The half way point of the season awaits as the League enters into the Queens Birthday Round 9 split round. The week one match of the round has Moe welcome Wonthaggi Power to Ted Summerton Reserve. The Lions will be licking their wounds after a 100+ point loss at the leaders summit last week when they met top of the table Leongatha. By all reports there were a number of injuries to add salt to the wounds during the game that may see key personnel out for a stretch of the season. James Blaser and Harry Pepper look set to miss this weekend while the Power welcome back 2017 Trood Award and Rodda medalist Jack Blair. While the upside for Moe is they still hold second place on the ladder, a game clear of both Sale and Traralgon. Wonthaggi are fresh off a home win over Bairnsdale. The Power missed a chance to boost their percentage as they controlled the game early but inaccuracy in front of the sticks saw them finish with 20 behinds from their 34 shots and finish with a 55 point win. A really tough game to predict with uncertainty over Moe’s playing personnel matched with Wonthaggi’s patchy form on the road which included a draw against Warragul and dropping matches at Morwell and Traralgon . The battle for the finals spots are bunching up as five teams spanning from 3 to 7 sit within one win of each other. This alone may give the Power the extra motivation to hold onto their spot in the five and get over the line for a crucial away win. In A Grade action, Moe have cemented themselves as one of the premiership contenders as they sit clear in second place after 8 weeks. The Lions pushed the undefeated Tigers earlier in the year and scrapped home against third placed Leongatha last week by a goal. Wonthaggi sit in the five on percentage but could lose that spot this weekend with a loss. They have been winning matches against lower ranked opponents but have been a long way off beating the top 3 sides Morwell and Leongatha in their early round meetings. Moe should win and turn into the half way point of the season as a genuine Grand Final threat.
Drouin host the red hot Leongatha side in what looks to be a mis match on paper. The Hawks showed in patches that they can be a good side but have failed to put it together over four quarters in any match outside their sole win over Warragul. They were competitive against Morwell last week but were blown away late as the goals piled on. Leongatha in contrast are undefeated and have convincingly beat all their challengers so far. They have the best midfield in the competition and clearly the most miserly defence only conceding on average less than 44 points a game with only 348 points in 8 matches. They spread the load up forward which was on show with 12 goalkickers against Moe and their midfield gets on the board. Scarily for the rest of the competition they are still yet to get Kim Drew on the field who was arguably their best player in 2021. Not much more to go into this match, Drouin will be thankful that this fixture is at home. The A Grade match is a complete contrast to the senior match where it is third v fourth place on the table. The Hawks, like Wonthaggi, haven’t been able to get close in their matches against higher ranked teams and need to start performing in these matches. They haven’t had their full squad available which makes a difference to all teams. Leongatha sit a game ahead of Drouin and missed a chance in their close loss to Moe last weekend. They have the best chance to bounce back here and a win would be a huge step to securing the double chance at seasons end. They go in as favorites and look for this one to be won in their ring with Hannah Flanders and Jess Edgar trying to get a winning score on the board over Kym Diston and April Bethune. All four of those players in the top 15 of League MVP voting.
Sale and Morwell do battle at Sale Oval with big ramifications for the senior match. The Young Tigers side have surprised many in 2022 and managed to put four wins on the board so far. They loom as a danger side as they have shown that they can be competitive against all teams in patches. Their younger brigade are the driving force with Tristen Waack, Nathan Noblett and Brandon McAuliffe leading the way. They sit only one game back from Sale after 8 weeks. The Magpies have been improving after their disappointing losses to the South Gippsland sides early and missed a chance against Traralgon last week to solidify themselves in the top 3 with a final quarter fade out. They should be favorites and all signs point to a win at home, but with Morwell there is always a lingering feeling that they could knock off a top team. The Leslie brothers have been huge so far with Will looking a lock in the team of the year defence while Jack has been arguably the best ruck in the competition when in that role. Sale to win this one but the margin may not reflect a top side taking on 7th on the ladder. In the netball it looks to be another tough ask for the Magpies. It hasn’t been a kind run for them in the past few weeks and they meet the undefeated Tigers to round out the first half of the year. Shannon Freeman is a run away leader of the MVP and is having a major impact in her first year in red and black. Morwell to win and go nine and zero into the bye.
To round out the first matchday it is Maffra hosting the Maroons. It should be a cracking senior match with the third placed Traralgon team taking on sixth placed Maffra with only four points separating the sides. Another game with huge implications on the ladder come seasons end. A win for the Eagles will have them in genuine finals contention. They look to be a clear best team in the chasing pack and have a core of premiership players still performing. The Maroons claimed a crucial win over Sale with their star man Brett Eddy bagging 7 goals and the 3 MVP votes in the win. Traralgon’s best team can compete for the flag but with their Reserves languishing at the bottom of the table it shows that they cannot afford injuries through the middle part of the year. Flip a coin while all results on the table. It’s sixth v eighth in A Grade however the Maroons look a clear favorite. The new Maffra courts were officially opened during the week and the facility gets the first official workout as the Eagles chase their third win of the year. Alex Stephenson has been a welcome inclusion in Maffra’s defence and they have been competitive in recent games. The Maroons need to put in a strong performance as it could see them back in the five at the turning point of the year.
Week two sees the Queens Birthday clash at Bairnsdale between the Red Legs and Warragul. This match has been long time schedule event and helps the fight to raise funds for MND. On the field the Red Legs have a huge opportunity to move themselves off the bottom of the ladder. Warragul have just the one win so far over Traralgon and their draw against Wonthaggi has them on six points. They have shown they can match it with some of the top teams but have been disappointing in games against their fellow bottom five opponents. Jed Lamb has played a lone hand up forward and bagged another 6 goals last week. They need more from their squad across the board. Coach Alger will be drilling into his side the importance of putting on a solid performance on the road here. Bairnsdale have shown glimpses going forward which will have them confident they can kick a winning score. It will come down to how they defend and if they can lock down Lamb it will go a long way to winning this match. In the A Grade match the Red Legs will be looking for their first win of the year and will have arguably their best chance since the early rounds. Warragul have been a good side when they have their full team together but there will be questions of availability on the long weekend for their longest road trip of the season. The Gulls should win and stay in touch with the five but the young Red Legs may just pull a surprise if they can be close late in the game.