PRELIMINARY FINAL REVIEW
Yarrawonga has charged into Sundays SS&A OMFNL grand final to take on Wangaratta after they proved too strong for a gallant Wangaratta Rovers.
For the first time in almost five decades there will be no Albury or Wodonga based teams in any of the three grades. The last time this happened was in 1974.
Forty-Eight years ago, Benalla played Wangaratta in the Thirds, Yarrawonga played Benalla in the Seconds and it was Yarrawonga versus Wangaratta Rovers in the Senior decider.
This year, Corowa Rutherglen have made it to the Grand Final in the under 18’s after a thrilling win over Albury, and they will now meet Wangaratta.
Rovers overcame a determined challenge from Wodonga to get another crack at Yarrawonga in the Seconds decider.
In the Seniors, before a healthy Sunday crowd of 3000, the Pigeons started strongly and finished strongly to win by 31 points in windy conditions on a superb Bunton Park Oval.
Led by another outstanding game from Nick Fothergill (3 goals) and twenty-five possessions, the Pigeons will eagerly await another crack at the Magpies.
Jack Forge who came into the side for the Preliminary Final did a great job restricting Rovers dangerman Brodie Filo to minimal impact.
Yarrawonga kicked the first six goals of the game to take a game high lead of thirty-six points early in the second quarter.
Rovers lost midfielder Dylan Stone with what appeared to be an Achilles injury, while key running back Sam Murray was forced forward with a hamstring injury.
Despite the injury, Murray showed glimpses of his brilliance with a screaming mark just before half time one of the best for the season.
To the Rovers credit just like the previous week they fought back with a big third term that could have been even better with a wayward 3-6 to 0-3.
They got the margin back to just six points at the final change with Jake McQueen, Alex McCarthy and Todd Bryant winning a mountain of possession.
Both teams traded goals to start the final term before Jack Forge got onto a chain of scintillating ball movement to goal and get the lead back to 12 points.
The next twelve minutes was end-to-end attack, before the dam wall was broken with three late goals to Yarrawonga to seal the victory and a grand final spot.
Fothergill and Tim Lawrence both finished with three goals, while Doug Strang Medallist Leigh Williams was held to two goals by Rovers Jace McQuade.
Ryan Stone and McCarthy both booted two goals for Rovers. Tom Boyd was kept to one goal and Marklew went goalless for only the second time this year.
The Pigeons chances of injured midfielders Michael Gibbons and Harry Wheeler returning for the grand final are minimal and they will plan ahead without them.
The SS&A O&M netball grand final will also be played between Wangaratta and Yarrawonga, after the Magpies eliminated minor premiers Corowa Rutherglen on Sunday.
The defending premiers from both 2018 and 2019 made it their third straight finals victory to exit the Roo’s in straight sets.
It was a disappointing finish to the season for the Roo’s, losing four of its final seven matches, while its B grade side was also eliminated by Albury in extra time.
Corowa Rutherglen’s two lowest scores for the season came in both of their finals appearances as opposition teams targeted the goal scoring genius of Grace Senior.
The game was in the balance throughout with Magpies biggest lead being four goals at half time, before winning 33-31.
The win may have come at a huge price with star goal shooter Georgia Clark leaving the court late in the game with a knee injury.
The superb form of Kate Dean, Hannah Grady and Issy Byrne continued for Wangaratta as they find season best form at the right time.
Sophie Hanrahan, Emily Laracy, and Brooke Bice were best for the Roo’s, who had its best quarter in the last, but just could not create enough turnovers to turn the tide.
A huge build up to grand final week will hit top gear on Wednesday evening with the counting of the League’s best and fairest awards.
The SS&A club will host the Morris and Toni Wilson Medals with at least half a dozen genuine chances in each code.
Yarrawonga defender Leigh Masters will be a favourite in the Morris Medal, while Sophie Hanrahan is rated a huge chance in the Toni Wilson Medal.
The early weather forecast is suggesting much warmer and pleasant conditions than the preliminary final with the Lavington Sportsground in near perfect condition.