By David Nagel
Sport is always better when there’s something important riding on the line and there’ll be no shortage of ammunition when Nar Nar Goon welcomes Cora Lynn to Spencer Street for their round-five clash in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition.
These two great rivals have been at it for years, with the Cobras being the dominant force in recent times apart from a Goon resurgence in 2018. That saw them end the Cobras’ season with a 59-point victory in the first semi-final.
The Goon would be bundled out in the preliminary final that year, while the Cobras bounced back to play their part in an epic grand final contest against Phillip island in 2019.
It leads us to our current position, where the Goon and Cobras sit in fifth and sixth place on the ladder, but are two of the top six teams that are currently separated solely by percentage.
A win here sets up a season, while a loss would be a tough pill to swallow for both clubs.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting on the ladder, this is the game that both lots of supporters pencil in as the one game they want to win each year,” said Cora Lynn coach David Main.
“There’s a history there that goes back a long way and we embrace the past – but our focus is on the contest at 2pm on Saturday.”
The contest, as Main puts it, has extra significance this week with the winning team receiving the Cunningham Cup, while the player judged best afield will be awarded the Bill Doherty Medal.
And the Goon will host a reunion of their seniors, reserves and under-13 premiership teams of 2010, and the reserves premiership of 2011.
Spencer Street is going to be rocking…and will get louder and more oiled as the day goes on!
But Main sees it as just another challenge that his team has had to overcome this year.
“I think the perception is that we will just play finals each year, but there have been some frustrations and challenges this season, with injuries and a turnover of players, which have meant things haven’t gone quite as smoothly as they have in the past,” Main said.
“We’re not playing anywhere near our best football, but we’re building chemistry, consistency and resilience and I can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel.
“Fingers crossed we’ll be playing our best footy at the right time of the season.”
The Cobras are without some key players at the moment and will only be strengthened by the return of players like Brady White, Heath Briggs, Jeremey Monckton and Billy Thomas, when the time is right.
The break-away speed of Jaxon Briggs, the class of Chris Johnson, and the downright grit and determination of Tim Payne and Ash Williams dragged the Cobras across the line against Garfield last week and will be super-important again against the Goon.
Luke Young’s team has a bit of swagger about it this year, a touch of confidence that suggests the Goon believe their best footy is good enough to challenge the best.
Just ask Phillip Island if that confidence and swagger has any merit…of course it does!
But being a good footy team means playing for four quarters and the Goon failed to do that against Bunyip last week. We know what we’re getting from the likes of Hermann, McDermott, Armour and Noy, but it’s that next level down that will determine the destination of the Cunningham Cup.
Get ready for a classic…it’s the Goon to win by three points.
Bunyip has quickly slipped out of the spotlight but will look to regain some focus when Tim McGibney and his side take on a mountainous road-trip to Phillip Island.
Bunyip brought in a stack of highly-credentialed recruits this year, and mix that with two impressive victories to start the season – expectations were beginning to rise.
But a big loss to Garfield – and a subsequent poor first half against Nar Nar Goon – has seen a quick descent to eighth place on the ladder. And the challenges keep coming thick and fast – with this week’s Battle of the Bulldogs followed by another away game against Cora Lynn.
Bunyip was missing a handful of those key recruits last week, and did show some character to fight back after trailing by eight goals at the main break. That grit-your-teeth mentality will be crucial for players like Dylan Quirk, Jackson Dalton and Jeb McLeod against the reigning premiers this week.
You get the feeling the round-three loss to Nar Nar Goon is going to sting Phillip Island all season, providing Beau Vernon with perfect motivational fodder any time he needs to use it.
Pride was pricked that day, and skipper Jaymie Youle and his powerhouse team, led by Cam Pedersen, Jason Tomada and Zak Vernon took it out on the youngsters from Kooweerup last week.
It won’t be so easy this time around…but seven to eight goals should do it.
Two teams that need to bounce back from poor last start performances will lock horns at Garfield when the Stars welcome Kooweerup to Beswick Street on Saturday.
The Stars certainly weren’t disgraced against Cora Lynn last week – losing by 27 points – but it’s the way they folded after a fast start that would be most concerning for coach Hayden Stanton.
The on-field coaching – the leadership that good teams display – wasn’t there, and making the same mistakes over and over again must have been very frustrating to watch from the coach’s box.
The Stars were just too loose at the stoppages, so expect Lachie Sauze, Ned Marsh and Jayden Goumas to be locked in and focussed at the first centre bounce on the weekend.
The Demons were certainly outclassed against Phillip Island last week, but Rhys Nisbet will be horrified that his team conceded 19 scoring shots in one quarter of senior football. That’s as bad as it gets and goes away from the competitive atmosphere that has been building at Koowee this season.
Effort is non-negotiable for Nisbet – and you can expect a fired-up Demons outfit to throw the kitchen-sink at the Stars in the early exchanges.
But it’s the Stars to respond and win by 10 goals plus.
And Tooradin-Dalmore will be out to impress a cast of thousands when the Seagulls welcome Korumburra-Bena to Westernport Oval.
The Seagulls are hosting a 50-year reunion of their dominant teams from the early 70s and should put on quite a show against a Giants outfit that is averaging just 36 points per game.
Seagulls’ coach Lachie Gillespie won’t admit it, but his biggest challenge this week might be trying to escape the clutches of some well-oiled and desperate fans at the conclusion of the match.
The Seagulls have the stars, but it’s players like Cameron Brown, Nick Schumann and Justin Smaluch that Gillespie can rely upon on a weekly basis…it’s the Seagulls by plenty.
Warragul Industrials, still the unknown quantity this season, host Dalyston in a must win game for both clubs.
The Dusties are showing signs of real potential and have a work ethic to match, throwing in an extra Monday-session this week in preparation for the Magpies.
Harmit Singh has proven quality all the way down his list but it may take a while to gel. Shane Brewster, Kyle Beveridge, Damien Lawrence and Will Jolley have been rock solid for the Dusties this year and will see them across the line.
And an improving Kilcunda Bass will be hoping to cause one of the upsets of the season when a classy Inverloch-Kongwak strolls into town.
The Panthers were terrific against Tooradin-Dalmore last week, with players like Sam Watson, Riley Cousins, Mat Sigeti and Jake Weightman all digging deep in an eye-opening performance from Stevie Wright’s boys.
But Inverloch has bigger fish to fry this season…and it will win by 39 points.