By Tyler Lewis
Crowds returned to local footy in regional Victoria and in the Ellinbank and District Football League a pair of finals front-runners entertained the spectators with a thrilling finish.
Trafalgar have come into the league this season and haven’t missed a beat, passing its most recent test, that of Longwarry, to continue its brilliant start to the season.
The Crows certainly made the Bloods work for it, with half a kick separating the two sides at the end of the day, 6.15 (51) to 7.6 (48).
The Bloods – a notorious fast starting side – were kept goal less in the opening stanza, as the Crows looked to be on early.
The second term identified a scoring end, as the Bloods returned back with two goals and held the Crows scoreless to take a three-point buffer into the main interval.
Zippy Longwarry forward Jason Wells came out of the half-time break breathing fire, bursting out on a couple leads and kicking truly.
The game seesawed in the final term yet again after the Crows pushed ahead to a two-goal lead at the final break.
With just eight goals between both teams to three quarter time, it opened up a bit in the last, with the Bloods booting three and the Crows kicking two.
When Well’s snapped his third halfway through the fourth term, putting the Crows in front, it appeared as if the visiting side were going to hand the Bloods their first loss of the season.
But the game had plenty more to offer.
The Bloods launched a counterattack. Trafalgar’s Klay Butler took a mark at half-forward and was collected after securing the mark. He was then assisted to the top of the goal square through a 50-metre penalty and put the home side in front from point-blank range.
The goal handed the Bloods their seventh win of the season, unending its undefeated stretch.
Longwarry coach Aaron Paxton said his group was ‘shattered’ after Saturday’s defeat, feeling as though they did a lot right, but just didn’t fall on the right side of the result.
“We were disappointed, shattered really,” he said.
“In terms of effort and whatnot, the boys showed a lot of ticker.
“We hadn’t trained together as a group, we trained together as a group for the first time on the Friday night and then played on the Saturday.
“I was really happy with the effort, look, we could’ve gave in, but I thought we didn’t do that.
“The boys are shattered, but hopefully it fuels the fire inside us a bit,” Paxton said.
As for the 50-metre penalty, Paxton doesn’t believe it holds as much significance if his side wasn’t in the position it was at the time.
“I was behind it down in the goal square,” he said.
“I have been an umpire before, it is a spur of the moment decision, look, it was late, but I don’t know if it warranted 50, I asked the umpire, he thought it was late.
“One decision doesn’t justify the whole game anyway, I know in the AFL it has happened a couple times this year, you know what, if you deserve to win, you shouldn’t be in that position anyway.
“I am not going to sit here and dwell on one decision,” Paxton said.
In other matches around the competition, Catani did what it needed to secure another win over Nyora.
The Blues won every term on their way to the 13.12 (90) to 6.7 (43) win.
Matt Barrand was among the best players on the ground for the home side, slotting four majors.
Neerim Neerim South, meanwhile, was assisted by a dream debut by forward Lachlan Bambridge.
Bambridge came in for his first outing of the year and sent a statement to the competition, booting eight goals in a masterful display.
A nine-goal second term set up the win for the Cats, as the struggling Yarragon fell 27.18 (180) to 5.5 (35).
While Bambridge filled his boots with eight on debut, he was out done by the performance of Kody Wilson who kicked six in a best afield display.
The Cats have surfaced as one of the sleeping giants of the top five, with a now prominent forward duo to post regular scoreboard pressure.
Ellinbank overcame Poowong in a tight battle of the birds.
The Pies held a four-point lead at the final break, before the Eagles finished strongly to come out six-point winners, 9.10 (64) to 8.10 (58).
Chris Dunne was the best player on the ground for the Bankers, while two-time league best and fairest winner Jack Hazendonk may feature in the votes for this game on vote count night.
Pies recruit Jake Anderson had his best game for the year, kicking two and showing plenty of good signs for the rest of the season.
Buln Buln, meanwhile, pulled off a scintillating second half to come away 14.14 (98) to 7.10 (52) winners.
The Lyrebirds kicked eight goals to four in the second half, with Bryce Monahan slotting a handful in his first match of the year.