Koo Wee Rup is on the path to finals redemption following an eye-catching 11-goal win in the opening game of this year’s finals series against famous old rival Nar Nar Goon, 17.11 (113) to 6.10 (46).

Koo Wee Rup hadn’t defeated the Goon since Round 3 last year, and Saturday’s warm conditions – seemingly conducive to quick, free-flowing ball movement – appeared to suit the boys from Spencer Street perfectly.

But the Demons made the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition community stand up and take notice with a dominant performance that left the Goon with some serious questions to answer heading into next week.

Ben Collins’ already experienced group welcomed back a number of players to only add to the mix yesterday, and it seemed each move Collins and his staff made paid off.
For a club that hasn’t won a senior flag in well in excess of 35 years, and missed out on the finals altogether last season (by percentage), the Demons could have been forgiven for feeling the pressure on Saturday.

Though Mitch Collins’ name isn’t found on the best players list for the Demons, his impact – in front of a near 2000-strong crowd – was arguably the most significant.

After almost certainly snapping his collarbone in a crunching first-quarter collision, he picked himself up and played under duress for the remainder of the contest – continually laying a body, and providing a target.

Even his presence on the ground throughout the clash was crucial from a structural point of view – drawing the attention of one of the Goon’s key defensive presences.

As the game progressed, instead of wilting in the heat, the Demons continued to rise and breath more fire into the clash.

Troy Dolan (in his stopping role), Dom Paynter, Nathan Lieshout, skipper Tim Miller, young forward Luke McMaster (four goals), and the seemingly ageless midfield star Luke Walker were all outstanding for the Demons – with Paynter’s five-bounce run down centre wing, deep inside 50 for a scintillating goal the absolute highlight of the day’s play.

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Russell Bennett - Pakenham Gazette

video taken by Russell Bennett for Pakenham Gazette via YouTube



It was a 2017 grand final rematch on paper, but in reality this clash between Inverloch-Kongwak and Cora Lynn was anything but – with six ‘Baby Cobras’ playing their first ever senior footy final.

This wasn’t a side haunted by the ghosts of last year’s 95-point grand final loss. It looked every bit a side hell-bent on creating its own piece of history.

The win-loss ledger was firmly the Sea Eagles’ way prior to Sunday, with five wins and just one loss from their six previous encounters.

But that loss was from their most recent clash, and that’s what buoyed David Main’s group.

Their confidence in being able to get the job done and stun the competition wasn’t misguided or naïve – it came from a place very, very real.

Former champion spearhead Ryan Gillis – still a genuine heart-and-soul figure of the club – stood front and centre as this new Cora Lynn group left the rooms. Right there with him was Brady White – the tough-as-nails midfielder who embodies a genuine team-first ethos. White was missing through a soft tissue injury, but took his place in the coaches’ box for the day.

Despite star Inverloch forward Toby Mahoney kicking truly in the opening minute of the game, it was the Cobras who made more of an impact through their attack on the contest.

Ruckman Billy Thomas set the tone in the middle – not afraid to throw his weight around – while AFL draft prospect Heath Briggs shone both in and around the contest.

Fresh off a best and fairest-winning season in Haileybury’s successful 2018 APS campaign, Briggs was nothing short of brilliant. In trying, wintry conditions, his ability to break the lines was instrumental – likewise Jeremy Monckton out wide, while Chris Johnson continued his breakout campaign right in the heart of the engine room.

It was the Sea Eagles who made uncharacteristic errors. It was the Sea Eagles who seemed panicked. And it was the Sea Eagles were out of answers, right when they needed them most.

An avalanche of forward 50 entries didn’t manifest in scoreboard pressure for the visitors, but they did lead by a point at quarter-time. It wasn’t the margin that was significant, it was how the Cobras were playing – steadying down back with intercept mark after intercept mark through the likes of Shaun Sparks and Payne, and moving forward relentlessly through composed and positive ball movement.

Ben Soumilas was his usual positive self in the quarter-time huddle – with his side just a point down despite kicking against the breeze. Though the execution was at times awry, the intent was there.

But Payne’s co-captain Jackson Dalton (three goals) proved every bit the genuine game breaker – particularly from that point on.

His explosive repeat leads from inside forward 50 to around 60 metres from goal typified the enthusiasm of the group that was fueled by the efforts of some of its least experienced members – such as Pullen.

Though the Sea Eagles led by five points at the half, a fired-up Soumilas knew the task in front of his group – the Sea Eagles had to apply more physical pressure, and they had to make their possessions forward of centre count. More than that – they had to be smarter.

They’d given the Cobras a sniff, and that was all the visitors needed.

In a low-scoring clash, they were brilliant in the third – booting four unanswered majors in the final 20 minutes of the term.

Two of Dalton’s goals – the first from 50 after a tackle leading to a holding the ball free kick – were particularly telling.

The Sea Eagles had the better of a tense, low-scoring thriller of a final term but their two unanswered goals weren’t enough to snare the win. The benchmark of the competition’s first two seasons had been matched, with the Cobras snaring a famous seven-point win – 6.9 (45) to a wayward 4.14 (38).

An emotional Cobras coach Dave Main embraced each and every one of his players individually following the win – a reaction befitting the result, given this is a ‘rebuilding’ year for his side. Maybe, just maybe the build for their next era of success has taken just 12 months – knowing that potential recruits would stand up and take real notice of what the side has already managed to accomplish this finals series, and the vast majority of this year’s group has already re-signed for next year.

While the Cobras lost rising star key defender Rylan Smith in the second quarter with what proved to be a broken hand, Sea Eagles star – and reigning league best-and-fairest – Andy Soumilas was well below his best physically throughout the clash and spent significant time inside forward 50.

Following the clash, reigning premiership coach Ben Soumilas – one of the most respected figures anywhere in Gippsland footy – announced he was stepping down from the Inverloch helm. Perhaps now it’s the dawning of their own new era.

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Russell Bennett - Pakenham Gazette


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Both match reviews taken from articles written by Russell Bennett reporting for Pakenham Gazette. To view original articles online in full please visit the following links:

Nar Nar Goon v Koo Wee Rup: https://pakenham.starcommunity.com.au/gazette/2018-08-26/demons-breathe-fire-finals-series/

Inverloch-Kongwak v Cora Lynn: https://pakenham.starcommunity.com.au/gazette/2018-08-27/brilliance-baby-cobras/

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