By David Nagel
Subtle little hints that finals football is just around the corner seemed to inspire the genuine premiership contenders in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) on Saturday.
The days are getting a little longer, and the sun is shining more often, as we land just three weeks away from what’s sure to be one of the most celebrated finals series of recent times.
Seriously, it’s felt like a kick in the guts not having finals football around over the last two years…and now it’s finally arriving on our doorstep.
At Spencer Street on Saturday, Nar Nar Goon and Warragul Industrials gave us an early indicator of what week one of finals might look like, when the likely elimination final combatants went toe-to-toe at Goon headquarters.
The Goon, rebounding from a 13-point loss to Phillip Island, took on a confident Dusties side looking for its fourth win on the bounce.
And a trip to Spencer Street holds no fear for Harmit Singh and his team after a great win over the Goon last year.
The home side played the more efficient football in the early stages of the match, kicking 3.2 to 0.4 in an otherwise pretty even quarter of footy.
Ruckman Eamon Trigg was giving gun-midfielders Trent Armour and Brendan Hermann a good look at the Sherrin, while the Goon’s dangerous front half was looking in very good order.
The Goon then once again capitalised better in the second term, with 4.0 to 1.3 from an equal amount of scoring shots opening up a match-winning 29-point lead.
The Dusties matched motors with the Goon in the second half, but that early conversion lesson would prove costly.
The Dusties had some fine players on the weekend, with lively types like Bailey Beck and Matt Herbert joining local legends Shane Brewster and Luke Walker on an impressive best players list.
But converting, or putting enough pressure on the opposition to not, is something the Dusties will have to fine tune before finals.
They went down by one scoring shot…but 31 points in the end!
The Goon have no such issues, with full-forward Dermott Yawney making a sparkling return to the goal square after missing against Phillip Island last week.
Yawney booted seven, and is one player who will be enjoying those subtle little final hints more than most.
Sunny weather, a dry footy, delivery from Armour and Hermann…it’s a scary proposition for the Goons’ finals opponents to deal with.
Armour added three goals to another superlative performance, while Jake Blackwood and Flynn Parker also played important roles in the victory.
Kooweerup has chalked up three-consecutive wins for the first time this season with an 18.13.121 to 9.5.59 home victory over Korumburra-Bena.
The Demons were well held by the Giants in the first half, but 12 goals to four after the main break put the issue well-and-truly beyond doubt.
The Demons had three main avenues to goal with Jason Wells booting six, Luke McMaster five, while class conveyance Nathan Voss slotted four.
The Demons have now defeated Dalyston, Garfield and the Giants in quick succession, but take a big step over the next fortnight with the Dusties and Cora Lynn on the horizon.
And while claiming a scalp would be terrific, coach Rhys Nisbet has some bigger picture scenarios in mind.
Setting standards that he drove as a premiership coach at Berwick, is more what he is looking for.
“We sat down before the Dalyston game three weeks ago and we set some goals, not so much on wins and losses, but some goals on numbers on the training track on Tuesday and Thursday nights, just asking everyone to buy in,” Nisbet said.
“We want to take a lot of confidence into next year and that doesn’t mean we have to win the next three games to do that…it’s more about effort and commitment and taking bits and pieces out of each game.
“It’s about making small improvements and finding consistency, that’s what it’s all about.
“And full credit to the boys, they’ve really bought in and been fantastic.”
Cosi Anagnostou was once again superb for the demons through the midfield, while Josh Westerman and Matt Kennewell stuck to their guns for the Giants.
All other games went pretty much as predicted on the weekend, although the depth of Tooradin’s 97-point victory over Bunyip was more than we budgeted for.
The Gulls held the Bulldogs scoreless in the first quarter on their way to a final score of 18.17.125 to 4.4.28.
The Gulls had plenty to play for, with club stalwart Adam Galea playing his 200th game for the club.
Coach Lachie Gillepsie said ‘Zorba’ was a huge part in the overall fabric of the footy club.
“He means everything to the footy club, he’s a great guy, he’s loyal, and he’s always been the hardest worker in the room,” Gillespie said
“He’s not known was for his brilliant handball or kicking skills, or anything like that, he’s built his reputation on being such an honest, tough and strong guy and such a great character around the club.
“He spent time in the reserves, and won a best and fairest there, and then works his way through to seniors by doing everything right, working his backside off.
“He becomes a multiple-time team of the year member, club captain, a senior best and fairest winner and a member of our team of the last 25 years.
“Zorba’s story is a great one for resilience and becoming the best version of himself that he could possibly be.
“What you see is what you get with Zorba, he doesn’t like the public speaking or being in the limelight, he tells you how it is and he plays his footy the same way.
“He’s integrity could never been questioned…nothing is ever too hard.”
Enough said about this game…Stewie Scanlon kicked five and Brad Butler four on a day that belonged to one man.
In other games…finals contenders flexed their muscles.
Nathan Gardiner kicked seven, and livewire midfielder Jaxon Briggs chimed in with four as Cora Lynn trounced Garfield, 22.10.142 to 7.5.47 at the Cobradome.
Heath Briggs joined his brother on the list of best players, while Robbie Hill was rock-solid down back.
Jahmain Harrison slotted two for the Stars, still searching for their first win of the season.
Phillip Island, meanwhile, wiped the floor with Dalyston, kicking 28.17.185 to 7.3.45 in a thumping victory at Dalyston
Jack Taylor 6, Max Blake 5, Billy Taylor 4, the list goes on and on for the reigning champs who had Cam Pedersen, Zak Vernon and Mark Griffin fine tuning their craft ahead of a massive clash against Tooradin this week.
Musa Amin and Hayden Wallis booted two each for the Magpies, while Mick Harris, Curtis Murfett and the exciting Jack Paravicini were terrific against high-class opposition.
And Inverloch-Kongwak has bounced back to winner’s list with a 12.20.92 to 4.7.31 victory over Kilcunda-Bass.
Clinton McCaughan bagged out with four for the winners, while Dylan Clark and Toby Mahoney chipped in with a couple each.
Tom Hams, Lewis Rankin and Michael Eales were their reliable selves for the Eagles, while Dale Gawley and Nathan Foote continued their fantastic seasons for the Panthers.