BRENDAN Fevola ran hot in freezing conditions to lead Yarrawonga to a 47-point win against Wangaratta at Norm Minns Oval on Saturday.
After a disappointing effort in last week’s grand final rematch against Albury yielded just one goal, the gun forward bounced back with 11.6 and dominated the skies, taking 17 marks in difficult conditions.
Wangaratta’s loss all-but sealed the final five and ended the Pies’ finals aspirations with seven rounds to play, but coach Mark Knobel could see plenty of positives with his team.
“When we sat down for selection on Thursday, we had 23 players unavailable, so for us we believe the club is heading in the right direction for the future,” he said.
The Pigeons, aided by a strong breeze to the city end, dominated possession in the opening term.
They wisely went long, with Fevola proving a handful for Matt Grossman with five goals in the first quarter.
Yarrawonga took on a new look in the midfield and it generated most of their drive.
Ruckman Steve McKee returned to the team for the first time this year to work in tandem with Brandon Symes.
Craig Ednie took his usual place at the centre bounce, while Matt Gorman added grunt to support Xavier Leslie and Tyler Bonat, with the Pigeons’ onballers getting right on top.
When it was their turn with the wind, Wangaratta kicked five unanswered goals to close within four points after 22 minutes.
Matt Kelly, Jamie Allan, Daine Porter and promising youngsters Louis Vescio, Jade Cleeland and Zack Leitch were all prominent for the Pies.
Grossman, after being carved up by Fevola, went forward and kicked two vital goals.
But it was Fevola’s two late goals that gave Yarrawonga a 17-point lead at half-time.
The lowlight of the game also involved Fevola, when he conceded a 50-metre penalty after disputing a kicking in danger decision.
Fevola’s mid-air attempt to put foot to a touched ball, when there was no player within three metres, amazed all those in attendance as the Magpies’ raced towards goal.
Yarrawonga put its stamp on the match with a dominant 7.8 in the third quarter.
In defence, Marcus McMillan, Michael Handby and Richard Handreck shut the Magpies out on the rebound, while a double-teamed Fevola added another three goals.
Wangaratta midfielder Daine Porter stood alone in his 200th game.
He was outstanding, fighting to the end.
“I haven’t seen Daine play a better game since I’ve been here,” Knobel said of his heart-and-soul midfielder.
“He was magnificent.”
The Pigeons recognised his achievement, forming a guard of honour for the Magpie star as he left the field post match.
For the first time in a number of weeks, Yarrawonga co-coach Chris Kennedy had a smile on his face.
“It was good to win by that margin in those conditions,” Kennedy said.
“Our pressure and energy was up and having 33 shots on goal was pleasing.
“I haven’t been happy since the first half against Rovers in round six.
“Hopefully we have turned the corner.”