advantage at the break, but McMicking assured his players that while improvement was needed, it was only the first term of the season.

Hume delivered again approaching time on in a tight second term battle, laying a powerful tackle on unsuspecting Maroon David Brinker-Ritchie and nailing the resultant set shot to put the Parrots 10 points ahead.

However, Traralgon was quick to respond with a goal, and added another when Dylan Loprese received a teammate’s handball and rammed the footy home from point-blank range.

Leongatha led by a solitary point at the main break after recording a couple of late behinds.

Loprese seized on some fine work from Maroon teammates, marking strongly and goaling to put Traralgon back in front early in the third term.

The arm-wrestle continued and with rain getting heavier as the quarter progressed, conditions became increasingly trying, making scoring difficult.

However, a Brett Eddy mark and goal 20 minutes into the term had Traralgon looking in good shape, holding a two-goal advantage.

Both sides goaled in the lead up to the siren, with Traralgon leading 46-36 with a term to play in the low-scoring but enthralling encounter.

At game’s end Hume was the only multiple goal scorer for the victorious Parrots, being named in the side’s best players, with Sam Forrester the winner’s best.

Loprese was the top goalkicker for the defeated Maroons, finishing with three majors, with Eddy the side’s other multiple goalkicker, with a couple.

Tom Schneider was named Traralgon’s best, with Brinker-Ritchie another to receive an honourable mention.

While McMicking told his Leongatha charges after the game that there is much to work on, he said that’s not unexpected given the minimal footy played in the last couple of years.

He was delighted with the Parrots’ final term effort, saying their fitness showed.