By David Nagel
Nar Nar Goon will enter Sunday’s blockbuster elimination final against Cora Lynn with confidence oozing from every pore after an impressive 41-point victory over Inverloch-Kongwak on Saturday.
Form in the final round of the home-and-away season can sometimes be difficult to read, particularly with little chance for change in the upper echelons of the ladder.
But it’s hard to ignore the exciting, sharp and precise brand of football played by the Goon, who kicked a minimum of four goals in every quarter against one of the best defensive teams in the competition.
And the Goon did so without their premium midfielder, and one of the competition’s guns, with Trent Armour rested by coach Luke Young to ready the hard-nut for a full-on assault of the Cobras on Sunday.
The Goon outscored the Sea Eagles in all four quarters of football, banking their first victory against one of the big three with an 18.9.117 to 11.10.76 triumph.
Star full-forward Dermott Yawney kicked five goals for the Goon, which left him one short of Cora Lynn spearhead Nathan Gardiner in the race for this year’s league goal-kicking award.
Gardiner timed his run to perfection…producing a ‘Kiwi’ type display in the 1983 Melbourne Cup.
Just like Kiwi, Gardiner never had his nose in front until the shadows of the post, producing a barnstorming finish to edge his way to the lead.
Yawney can console himself with the fact that he has solid support by his side heading into this week’s cut-throat eliminator, with Cooper Pursell kicking four stylish goals and Mitch Homfray and Eamon Trigg chiming in with two apiece.
The Goon had nine goal-kickers in an ominous sign for the Cobras this weekend.
Classy types like Brad Homfray, JJ Peni, Jake Smith and Brendan Hermann were at the top of their game for the Goon, while Luke Bettio is another to head into this week’s final series on a high.
As for the Sea Eagles, well there will certainly be no panic stations as the experienced unit prepares for a Saturday elimination final against sixth-placed Warragul Industrials at the Bass Recreation Reserve.
Concerning is a 61-point turnaround by the Goon, who the Sea Eagles defeated by 20 points in round 11.
Thomas Wyatt was important with three goals for Ben Soumilas’s men, with the talented Jenson Garnham and Toby Mahoney both kicking two each for the vanquished.
Tom Hams, Michael Eales and Corey Casey will be players to watch when the Sea Eagles start warm favourites against the Dusties on the weekend.
There was no playing for next week when Warragul Industrials and Cora Lynn settled in a for a last-quarter shootout at Western Park on Saturday.
Just 10 goals had been kicked until three-quarter time, with the Cobras leading by two points, before all hell broke loose with six goals being scored in an electrifying 13 minutes of football.
Jaxon Briggs ignited the Cobras with a cracker from long range, after 20-seconds of play, before Nathan Gardiner swung onto his left to open up a 14-point advantage just two minutes into the final term.
Bailey Beck answered with a set shot, but when Gardiner slotted a banana from the pocket, and then waltzed into an open goal after a gift-handball from Matt Ryan, the Cobras had blown the gap out to a match-clinching 20 points.
Todd Beck tried to claw the Dusties back into the contest, but the damage had been done….the Cobras prevailing 10.8.68 to 9.5.59.
Gardiner finished with seven goals for the winners, which included three last-quarter majors, while Ryan chipped his way to two and Briggs fired the other.
Billy Thomas, Tim Payne and Chris Johnson are no strangers to finals pressure, and tuned up for this week’s monster clash against the Goon with stellar performances.
Mason McGarrity kicked three for the Dusties – becoming the only player to kicks goals in all 18 rounds this season – while the Beck’s…Bailey and Todd…contributed two each.
Dusties’ Will Gibson and Shane Brewster will take good form into this week’s elimination final against Inverloch.
There’s still water to flow under the bridge before it happens, but minor-premier Tooradin-Dalmore received an early feel for this year’s grand final venue when the Seagulls visited Kooweerup on Saturday.
Denhams Road will be the field of dreams for one lucky team this year, and the Seagulls are as good a chance as any to lift this year’s crown.
The Gulls were pushed by the Demons early, leading by 10 points at quarter time and 22 at the half, before slipping a different gear after the main interval.
The Seagulls booted 11 goals to five after the break to edge clear to a 20.14.134 to 11.5.71 victory.
The Gulls had a tasty even spread, with Dylan Paarlberg, Julian Suarez and Jimmy Trezise booting four each, while Adam Oxley drifted forward to snag three of his own.
Matt Livermore, Brent Macaffer and Lewis Hill were solid contributors for the Gulls, while Mitch Cammarano and Nathan Voss finished their seasons in fine style for the Demons.
Jason Wells finished on 74 goals for the season, after slotting four goals on the weekend, while Luke McMaster and Voss chimed in with a couple each.
Bunyip has proven itself to be the best team not playing finals after the Bulldogs racked up their eighth win for the season with an 11.12.78 to 7.10.52 victory over Dalyston.
The Doggies began their season on fire, but a lack-lustre patch through the middle rounds would prove costly.
The Doggies won just two matches in a nine-round stretch from rounds five to 13.
Bunyip led by just 10 points at half time against the Magpies, but a 4.4.to 1.2 third quarter would put the issue to bed.
Dylan Gallasch and Dan Helmore kicked three each for the Doggies, who had Nathan Allen, Aaron Paxton and Jeb McLeod play to their usual high standard.
Matt Howell, Brad Monson and Curtis Murfett did likewise for the Magpies.
In other games, Max Blake kicked five, and Harry O’Brien and Zak Vernon two each as Philip Island fine-tuned for finals with an 18.23.131 to 3.6.24 victory over Korumburra-Bena.
The Bulldogs were wildly inaccurate in front of goals, kicking 1.8 in the first term and 6.8 from a plethora of opportunities in the third.
Midfielder Eli Richards continued his ripping form for the Dogs, while Vernon, Blake and Jason Tomada will enjoy a week’s rest after pleasing displays against the Giants.
Matt Lello, Jay Walker and Josh Hargreaves never stopped trying for the Giants, who finished their season with 13 consecutive losses.
And Kilcunda-Bass has joined Kooweerup on seven wins for the season after the Panthers fought off a brave Garfield by 16 points at Bass.
The Panthers led at every change, but never by more than 21 points as the Stars drilled down for the fight.
Regular best players Nathan Foote, Dale Gawley and Taylor Gibson were once again instrumental for the Panthers, while Jack Barnes, Joel Batson and Zac Soutar gave their as usual for the Stars.
Garfield has a really good young list and should be big improvers in the 2023 season.