The Yarrawonga Pigeons have achieved an historic club first Back to Back Senior Premiership with a comprehensive 36 point victory over the Albury Tigers.By Stephen Hicks
Opposed to each other for the fifth consecutive Grand Final, the Pigeons entered the game as slightfavourites; and Best on Ground Co Coach Drew Barnes ensured the Pigeonssavoureda sweet back to back Premiership success and rewrote another page in the YFNC history.
In a game with many individual stories, the team success was the most important component for Co Coach Chris Kennedy.
The Pigeons won the toss and kicked to the Lavington Sports Club end of the ground.
The key match ups saw Brendan Fevola opposed to Michael Thompson whilst at the other end Jarrod Thompson was opposed to Andrew Carey. The Pigeons won the first centre clearance and Drew Barnes ignited the contest and the Pigeons with the first goal of the game inside two minutes of the siren.
Albury went forward but could only score a behind; before Kayne Pettifer ducked and weaved in heavy congestion and threaded a classy goal.
Nick Lawless was playing the game of his life and was marking under pressure in defence and attack, while Marcus McMillan charged through opposition players to drive the football forward. A turnover and cheap free kick saw Albury on the board after ten minutes.
Although the Pigeons were winning contests through Tyler Bonat, Marcus Cummins and Lawless, the Tigers scored their second goal to level scores at the fourteen minute mark of the quarter.
However Drew Barnes ensured the Pigeons again took the lead when they won a centre clearance and Barnes charged out of the centre square and kicked a 55 metre running goal.
Steve McKee was influential in the ruck and around the ground was shepherding and bullocking to allow the Pigeons runners to get free.
The Pigeons scored two behinds before Albury kicked a goal to reduce the Pigeons lead to two points.
While the Pigeons were controlling the contest the Tigers received another free kick in the goal square and goaled to take the lead. And another goal again extended the Tigers lead.
Brad O’Connor was working hard up the ground and Lawless was superb in his defensive work to see the Pigeons trail by 9 points at the first break.
1st Quarter = YARRAWONGA 3-4=22 to Albury 5-1=31
The second term saw Steve McKee, Tim Cooper and Tyler Bonat take ownership of the centre square with clearances and increased work rate.
Albury however kicked another goal from an infringement to extend their lead to 16 points. Enter Brendan Fevola who kicked his first goal of the game. Albury answered, and dropped an extra player behind the ball.
The Pigeons were making errors with kicking into the man on the mark and turnovers. However Drew Barnes stood tall and forced defence into attack on multiple occasions.
Jarrod Thompson was running off Andrew Carey with ease and his defensive run saw him stream forward and receive a handball which allowed him to kick a long goal to reduce the Tiger lead to 7 points.
Matt Dwyer was saving the Pigeons time and time again and the margin at the main break was seven points.
2nd Quarter = YARRAWONGA 5-8=38 to Albury 7-3=45
The Pigeons made sure the Premiership quarter belonged to them with Drew Barnes igniting the charge with another classy goal inside the first minute of the term.
The Pigeons linking was highlighted when Xavier Leslie, Jeremy O’Brien, Tim Cooper, Drew Barnes and finally Brendan Fevola worked the ball from half back to the forward fifty.
Fevola turned on his tricks when he marked and snapped the Pigeons to a 5 point lead. But the Tigers responded.
Marcus Cummins and Luke Hammond were superb in their passion for the contest and their classy possessions.
Thompson again was carrying the football and driving the Pigeons into attack and Fevola showed his spectacular skills when he kicked a drop punt on the run from 55 metres out on the grandstand boundary to again push the Pigeons to a five point lead.
Nick Lawless took a great defensive mark against three opponents deep in defence; the play led to Hammond, Leslie, Cooper and O’Connor to move the ball forward with O’Connor kicking a goal.
The Tigers were losing the contest and resorted to being heavy handed. Both Fevola and Pettifer were left bloodied after being under a pack of mauling Tigers.
However Pettifer had the last laugh and kicked a goal to see the Pigeons lead by 15 points at the final change.
3rd Quarter = YARRAWONGA 10-9=69 to Albury 8-6=54
The final term belonged to the Pigeons with Albury being held scoreless for the term.
The Pigeons kicked goals through Tyler Bonat, Brendan Fevola his fourth and Pettifer his third to see the Pigeons home by 36 points and for the first time in the YFNC history Back to Back Premiers and the Club’s fifth Premiership in the Ovens and Murray adding 2013 to 2012, 2006, 1989 and 1959.
For the Pigeons Drew Barnes was named the Did Simpson and VCFL Medalist for Best on Ground.
The Premiership was Barnes sixth from 10 Grand Finals. He played in four for Nathalia in the Murray League and now two for Yarrawonga.
Barnes also was awarded Best on Ground in a Grand Final for Nathalia.
Luke Hammond played in his fourth consecutive Premiership after playing in three for Golden Square in the Bendigo Football League. Hammond missed the Pigeons 2006 Premiership after being injured in the Second Semi Final.
While Craig Ednie, Marcus McMillan, Xavier Leslie and Tyler Bonat became 3 time YFNC Senior Premiership players adding 2013 to 2012 and 2006.
Steve McKee claimed his first Ovens and Murray Senior Premiership after suffering losses for Myrtleford and Yarrawonga. McKee played for Myrtleford when they lost to the Pigeons in 2006.
The following players played in the Back to Back Premierships at senior level: Matt Dwyer, Richard Handreck, Nic Lawless, Drew Barnes, Brendan Fevola, Craig Whinray, Jeremy O’Brien, Tim Cooper, Brad O’Connor, Craig Ednie, Marcus McMillan, Tyler Bonat and Xavier Leslie. First time Senior Premiership Players for the YFNC were: Corey Greer, Matt Gorman, Kayne Pettifer, Jarrod Thompson, Luke Hammond, Luke Ednie, Marcus Cummins and Steve McKee.
Goal Kickers:Brendan Fevola 4, Drew Barnes 3, Kayne Pettifer 3, Brad O’connor 1, Tyler Bonat 1, Jarrod Thompson 1.
Best Players:Drew Barnes, Nic Lawless, Jarrod Thompson, Luke Hammond, Steve Mckee, Xavier Leslie, Kayne Pettifer, Tyler Bonat, Tim Cooper, Matt Dwyer.
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