Feathers to fly in battle of the birds

Kody Wilson and his Traralgon teammates will come up against Morwell this weekend in round nine. photograph hayley mills
Kody Wilson and his Traralgon teammates will come up against Morwell this weekend in round nine. photograph hayley mills

FOOTBALL

GIPPSLAND LEAGUE

Leongatha coach Paul Carbis is bracing for what has reared as one of the biggest challenges in the Gippsland league senior competition in 2018 – the journey to Sale.

The Magpies have lost just the one game to date against heavyweights Maffra in round one.

They survived a scare against Warragul in round eight and fell over the line by the barest of margins but are a different kettle of fish at their home ground.

"Travelling to Sale will definitely test us and they've done well so far but we're really looking forward to it," Carbis said.

But the reigning premiers have enjoyed a purple patch of their own in recent weeks.

Stringing together four consecutive wins is no mean feat in an even competition.

Carbis admitted he didn't "know a great deal" about Sale having never coached against them before.

"Every week we go in and have a chat about the best players but then we'll really concentrate on what we have to do," he said.

"Sometimes if you worry too much about the opposition you end up working into their hands and if we do what we do well the result should take care of itself."

Power forward Chris Dunne and rock-steady defender Josh Schelling have book-ended the ground for the Parrots week in, week out this season and will need to be at their best this weekend.

Three Parrots will miss this weekend's blockbuster with Sale.

Rhett Kelly, Brok Davidson and Chris Verboon are omissions due to travel and will be replaced by incomers Ryan Olden and Joel Norton.

Maffra v Moe

Maffra are the undisputed benchmark of the competition after running through to round nine undefeated but Moe coach James Blaser isn't shying away from this week's test.

"No team are unbeatable," Blaser said.

"It's a very big challenge for us but I'd be surprised if Maffra go through [the season] without losing a game and that'll be the message this week."

The Lions put in a scintillating six-goal first term to set themselves up with a 52-point win over Wonthaggi in round eight.

Blaser said he challenged a number of the core-playing group leading up to the weekend's game and was buoyed by the response from "a few players [who] weren't playing to their potential and taking their spot in the side for granted".

"We're aware of how good Maffra are traveling but our plans will be as normal and we'll go through the systems and structures," he said.

"While they're very good, they're not unbeatable."

The Lions will carry "a few sore bodies" into the weekend's clash with Maffra.

"Selection will be tough considering we've got a few guys coming back in like [forwards] Harry Sim and Ash Dugan," Blaser said.

Moe is a game clear of Traralgon in fourth spot on the Gippsland league ladder.

Morwell v Traralgon

After trudging through the first six rounds of the season without a win, Morwell fended off Drouin in round eight to make it two wins on the trot and will fancy their chances against Traralgon on home turf this weekend.

Tigers coach Joel Soutar said the Maroons were "a quality side" and he was wary of their well-oiled engine room.

"Over the past few years we've had some really good contests and they use the ball really well so we'll have to try to slow them down," Soutar said.

"They have good inside mids and it'll be a tough contest but we're looking forward to the challenge and hopefully with that bit of confidence we can be up and about."

The Maroons are in fifth spot on the ladder with four wins but came within striking distance of ladder leader Maffra in round eight.

They came within 11 points of the Eagles – the closest of any team so far in 2018.

Morwell and Traralgon will be played for the Stanistreet Hunter Cup, named after former club greats Brett Stanistreet (Morwell) and Terry Hunter (Traralgon).

Bairnsdale v Warragul

The Gulls will be kicking themselves after an opportunity went begging in round eight and will be hellbent on making away with the points against Bairnsdale this weekend.

Warragul hosted Sale and kicked five goals and seven behinds in the final term only to be outdone by a solitary point.

Bairnsdale were no match for Leongatha and returned home from the trip across town on the end of a 49-point thumping.

The sides sit in sixth and seventh on the ladder respectively with three wins and five losses apiece for the season to date.

Wonthaggi v Drouin

A bottom-of-the-ladder stalemate between Wonthaggi and Drouin will be broken this weekend when the sides each vie for their second win of season 2018.

Drouin's lone victory came in round four over Warragul by a single point while Wonthaggi also got one on the board in round four, over Traralgon.

Drouin were competitive against Morwell but fell eight points short at the final siren.

Power were blown out of the water in the first term by Moe in round eight and their fate was well and truly sealed by quarter-time.

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