Welcome to McPherson Media Group’s new series, Best Battles – taking the commonly uttered pre-game phrase “we owe these boys one” to a whole new level.
Although football is – like almost all other sports – on a long hiatus, the MMG sports team has decided there is no reason we cannot still report on the matches which were scheduled to happen, but with a twist of course.
Best Battles takes you to the most important duel, result or individual performance between the teams in recent memory.
We know our memory is not as good as yours though, so make sure you let us know where you think we have missed the mark – or hit the nail on the head – and we will publish your thoughts.
GOULBURN VALLEY LEAGUE
Euroa v Shepparton United
Round 12, 2018 at Deakin Reserve
Shepparton United 12.12 (84) d Euroa 7.12 (54)
Euroa fans might want to look away now, but Shepparton United supporters should remember this one fondly.
A young Demons team – which had just matched it with juggernaut Kyabram for three quarters – took this game by the scruff of the neck and never let it go.
Jye Chalcraft booted three majors in a best afield performance, while Shane Neaves, Kyle Clarke and Jack Norman were also impressive.
“There was that belief in the group that if we get it right for four quarters, we’re capable of taking a scalp,” United coach Stephen Scott said at the time.
“(Euroa) were going to have the wind in the last, but I wanted the boys to keep a positive mindset, I didn’t want to try and save the game.
“I wanted us to still attack the game and we ended up winning the last quarter, which was great.”
Nate Trotter snared three goals for Euroa with Ben Harrison a standout, but in the end it was not enough for victory.
Although the Demons only ended up with four wins for the season, the caveat for the Magpies was that when the dust settled, JD Hayes’ troops missed the top six by just two points.
“It was not a good day,” Hayes said at the time in his succinct assessment of the clash.
Rochester v Mansfield
Round 11, 2010 at Moon Oval
Rochester 16.14 (110) d Mansfield 16.5 (101)
It was the proverbial shootout at the Moon Oval corral when the Tigers and Eagles went toe-to-toe in a goal-for-goal race to the final siren.
And it would be the home side which did just enough to get over the line as the Eagles threw everything at it except the kitchen sink.
In the opening half, the two sides traded blows with the Tigers taking just a two-point lead into the main break.
But from the first bounce in the second half, it appeared as if the Tigers would not be stopped.
A six-goal to two term had the home side on the brink of a massive victory against a fellow finals contender.
All of Rochester’s composure in front of goal went out the window in the final term, as the team kicked 2.5.
Mansfield almost swooped in to take the chocolates, but left its run too late.
It would be safe to assume; goal kicking practice was on the agenda at Rochester training that week.
As the saying goes, forwards sell tickets and defence wins premierships.
But on this day, each side’s back six had their weaknesses exposed as Perry Oliver and Elliot Bowen kicked five apiece for the Tigers, while former AFL footballer David Mensch led the way for the visitors with four.
The ever-reliable Sam Brennan was named best afield for the Tigers, while Brett Mahoney did his best to will his side across the line.
In 2010, Mansfield’s season ended in an elimination final loss against Shepparton United, while Rochy finished two points behind the Eagles to miss finals.
Echuca v Benalla
Round 13, 2017 at Victoria Park
Echuca 9.12 (66) lt Benalla 11.13 (79)
This game isn’t anything to avoid as a fan – no huge winning margins, no season ending injuries, just a good game of football.
Though in the end, this match was essential for Benalla, and a what could have been for Echuca.
The Murray Bombers were fast out of the blocks in the opening quarter of the contest, heaping on five goals to Benalla’s two.
The Saints immediately hit back in the second quarter, kicking five of their own, while the men in green could manage just four behinds.
Both sides spent the remainder of the game going goal for goal, with Benalla ending up claiming the win by 13-points.
Brody Webster nailed five majors for Benalla, with Jordan Wolff coming off at half time with three to his name, while Simon Buckley would add another best on ground performance to what ended up being a Morrison Medal season.
Benalla coach Luke Morgan hailed the contest as a “brilliant win.”
‘‘We were three goals down and had played poorly, we couldn’t get our hands on the ball and Echuca was playing some good footy,’’ Morgan said.
‘‘The win was made even more impressive to do it without Jordan playing after half-time, it was a real gutsy win up there.’’
Echuca coach Andrew Briggs said the scoreboard ended up flattering his team.
‘‘We were lucky to be that close in the end,’’ he said.
‘‘We started well and got some scores on the board which was exactly what we wanted.
‘‘But they kicked 5.7 in the second quarter and had more than 30 inside 50s to half-time. They were always getting opportunities it was just whether or not they took them.’’
The match would end up having a major impact on the finals, with Benalla finishing in sixth place with 10 wins, while Echuca would fall two games short and end up in seventh place.
Shepparton Swans v Kyabram
Preliminary final, 2014 at Deakin Reserve
Kyabram 9.13 (67) lt 18.9 (117)
The last time the Shepparton Swans defeated Kyabram it set the scene for the club’s first premiership since 1970.
After bombing out in the 2013 preliminary final the Swans had a point to prove – and that they did against the Bombers at Deakin Reserve.
Although Kyabram dominated much of the early play, the outfit could not make the Swans pay on the scoreboard and trailed by 15 points at the first break.
That margin was only three and 13 points respectively at the next two changes, but the Swans exploded in a fiery final term to run away with a 50-point triumph and book a spot in a decider they would eventually win.
“I’m so proud of the boys, it was a tough game out there and pretty brutal in the last 25 minutes there, but we stood up and we fully respected Ky being last year’s premier,” Swans coach Brett Warburton said after the victory.
“I thought we stood up in pressure times, we kicked two in a row when we had to stand tall, and 12 months on from last year in the second half when we couldn’t stand up to the pressure, the experience that was out there was massive for us.”
Kaiden Antonowicz and Brodie A’Vard booted four goals apiece for the victors as Paul Newman (three) and Rhys Clark (two) stood tall for the Bombers.
The work of Jamason Daniels, BJ Squire and Daniel Lovick was also exceptional for the Swans.
Shepparton v Seymour
Preliminary final, 2017 at Deakin Reserve
Shepparton 18.15 (123) d Seymour 7.14 (56)
A year before it would break its premiership drought, Shepparton booked a spot in its first grand final in 17 years in 2017 with a preliminary final demolition of Seymour at Deakin Reserve.
Seven goals from power forward John Bradaric, four from Matt Brett and three from current VFL talent Luke Smith helped the Bears cruise through to the decider with a 67-point win, heading through to tackle powerful Kyabram in the grand final.
The Bears won every quarter of the clash, building a 37-point lead by half-time before finishing things off with a brutal 4.5 to 1.1 third term.
Shepparton coach Brad Campbell was thrilled his side had delivered on its potential.
“We’ve put in a lot of work as a club and the playing group was great and I was pleased to see the composure and confidence they had, even under pressure,’’ he said.
‘‘We played our brand of footy and got a fantastic win, now it gives us an opportunity in the grand final.
‘‘Seymour did look dangerous, I reckon we got rolled comfortably in the centre clearances and around the ground at times, but we kept hitting the scoreboard and that allowed us to have all that momentum.’’
Superstar Jason Cole was best for the Lions, while the Bears side featured young tall Jordon Butts, who is currently on Adelaide’s AFL list.
Tatura v Mooroopna
Round one, 2012 at Mooroopna Recreation Reserve
Mooroopna 10.12 (72) d Tatura 9.12 (66)
Tatura’s most recent premiership year began with a narrow defeat at the hands of Mooroopna, which carried the momentum of that positive start to a third-place finish on the ladder.
In a thrilling clash in the Fruit Salad City, the Cats led at every break but could never get rid of the pesky Bulldogs, who came late to fall by just six points.
Mark Blake, who would go on to have a ripping season and win the Morrison Medal, was best for the Cats with Michael Roberts, Chris Schirmer and James Martin each kicking two majors.
While it wasn’t the start to the season the Dogs were after, it would end in the perfect fashion with the round one result one of just two losses for the campaign.
Post-match, Mooroopna coach Brad Campbell was pumped his mob had lifted when the game needed a little winning.
‘‘It was pretty nerve-wracking, and I had a feeling it would be a goal either way,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘We’re pretty evenly matched and we tend to have those games some- times with the way we play and set up.
‘‘We don’t mind that. We want to be a hard side to play against and if it’s a low-scoring game, it’s a low-scoring game.’’
MURRAY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Numurkah v Barooga
Round 15, 2017 at Barooga Recreation Reserve
Barooga 15.7 (97) d Numurkah 12.13 (85)
There have been some brilliant, bone-crunching clashes between these sides in recent seasons, but a late-campaign contest in 2017 sticks in the mind.
Barooga had fallen by two points to the Blues earlier in the year – and in fact was 0-3 in matches decided by less than three goals before facing Numurkah once again – but got the chocolates here in a win which secured the side third spot on the table.
Tom Wilkinson (five) and Lucas Olson (four) combined for nine of the Hawks’ goals on the way to the tight win, with the outfit having to come from behind at the final change after controlling the first half.
“We started well and dropped off, but it was important that we got the win,” co-coach Tyrone Downie said after the game.
“Obviously there was a strong breeze, but we led early kicking into it and were able to use it in the last.”
Mitch Price and Tim Arnel stood tall for the Blues, who would go on to taste grand final action while the Hawks fell to Nathalia in the preliminary final.
Tungamah v Rumbalara
Round 17, 2018 at Jubilee Park
Tungamah 10.12 (72) lt Rumbalara 15.12 (102)
You can argue a myriad of reasons why Rumbalara came within a kick of making a home grand final in 2018 – but there are none more quantifiable than Jamie Atkinson’s move from defence to attack.
Against Tungamah in round 17, Atkinson was thrown forward and delivered in spades – booting his first six goals of the season in a 30-point victory for Rumba.
That haul kick-started an immense run from the key target, kicking 26 majors in six games to spearhead Rumba’s charge up the table and into the penultimate weekend of the season.
Coach Kane Atkinson reflected on the move a few weeks after his side dealt with the Bears comfortably at Jubilee Park.
“Jamie has 15 goals in three weeks, but he’s got 15 straight,” he said.
“I don’t know how he does it, but I hope he keeps doing it.
‘‘We had him at centre-half-back for the majority of the year, but we had a bit of a spot open up forward.
“He gives a great contest and brings it to ground if he doesn’t mark it.”
Finley v Congupna
Round two, 2018 at Memorial Park
Congupna 9.7 (61) lt Finley 9.12 (66)
You have to go back to 2016 to find a clash between Finley and Congupna which was decided by more than 19 points.
Of that recent tight stretch the round two fixture of 2018 proved the closest, with the Cats holding off a fast-finishing home side at Memorial Park.
Cam Robertson and Luke Moore led the way for the visitors, with the latter snaring three goals to help steer his side to victory – but it was not a win which came easily.
The Cats led by 22 points at the main break before The Road came charging home, missing the photo on the line by less than a straight kick.
BJ Squire was at his brilliant best, while Ayden Fiore and Daniel Schaper (two goals) provided great supporting roles in the defeat.
It was Finley’s second win in a row to start the season – a run which stretched to four to set the platform for a finals berth.
The Road found five wins for the campaign to foreshadow even more improvement to come.
Nathalia v Deniliquin
Round eight, 2014 at Nathalia Recreation Reserve
Deniliquin 10.8 (68) d Nathalia 9.6 (60)
Season 2014 was a much happier time for Deniliquin against Nathalia.
Since then, the Purps have got the better of the Rams in all seven meetings – sometimes by monster margins.
But on Saturday, June 7, 2014 Deni’s mental strength was well and truly on display.
After trailing at every break, the Rams rallied in the final term to kick three goals to one and record a big victory.
‘‘I asked a lot of the boys and they all stood up and played well which was the most pleasing part,’’ Rams coach Troy Bartlett said
‘‘It was a good win, but unfortunately we don’t have long to celebrate because we still have some tough games ahead and then it all starts again when we play Mulwala.’’
The result proved pivotal in the final make up of the season, as the Rams finished two points ahead of Nathalia to secure the final spot in the Murray League top six.
Deniliquin could have quite easily raffled off who would kick their goals on the day, as four players kicked two each.
Jason Limbrick kicked three for the home side on his way to 39 for the season.
Cobram v Mulwala
Round 14, 2017 at Scott Oval
Mulwala 13.10 (88) d Cobram 12.8 (80)
Some teams will be taught a harsh lesson when they take the foot off of the accelerator, others will perform the great escape.
In this tightly fought contest, Mulwala was part of the latter.
After a strong opening half, the Lions led by 26 points at the main break and you would have expected them to kick on and easily get the job done.
But Cobram was waiting for its opportunity to pounce.
The Tigers roared to life in the third term, kicking seven goals to two.
The message in the Lions three-quarter-time was clear – get back to doing the basics well and we will win this game.
And Mulwala coach Michael Tout’s message managed to get through as his side bounced back.
‘‘I suppose they were playing for their survival, they put a lot of pressure on us,’’ he said.
‘‘We came out and kicked five straight goals to start the game, but then we just went back to playing ordinary footy.
‘‘To get the lead back in the last 10 minutes was great though, it showed the boys that you can never give up.’’
Mulwala’s Ash Froud, who finished the year as the Murray League’s leading goalkicker with 113, contributed four on the day.
While at the other end, Mitch Richmann added three for the Tigers.
Katandra v Moama
Round 18, 2019 at Katandra Recreation Reserve
Katandra 13.8 (86) d Moama 7.18 (60)
So often, the final stages of the season are reserved for battles for the finals.
In the final round of the 2019 season, it was the battle for a less desired prize that engaged Moama and Katandra.
Due to percentage difference, a victory for the Magpies would see them finish 13th, and push Katandra to bottom spot.
That wasn’t to be the case, as four majors from Corey Hickford kept the Kats in front all day.
A brutal six goal to nothing first quarter should have iced the game immediately, but despite the deficit, it was Moama’s kicking that cost them the match in the end.
The Magpies booted a disastrous 7.18 for the day finished the season on just two wins to Katandra’s four, and claimed the competition’s wooden spoon.
Tongala v Echuca United
Round four, 2015 at Tongala Recreation Reserve
Tongala 17.16 (118) d Echuca United 12.8 (80)
Paul Newman is dyed in the wool Kyabram, but his 2015 season down the road in Tongala was a massive success.
And if Tongala wasn’t glad to have him at the start of the year, it was after the first Campaspe Cup meeting of the season with local rivals Echuca United.
Having booted 11 in his previous game against Cobram, Newman kicked another six goals to take his season tally to 27, with the Blues easily defeating the Eagles by 38 points.
In a strong performance for Tonny, he was only fifth best on ground.
Joining in the party was teammate Matthew Andrews, who slotted five of his own.
United had nine goal kickers on the day – Duane Hueston, Peter Harrison and Cameron Parker each contributed two - but were no match for the Blues onslaught.
In a season where Tongala, Moama and United finished fifth, sixth and seventh, this percentage boost was huge in giving the Blues a finals position.
PICOLA DISTRICT FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Deniliquin Rovers v Katamatite
Round 11, 2019 at Deniliquin
Deniliquin 9.14 (68) lt Katamatite 11.3 (69)
The memory bank is not being tested here, but how do you go past this thriller in the last meeting between these two clubs?
The lead changed at every siren, three players on the ground snared hauls of four goals or more and the final margin was the slimmest it could be – everything you want from a classic contest.
After holding sway at the final break, the Rovers could not find the middle of the big sticks – for the second week in a row – and the Tigers pounced, kicking the term’s only two majors.
Chris McKay and Brodie McDonald booted five apiece for the victors as Ricki Waters managed four for the home side.
“It was a really important game for us, we stuck it out and kicked straight,” Katamatite coach Jedd Wright said after the game.
“(The three-quarter-time message) was to run and take the game on. They came out after half-time and played some really good footy, but we went away from taking things on and running forward.
“We probably moved the ball really well in our back half and we were able to get our shots straight in front where they were being pushed wide.
“There was a big difference in the scoring shots, but I think a lot of that was down to our pressure and not allowing easy shots.”
Jerilderie v Tocumwal
Preliminary final, 2015 at Blighty Recreation Reserve
Jerilderie 13.10 (88) d Tocumwal 8.11 (59)
Going back to a time where both of these clubs had healthier win columns, this penultimate battle of the season in the 2015 north-west division sent Jerilderie into the decider against Strathmerton for the third successive year.
Former Shepparton News sports editor Gregor Mactaggart wrote at the time that the Demons came “bursting out of the blocks quicker than Usain Bolt”, and that is exactly what they did.
Jerilderie had five goals on the board at quarter-time to the Bloods’ one – and added another two in the second stanza to almost put the game to bed.
The Bloods found some majors through Kyel Bain and mounted a comeback, but it was not enough to stop the Demons in their tracks.
Aaron Purcell and Brodie A’Vard both managed three goals for the victors, with Shaun Bryce best afield.
The Demons could not back up their efforts the following week against the Bulldogs, going down by 16 points.
Katunga v Yarroweyah
Round 11, 2019 at Yarroweyah Recreation Reserve
Yarroweyah 19.7 (121) d Katunga 12.14 (86)
Goals, goals and more goals – that was the order of the day when Yarroweyah hosted Katunga last season.
The Hoppers and Swans had the same amount of scoring shots for the match, but the former was able to produce extremely accurate kicking to secure a crucial 35-point win.
Andy Jones snagged seven majors of his own alongside Coleby Hellyer-Maud (six) to have the Hoppers singing the song when the final siren sounded.
Katunga still managed to wheel out some firepower of its own though, with Dylan Sidebottom (five) and Oliver Small (four) keeping their side within striking distance at the final change.
Mathoura v Waaia
Round 17, 2008 at Mathoura
Waaia 21.17 (143) d Mathoura 5.10 (40)
Waaia’s Greg “Herbie” Meyland gave Picola District League defenders nightmares on a weekly basis and it was no different on this occasion.
Throughout the season, he had proven he could kick goals in several different ways on his journey to another century.
But he could be forgiven for thinking his 100th of the season would be a lot more difficult to come by.
After taking a strong contested mark in the second half, Meyland was preparing to line up to bring up his milestone – then the umpires whistled sounded.
“His conversion was not as sweet though as Niko the runner ran through the mark bringing Meyland up to the square to boot his 12th for the game, and 100th for the season 1 metre out,” a Mathoura club match report said of the game.
The Timbercutters report added: “Messy disposals and lack of fitness had a great bearing on the result of this game.”
Waaia’s season would later end in a preliminary final against Katandra.
Picola United v Strathmerton
Grand final, 2017 at Blighty Recreation Reserve
Picola United 11.4 (70) d Strathmerton 7.10 (52)
If you’re a Strathmerton fan, you might want to stop reading here.
If you’re a Picola United fan, take a walk down memory lane.
This was the day that belonged to Kian Wise, after the 16-year-old substitute kicked three goals, playing a key role in a third quarter where the men in blue and white piled on six unanswered majors to win back-to-back flags, and the final PDFL North-West premiership.
Max Canfield did everything he could to keep his Bulldogs in the contest, winning the best on ground medal with two goals and huge marking numbers, but was unable to get the team over the line.
Picola United coach Jon Varcoe said his team had fought incredibly hard in the second half to claim the flag for the second year in a row.
‘‘It was a special win, the boys dug in deep, we didn't have it all our way, but we came out and played brilliant football in that third term,’’ Varcoe said.
‘‘We regrouped after halftime and I could not have asked for much more in that second half.’’
While the whole team had contributed, he held the biggest praise for teenager Wise.
‘‘He was able to come on and not only kick a few goals, but also set up a few as well, it is definitely a day he will remember.’’
Blighty v Rennie
Preliminary final (reserves), 2019 at Deniliquin
Blighty 9.11 (65) d Rennie 9.2 (56)
Blighty’s 2019 reserves premiership nearly didn’t happen, after it needed extra-time against Rennie to even head through to the grand final.
The Redeyes led by three goals in the final quarter but couldn’t stop a desperate Hopper outfit charging home late – and Rennie nearly grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat.
In one of the more memorable moments of country footy finals, Blighty’s Beau Close snapped a behind as the final siren rang out that appeared to be match-winning, but the scoreboard had been wrong in indicating the scores were tied beforehand, with the goal umpires conferring and deciding extra-time would be required to find a winner.
But the Redeyes would win the game for a second time, with Tristan Wilson kicking the only goal in extra-time to help his side through by nine points.
Blighty would go on to thump Waaia in the grand final.