Wimmera fans soak up wet conditions

By Paul Daffey

Footballers of the current generation wear white boots, orange boots and boots that do the dishes at night, but these same footballers would be thunderstruck by any variation at the bottom of their boots. Dry weather in recent years means that many players have only ever worn moulded soles. So it must have come as a shock for these players when rain lashed parts of Victoria at the weekend, especially the Wimmera. Scenes of Wimmera league rivals Horsham Saints (the old St Michael’s) and Horsham United wrestling for the ball on the sodden turf were so unusual that the Wimmera Mail-Times ran a photo on its front page. The Saints won by 68 points, with captain Gavin Kelm kicking eight goals. United players kicked only three between them.

THE Mail-Times photo ran under the heading “Rain lifts spirits”. Which is exactly right if the crowd at Warracknabeal on Sunday is a guide. According to Bruce Petering, the Victorian Country Football League’s north-west area manager, the rain enticed more spectators through the gate than usual, with 800 turning up for the match between the Wimmera league’s Warrack Eagles and Minyip-Murtoa. “It was exciting for everyone,” Petering said. The match was even until the Eagles kicked the last three goals.

THE Maryborough Castlemaine District league’s policy of playing a couple of games under lights on Friday nights at Maryborough’s Princes Park has been a great success; about 1000 spectators turned up for the opening match to see Shannon Motlop make his debut for Dunolly against Avoca. Another good crowd was at Princes Park last Friday night when Talbot saw off Campbells Creek. The Talbot goalkickers included long-serving champion John Hind. The next night, when Bendigo league club Maryborough hosted Castlemaine under lights at Princes Park, John’s 17-year-old son Jayden kicked five goals for Maryborough to be the match-winner in his team’s seven-point victory. The downside of all these games on Princes Park is that the ground is worn out. Royal Park is hosting district league rival Campbells Creek this Friday and then the ground is being reseeded, ruling it out of action for a few weeks.

MARYBOROUGH’S victory over Castlemaine was just the tonic after a pre-season in which it lost its top few players. The main casualty was 2008 best-and-fairest winner Matt Johnston, a midfielder who’s defied the recent flow of traffic and left footy behind for basketball; he’s playing for Ballarat Miners. Maryborough’s victory over its fellow Magpies (Maryborough wears an alternative strip, featuring teal, for games against Castlemaine) registered nothing on the upset-meter compared to Kyneton’s victory over Eaglehawk. Kyneton last year failed to win a game, while Eaglehawk won the flag. Kyneton recruits Lance Picioane and his brother Lee were among the best in the Tigers’ eight-point win for the ages.

ANOTHER ground in strife is the John Foord Oval in Corowa, where the problem is not trampling boots but scratching talons. About 2000 cockies have taken a liking to screeching on to the ground and digging up six-inch divots. The national parks and wildlife association last week gave ground management permission to shoot a limited number of the feathered pests but the problem remains, and yet it failed to stop the footy going ahead on Sunday. Corowa-Rutherglen was threatening to upset Ovens and Murray league rival Yarrawonga before the visitors’ midfielder Drew Barnes stuck in his beak to set up two goals and kick one himself. Yarrawonga won by five points. Their nickname, of course, is the Pigeons.

PADDY Ryder’s performance in winning the Anzac Medal bears a passing resemblance to the performance of Adam Thomson, the Mulwala 34-year-old who was shifted from full-back to the ruck against Murray league rival Congupna on Saturday because of a big-man shortage. The story diverges, however, because Thomson, at 190 centimetres, had no chance of outpointing his man-mountain opponent Josh Wilson. Thomson, as the Mulwala president as well as fill-in ruckman, is among those responsible for putting Mulwala on a solid footing with $1-million clubrooms. A big feature is an eight-metre slab of jarrah that was donated by a West Australian mill owner. The slab serves as the club bar.

ONE of the great hexes in suburban footy was ended on Saturday when Blackburn defeated Eastern league division-one opponent Vermont by 52 points. Blackburn had not defeated the Eagles since 1978. Their losing sequence against the club that styles itself as the most successful in suburban Australia was 28. Blackburn’s best player was former Vermont (and Hawthorn) player Kris Barlow, 35, whose two dodgy knees worked well enough for him to pick up 40 possessions at half-back. The Blackburn coach is another former Vermont player, Steve Cochrane. In the scheme of Vermont’s history, its ledger after two rounds (0-2; it lost to Noble Park in the opening round) is as rare as cockies’ teeth.

ESSENDON District league powerhouse Greenvale went through the 2007 season undefeated and looked like doing so again last year before it lost the grand final to Keilor. Greenvale president Bruce Kent said the Jets were still at a loss to know how it blew last year’s decider. “Geelong would have been outsiders in their grand final compared to us,” he said. Over summer Greenvale heeded the words of Bomber Thompson, who told the Cats after their loss that one bad game should not ruin years of hard work. The Jets went into their grand-final rematch in difficult conditions at Keilor on Saturday with nine players missing from their team in last year’s decider, but emerged victorious by five points. The player who kicked the sealer was Jacob Thompson, Bomber Thompson’s nephew.

GREENVALE is coached by Steve Macpherson (Footscray) and Keilor is coached by Mick McGuane (Collingwood), while another former league player, Essendon premiership ruckman John Barnes, is this season making his coaching debut as the boss of Essendon District club Doutta Stars. Barnesy must have wondered what he’d got himself in for at quarter-time on Saturday, when the scoreboard at the Stars’ Buckley Park oval read 0.3 (3) to 0.0 (0), in favour of the home team. But the shocking wind died down in the second half before the Stars kicked away to a comfortable victory. Best on ground was Stars centre half-forward and captain Kade Carey, the nephew of Wayne.

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