By David Nagel
Tooradin-Dalmore has locked away minor premiership glory in West Gippsland football after a gritty and grinding 14.12.96 to 11.10.76 victory over Nar Nar Goon on Saturday.
It’s only a stepping stone to what the Seagulls hope is a much bigger prize handed to it on Saturday 10 September, but winning the minor premiership is a significant achievement for a club that has had rare success in recent times.
The Gulls finally have something to boast about…and can now focus solely on winning their first senior premiership in 25 years.
Two hugely-impactful ‘three-goal bursts’ gave the Seagulls the edge in what was otherwise a very competitive contest.
Nar Nar Goon started brightly, with dangerman Dermott Yawney proving too strong for Connor O’Riordan, marking and goaling from mid-range, to put the first on the board after 90 seconds of play.
In a surprise move from both camps, Luke McKenna started in the ruck for the Gulls, with Flynn Parker his opponent allowing Eamon Trigg to start forward for the Goon.
The Seagulls answered quickly, with Liam Adams kicking a goal on the run before out-marking Brendan Hermann, and converting, to give the Gulls the lead after five minutes of play.
JJ Peni then found the big sticks for the Goon, and when Yawney guided through a set shot it sort of felt right that the Goon had edged out to a one-goal buffer.
Piva Wright, who would have a huge influence as the day unfolded, then proved too strong in the air to tie things away at 19-each.
Adams then missed everything, on the run and aiming for his third of the quarter, before Trent Noy and Hermann produced something special for the Goon.
From a forward-flank ruck contest, Noy flicked one out the back to Hermann who hit the ball at top speed and put through a cracker from 40-metres out.
The Goon deserved their five-point lead at the first change.
The Gulls then started to ask questions of the Goon at the start of the second quarter…and the visitors had no answers.
Jimmy Trezise had things too easy, out-marking two opponents, giving the Gulls the first of three goals inside four minutes.
Trent Adams then went harder and lower than the Goon, winning a head-high free kick, before Dylan Paarlberg snapped quickly to open up a 13-point lead.
The first of those ‘three-goal’ bursts…well it had done some serious damage.
The Goon looked a little lost, under the Gulls’ intense pressure, with their movement stifled and not looking threatening at all.
A complete quarter of football was capped off by the Seagulls when Blake Grewar dribbled one through to give the home side a 22-point margin at the main break.
The Goon had their chances at the start of the third quarter…but failed to capitalise.
Yawney looked at his dangerous best, but missed two difficult early set shots before marking at the top of the goal-square to close the gap to 14.
Only eights points had been scored for the quarter, and they all came from the boot of Yawney.
But, once again, the Seagulls lifted their rating and the Goon couldn’t go with them.
Dylan Wilson was superb off half back, repelling everything within his sight, while Brad Lenders, Cooper Shipp and skipper Jordy Kelly were just as effective in defence.
The energy of Trezise was also important, while the Gulls’ mature use of the ball, targeting hit ups, saw the Goon appear lost at times trying to defend slow play.
And that dominance soon impacted the scoreboard, with the Gulls going on their second ‘three-goal’ burst of the match.
Wright ignited the Seagulls with a ball-burster on the run, before Stewie Scanlon – down on his usual output – kicked an absolute cracker from the Sports Club forward pocket.
The Gulls were up and about, with the Goon getting frustrated, and it was no surprise to see a downfield free-kick result in Wright’s second for the quarter.
Three goals in six minutes…another flat patch from the visitors…the margin out to 34 points.
But full credit to the Goon for refusing to accept a blowout.
The Goon replied with three goals of their own, with a Yawney free-kick and goal, at the 28-minute mark of the third-quarter, cutting the margin to just 14 points at three-quarter time.
The Goon suddenly appeared to have more speed on the footy and was heavily challenging the Seagulls’ defence for the first time in the contest.
But any hopes of a Goon comeback quickly evaporated at the start of the final term.
Wright found space, out the back of a pack, and kicked truly to stretch the margin out to 20…a heart-breaker for the Goon, who had worked so hard to edge back into the contest.
To defeat the Gulls, the Goon needed to do everything right and a missed shot from Cooper Pursell – at the two-minute mark of the final term, summed up their missed opportunities in front of goal.
The Gulls expertly gave the Goon leg-rope, and then closed them down in an instant, making scoring difficult once again.
Gulls’ veteran Julian Suarez took some clutch grabs in the final term, while James Cairns was doing likewise for the Goon.
A goal to Brady Egan then extended the gap to 25, before Wright provided two significant highlights of the day.
He first marked outside 50, before launching a long bomb into the arms of Johnny Duff, who hit the ball at full speed at the top of the goal-square…running with the flight of the ball…and into an open goal.
Hermann then returned fire with two goals for the Goon, cutting the margin to 21 points with six minutes left on the clock, before Wright capped off a best-on-ground performance with a monster-launch from 60.
It was a fitting finish to great day for the big man.
Wright finished with five, and Liam Adams two, while the work-rate of Brent Macaffer – behind and beside the football – to orchestrate the Seagulls tempo brand of football, should not be underestimated.
The Gulls work so hard for each other to set up that hit-up style of play.
Yawney ended the day with four for the Goon, on a good day for the forward that yielded eight shots at goal.
Hermann showed his class with three for the vanquished, while Flynn Parker, Aidan Pipicelli, Sam Blackwood and Jake Smith never took a backward step against this year’s premiership favourite.
The Seagulls, possibly just 12 quarters away from breaking a 25-year drought, take the short trip to Kooweerup this week, while the Goon host Inverloch-Kongwak in a great finals precursor for both clubs.