Yarrawonga has edged out Myrtleford by 11 points in a thriller.
The Pigeons led by 27 points at half-time, but the match tightened in the final term, with the visitors posting a 12.12 (84) to 11.7 (73) win over another top three contender.
One of the major talking points was the monster collision between two of the league’s best midfielders in the visitors’ Morris Medallist Tyler Bonat and former winner, Myrtleford’s Brad Murray.
“It was just two contested blokes going hard at the footy,” Yarrawonga co-coach Chris Kennedy said.
The courageous Murray was left on the ground, and looked sore after the game.
Yarrawonga has its own injury concern after Jordan Daniel broke his collarbone in his first match back from Finley.
“We had a lot of new players and it’s going to take a bit of time,” Kennedy said.
“The form of the new guys, they all played well.
“Mark Whiley, Justin Perkins, Jake Wild, they were all very good.”
We had a lot of new players and it’s going to take a bit of time. The form of the new guys, they all played well. Mark Whiley, Justin Perkins, Jake Wild, they were all very good.
Whiley is the only player in the league from the AFL last year, racking up 12 games with Greater Western Sydney followed by nine at Carlton.
He played in the midfield against Myrtleford, while Perkins kicked two goals, despite spending much of his time across half-back.
The lively Jess Koopman was the Pigeons’ leading goal-scorer with four.
And Rhys O’Sullivan kicked his first goal for the club in his second season.
“He was playing in defence, but floated down from fullback and kicked one from the boundary,” Kennedy said.
“That was the highlight for me.”
In a tremendous sign for Yarrawonga, as it looks to return to the grand final after a three-year absence, Collingwood VFL ruckman Lach Howe was best-on-ground, while Whiley and Bonat were also superb.
The Saints, meantime, have been tipped by a number of opposition coaches as a chance to make their first grand final in 11 years.
“They’re pretty similar to last year,” Kennedy said.
“But they’re more advanced because they’re 12 months together, so they’re going to be a very dangerous side on their home deck.”
Hugh Wales was outstanding for the home team, while ex-Carlton player Frazer Dale was terrific.
The Saints will now face a desperate Wodonga Raiders after their first round hiding against Albury.
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