Buln Buln 8.8.56
Neerim South 8.9.57

A stunning final quarter helped Neerim-Neerim South break its premiership drought, the Cats making a late charge to steal it from a Buln Buln side that had controlled most of the contest by a solitary point.

Intermittent rain kept the Cats in the contest, with the 8-9 (57) to 8-8 (56) result delivering Neerim-Neerim South’s first premiership since 1999 and first senior premiership for veteran Chris Urie, who was awarded the best on ground medal.

The Cats entered the contest missing Ben Fitzpatrick, Isaac Fuller and Josh White, but still had the talent to pull off a stirring win.

Trailing by 13 points at the final change, the Cats would storm home with three goals to one to steal it from a gallant Buln Buln side who had peaked in form at the back end of the season.

With Kody Wilson leading the charge through the middle and the likes of Chris Charles and Tom Muir holding the defence, it would be the masterstroke of throwing Matthew Edwards into the ruck that set up the charge to victory.

Luke Kinder began the spark, kicking two goals in two minutes to level the scores and swing the momentum. His smart roving goals set up from entries from Matthew Roberts and Ash Lockett.

Bob McCallum won a free kick for a block in the ruck contest, but his shot just missed as the Lyrebirds edged in front.

Another inspirational piece of play put the Cats in front at the 10-minute mark. Edwards delivering a remarkable checkside from the opposite pocket to inspire the Cats.

Campbell converted his third from 20 metres before the sides traded minors as a tense finish loomed, a Lachlan Bambridge soccer levelling the scores during a final term that realised five lead changes.

Earlier, the likes of Reece Campbell, Jared Lane, Trent Baker, Thomas Axford and Nathan Tutton had been prominent for the Lyrebirds as they took a handy buffer into the final change.

Buln Buln put through the first three goals of the match to threaten a repeat of the second semi-final.

Matthew Stevens dished a handball to Campbell for a running shot, Cam McPhan converted from a chip pass before Campbell finished off some hard running for his second, Jake Pierrehumbert, Matt Gray and Stevens all having a hand in setting up the opportunity.

The Cats would respond as Nathan Bayne ran into the open goal before good hands from Muir and Kinder set up Urie for a snap to close the margin to four points.

This time it would be McPhan rewarded for his hard work, following up to put through the Lyrebirds’ fourth.

Wilson snapped from front of the pack, only for Sam Langford to deliver the immediate response from long range as the lights were switched on to combat the dark conditions.

With the Cats trailing by 11-points at the long break, captain Wilson converted from long range following a free kick to cut the margin again.

Buln Buln seemed to have the responses, Jack Symes gathering the crumb to snap across his body and re-establish the buffer.

Just as the Lyrebirds looked to stamp their authority, Muir was gifted the easiest of goals with a double 50-metre penalty from half back.

Jared Lane intercepted a Cats exit from defence for his second to put Buln Buln 13 points clear at the final change.

Not to be outdone the Cats made some moves at the final change and went on a charge to attempt to win the game.

A miss from Bayne who had found space late in the game proved enough for the Cats to hold on, Urie signalling the intent as he slowed play from a free kick on the wing.

Despite Buln Buln’s best efforts to clear the defence, forward pressure helped the Cats keep the ball in and find elation on the final siren.

Match review via Warragul Drouin Gazette, written Davyd Reid.

Leongatha 10.10.70
Sale 6.12.48

There was talent to burn in the midfield of both sides in Saturday’s Gippsland League grand final, Sale and Leongatha, and up until half time, at least, the big crowd at Moe was treated to a battle royal.

Both the 2021 Trood Award and Rodda Medal winner, Shannen Lange, and this year’s league best and fairest, Tom Marriott, put their stamps on the game early with goals and great play, often directly opposed to each other, in a contest you’d go a long way to see.

Added to that were Sale’s playing coach Jack Johnstone and the experienced Parrot onballer Luke Bowman, both equally influential in the game and the big-hearted Leongatha ruckman Ben Willis up against former Gold Coast Suns’ big man, the Sale captain Jack Leslie.

What a contest it was, and Leongatha got the first centre break of the match as the three Parrots; Willis, Bowman and Marriott combined to get the ball forward. A free kick to Marriott followed a nice pass and lead by Aaron Hillberg, who made no mistake from 30 metres, a goal in the first minute of the match to the Parrots.

A nice little lead up involving Will Littlejohn, Bowman, Sam Forrester, Hillberg, Josh Hopkins and Cam Stone gave Aaron Heppell an early chance, for a point, but it was a good sign.

Noted Sale tagger Cooper Whitehill was trying to go with Marriott but Luke Bowman was working just as hard on Lange, with Johnstone also doing some heavy work.

And while the Parrots had the best of the opening quarter, they were unable to shake the Magpies who, with the help of smothered shot on goal by Luther Juric and a free kick, went goal-for-goal with Leongatha.

Jayden Allison got Sale going after they went coast-to-coast from that errant kick on goal by the Parrots, with Willcocks accidently cleaned up in the move by Sale’s Lachie Todd.

Justin Pellicano was taking his turn in the ruck and the Parrots lost nothing as Willis and Pellicano shared the load against Leslie.

Cade Maskell was constantly cleaning up across half back or deep in defence and Leongatha’s runners Stone, Hanily, Turton, Forrester and Littlejohn were all involved.

Maskell to Heppell and a nice pass to Jack Hume brought up the next Parrot goal, a beauty from a long way out on the boundary.

Leongatha peppered the scoring zone for quite a while after that but almost against the run of play, Sale drove the ball forward to where Lange received a free and kicked the equaliser.

The Parrots also put together a nice passage of play through Turton, Olden, Hopkins, Hanily and Pellicano which looked promising but there was no score.

Sale’s Jack Johnstone was everywhere, bobbing up in defence to repel a forward thrust by Olden and Marriott, while Ryan Pendlebury was also prominent in defence and Mitch Bown or Chris Laverty had a restrictive arm across Aaron Heppell at every opportunity.

But ultimately, great play by Josh Hopkins got the ball across to Tom Marriott who raced in for the team’s third.

Soon after that, Sean Westaway put a defensive kick out on the full and Johnstone found Lange on his own for the easy reply; Olden had a late shot for a point, Harry and Marriott saved Leongatha at the other end and it was three goals each at quarter time.

The game tightened further in the second quarter but started well for the Parrots when Ned Hanily roved the pack superbly before kicking a goal after an attacking kick by Turton.
Westaway, Willis, Heppell, Hillberg and Marriott were among those working hard for the Parrots.

Matt Willcocks took several nice marks after an early head knock to be influential in defence but when Sale’s Johnstone was accidentally caught high, he kicked the reply.

The Parrots were moving the ball better, however, and this time it paid off through Marriott, Hanily, Turton and Hopkins for the quick response.

Leongatha were running with Willis, Marriott, Van Der Pligt and Drew on the ball at this stage and were matching it well with Leslie, Lange, McLaren and Allison.

Both Leongatha and Sale had their chances, Hanily missing one and Jarrod Freeman with two gettable shots, one hitting the post as they squandered a chance to get ahead of the Parrots.

Ultimately a muffed kick by Harry let Sale’s Jack Mclindin in and he was good enough to get it across to the ruckman Leslie for a late goal; the margin three points at the long break after a long period of defence by both sides, Sean Westaway responsible for a fine smother, Johnstone dropping back to help Sale’s defence and the onballers from both sides mindful of not allowing late goals.

Leongatha eked out two crucial goals in the third quarter, one to Hanily after another long period of defence by both teams but again it featured great coast-to-coast play started by Maskell with an intercept and involving Marriott Forrester, Hopkins, Heppell and finally the lively Hanily.

Some hard, bullocking work by Marriott created the next chance, with Bowman and Hume combining to get it forward to where Hopkins and Juric with a clever hand in allowed Hillberg to run on to the loose ball and toe it through for what was a vital goal.

Sale couldn’t match them, but it wasn’t without opportunity by the Magpies who hit the post several times and missed some easy chances.

Their best chance came after a 50-metre penalty to Johnstone, on to Whitehill and then Jarrod Freeman on the lead but a big defensive punch clear by Willcocks saved the day.

Johnstone took a hanger soon after but his shot from 50 was another point.

At the last change, coach Trent McMicking fired the troops up with a rousing speech, the standout message being that when it’s your turn to go, you go!

And they did. Bowman got it out of the centre to a winning tap by Willis, Hopkins danced left and right on the boundary and found the leading Hume for the first shot of the last quarter, a point.

The rain was pouring early in the quarter and Sale’s bigger bodies were having an impact and again they had opportunities up forward before Freeman was awarded a free 15 metres out and finally, got the desired result… it was ‘game on’ with Sale trailing by one straight kick.

Hopkins and Van Der Pligt both had shots from long range but the one by Van Der Pligt lobbed in the goal square and Heppell was able to toe it through and the Parrots were up by two clear goals.

Sale then had a sustained period of attack but booted four points in-a-row with Willcocks and Maskell prominent in defence. As an indicator of the pressure they were under, Sale had 11 inside 50s to Leongatha’s four for the quarter.

The ball was like a bar of soap however, and plyers were going in hard as packs inevitably developed, Drew coping a shoulder injury and coming off. Marriott following him soon after.

With just eight points separating the teams and Sale coming strongly, Josh Hopkins seized on a chance on the half back line and got the ball going Leongatha’s way, against the run of play.

He then combined with Cam Olden, Jack Hume was slung as he got a handpass away, Aaron Heppell toed the ball forward, and running past him, Aaron Turton chased the ball and struck it first time with the left boot, a shot Tim Cahill would have been proud of, and it sailed 35 metres through for a miracle goal… the sealer.

Leongatha got a late one by Aaron Heppell to stretch the margin to 20 points but it flattered what had been a close contest all day.

Match review via South Gippsland Sentinel Times.


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