By David Nagel
Everybody involved in community sport – the long-suffering lot of us – we deserved a finish like this.
Footy and netball returned to the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) on Saturday for the first time in 82 weeks, or 574 sleeps to be precise.
For some of us, it’s hard to remember, or hard to try and reflect on what a normal life looked like back then.
But there were signs everywhere on the weekend of what we had left behind.
Black armbands made us sad, for those lost through illness and tragedy, while some were clearly of an age where this was their first taste of competitive community sport.
It was time to release the shackles, put our challenges aside, and enjoy the spectacle and comradeship that makes local sport so great.
And boy…what a finish at Inverloch on Saturday!
Cora Lynn star Anthony Giuliano marked his return to the club in the best possible fashion with an after-the-siren goal giving the Cobras a heart-stopping three-point victory over a brave Inverloch-Kongwak.
The four-time premiership player – who has stints with Kooweerup and Mornington recently – slotted calmly from outside 50 to give the Cobras a thrilling 11.9 (75) to 10.12 (72) victory.
Giuliano kicked the winner in his first game for the club since kicking three goals in the Cobras 2016 grand final victory over Bunyip.
“For Giggz (Giuliano) to do what he did after the siren, that’s the definition of a fairy-tale finish,” said Cora Lynn coach David Main, before explaining the thrill of being back at the football.
“After everything we’ve all been through over the last 12 months, with covid and its affect, it was great to be back playing footy and this one had a real finals feel to it,” he said.
“Normally we play a full season before we get to experience days like this, but this one had a build up like a final and certainly lived up to expectations.
“I’m still trying to come down from happened today to be honest.”
A great event also took place at Lang Lang on Friday night, when the Tigers played their first-ever Ellinbank and District Football League (EDFL) match at their brand-new Caldermeade facility at Soldiers Road.
The state-of-the-art facility is at least a match for any venue in the region and stood out like a beacon under the bright lights of Good Friday football.
Tigers’ president Chris Brew made an emotional address to a crowd of almost 150 at the club’s official opening-night function, telling them the move from the showgrounds had been a huge challenge.
“To move everything from a home-ground of 120 years has been a huge team effort and something I’ve been very proud to be a part of,” Brew said.
“We have great history as a club, but sad history in many ways with an 85-year-old premiership drought leading to many tough times and heartache, but that builds resolve.
“The people of Lang Lang are fantastic; they all pull together to help each other out and that’s never been more evident than in recent times.
“It’s been a huge effort from everyone involved in community sport to maintain the sacrifice and keep the wheel turning.”
And guess what Chris – it’s back!
Everybody involved in community sport – the long-suffering lot of us – we deserved a season like this.