Lavington Panthers falter again

Yarrawonga v Lavington. Matt Gorman kicks under pressure. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
Yarrawonga v Lavington. Matt Gorman kicks under pressure. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

YARRAWONGA co-coach Drew Barnes admits he was frustrated by the heavy-handed approach from the umpires in Saturday’s qualifying final the Pigeons won by 29 points.

The clash at W.J. Findlay Oval was plagued by free kicks, with several dubious decisions leaving players, spectators and officials infuriated.

Barnes understood the umpires had a job to do but admitted some of the calls left him scratching his head.

“It’s very frustrating,” Barnes said.

“I think they over-umpired a little bit but they’ve just got to call it as they see it.

“There were some decisions that I thought were from left field but we need them.”

The umpires may have battled but they certainly weren’t alone in the opening term.

The footballers did, too.

The first quarter was woeful.

Neither side kicked a goal and that drought wasn’t broken until Adam Prior kicked truly after a strong grab, four minutes into the second quarter.

Prior had his colours lowered by Beau Seymour a fortnight ago but hit back with a vengeance on Saturday.

The three-time Doug Strang medallist looked the most dangerous player on the ground for just over three quarters and finished with three goals in a low-scoring affair.

It was Kayne Pettifer who stole the show.

The Yarrawonga live- wire proved the difference when it counted and was in everything all game.

He was sent from the ground with Sam Harris for “engaging in a melee” in the first term but didn’t put a foot wrong once he returned.

He finished the game with a game-high bag of four goals and almost hauled down mark of the season in the process.

Pettifer broke the Panthers’ back with the last three goals of the game to put the result beyond all doubt.

Xavier Leslie was exceptional in game 200, with his Yarrawonga midfield mates Tyler Bonat and Tim Cooper also terrific.

Sam Hargreave had the job tagging Craig Ednie and both players received plenty of attention from the opposition all game.

Marcus McMillan kept Justin Koschitzke to just the single goal but the Panthers weren’t smart with their delivery to the former St Kilda forward.

So much so, Koschitzke spent most of the second half in the ruck.

Yarrawonga youngster Bronson Schofield is fast making a name for himself down back and was again impressive with his drive out of defence.

Brendan Fevola kicked more goals by himself last week than both sides managed on Saturday but Barnes said the Pigeons weren’t concerned by the scrappy nature of the contest.

“Not really, to be honest,” he said.

“We don’t mind slowing things down.

“We feel like we’ve got some good players around the stoppages and so the more we can get, hopefully we can win the majority of them.

“I thought we battled hard all day and it took us until the last five minutes to break it open.”

Yarrawonga’s chances were boosted significantly in the hour leading up to the game, with Lavington forward Adam Flagg withdrawing because of hamstring tightness.

He’ll definitely play in Sunday’s knockout semi-final against Wangaratta Rovers.

Myles Aalbers, who was thrown back to the reserves, also failed to play on Saturday because of injury.

Lavington coach James Saker, who kept Fevola to just the single goal, was left shattered by yet another “almost” performance against a rival contender.

The Panthers led by as much as 16 points, 15 minutes into the second term.

“We don’t have a second chance from here on in and it’s going to be a good test of character for our group,” Saker said.

“It wasn’t good enough.”