Stratford is the raging East Gippsland football premiership favourite after dismantling Lakes Entrance by 68 points at Bairnsdale City Oval on Saturday.

The Seagulls have got a lot of hard work to do in the space of seven days if they want redemption with the Swans and with sore bodies it will be a tough challenge.

Saturday’s loss was a reality check for Lakes. Stratford was brutal.

It is not all over for the Seagulls as they will have the chance to bounce back this Saturday against Wy Yung in the preliminary final and James Gibbs’s men will need to find the hunger.

The Swans were a class above. The clearance work of Nathan Pollard was outstanding, while the tap ruck work of league best and fairest winner, Lachie Heywood, showed why he is regarded so highly.

After a tight opening in which the Swans missed some opportunities, the minor premiers powered to a four-goal half time lead on the back of smooth ball transition and the ability to find space.

Lakes was caught ball hunting while Stratford backed its grunt players to feed the ball on the outside where wingers and midfielders held their width and ran in waves.

While the Seagulls got two late second quarter goals through Kane Thomson, Lakes couldn’t maintain momentum in the third term as a Pollard clearance led to a Stratford goal in the opening minute.

The Swans outworked the Seagulls against the wind and had the game sewn up midway through the third term.

Their versatile attack troubled Lakes’ defenders, however it was a gap in the midfield output of the teams that was the difference. Stratford pushed hard both ways while the Seagulls were caught napping when it had to defend, not to mention the huge advantage Stratford had in centre clearances.

The Seagulls ended the game with minimal rotations. Tom Smith injured an ankle, Joel Campbell was carrying a calf and Andrew Stevens also went down.

The game started contested with three stoppages in the first minute of the game.

Kicking to the city end, Lakes had the wind at its back, however it was the Swans who looked dangerous but would of rue missed opportunities.

Stratford’s Nick French had the first scoring opportunity after finding himself on the end of a Rodney O’ Keefe kick, however failed to find the big sticks.

Haydn Erfurth was also presenting a dangerous option up forward for the Swans but also failed to goal. Tom Smith, was superb for the Seagulls, both in the midfield and up forward, racking up eight possessions and booting two first quarter goals as the Seagulls claimed a quarter time lead. The first goal of the match was scored by Smith in the 10th minute after taking a strong leading mark, goaling 45 metres out.

The second goal came just three minutes later after a big collision involving Lakes’ Stevens allowed Smith to pick up the crumbs and goal.

Erfurth managed to peg a goal back in the 21st minute for the Swans to wrestle Lakes’ lead back to three points at quarter time.

Taking in the momentum, Stratford had first use with a clearance from Reggie Tait allowing Kiss to find space, who failed to goal, however the swift ball movement set the tone for the second quarter. A 50 metre penalty allowed French to kick the first in the fourth minute and four minutes later they had another as Tim Hawkins goaled from long range. Two minutes later Jack Bacon kicked a superb goal on a tight angle, giving the Swans full control. The Seagulls didn’t have an answer and a minute later Heywood goaled from a free kick. The Swans managed to pile on four more goals while the Seagulls could only manage two through Thomson, kicking the last on the half time siren.

Stratford led by 24 at half time.

Lakes Entrance was dealt an injury blow with Smith injuring his ankle and would only manage to play forward for the third quarter before spending the final term on the bench.
Once again the Swans went out firing in the third with Kiss goaling just 35 seconds in.

Nathan Pollard was having a big influence in the midfield for the Swans, providing a number of scoring involvements and clearances despite being paid close attention by Jarred McDonnell, who was simply undersized.

Harry Reed scored the first goal of the second half for the Seagulls, but unfortunately his side couldn’t gain any momentum as a Pollard clearance resulted in another Kiss goal.

Kiss soon found himself on the end of another as a quick kick in by Justin Slattery found the intended target.

The Swans seemed to have found another gear to build their lead to 51 points at three quarter time.

Stratford again took charge in the last quarter as Bacon goaled from long range to help his side lead by 57 points before another Pollard clearance hit key forward, Kiss, on the move who goaled a minute later.

Kiss had another eight minutes later after taking a strong contested mark over two Seagulls, helping him to his five-goal haul.

Lakes replied two minutes later as a dashing run from Alex Saunders freed up Ben Crittenden who ran in and goaled from 20m out.

Seagull Anthony Bence managed to hit the scoreboard moments later but it wasn’t enough as the Swans moved themselves into the grand final.

Pollard was exceptional with 25 disposals and a number of clearances and scoring involvements, earning himself a best-on-ground performance. Heywood was exceptional, as was Nick French in the clinches, while Josh Kiss booted five.

Lakes Entrance’s Zac Svetlik had plenty of the ball down back while Smith and Thomson kicked two each.

Bairnsdale Advertiser


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Match review published by the Bairnsdale Advertiser. To view the original article in full online visit https://www.bairnsdaleadvertiser.com.au/news/local-news/59-swans-storm-into-grand-final

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