Former AFL champion Jonathan Brown could be on his way to Deakin Reserve next year for an interleague blockbuster with Goulburn Valley.
Brown coached the Hampden league to victory in the AFL Victoria Community Championships, meaning a trip to Shepparton for a clash with Goulburn Valley looks likely after it lost a third straight representative match.
It was another heartbreaking loss for the purple and yellow on Saturday, going down to arch enemy Ovens and Murray at Wodonga’s John Flower Oval in a pulsating thriller by seven points.
The defeat means the Goulburn Valley has lost its past two games by a total of 11 points, after being edged out by metro league Essendon District at Windy Hill last year.
The battle for the Ash-Wilson Trophy lived up to the hype that started almost a year out, considering the rivals were playing each other for the first time in seven years.
Goulburn Valley more than had its chances, dominating inside 50s 62 to 49, but without a number of power forwards who were unavailable, failed to capitalise on slick ball movement through the middle.
There was barely anything in the contest all afternoon, with the home side’s biggest lead being only 17 points, which came early in the final term.
Ovens and Murray would have put the game to bed had it converted a shot that would have put it 22 points ahead, but Mansfield jet Brett Mahoney got on the end of a coast-to-coast goal to put Luke Morgan’s side right back in it.
Mahoney’s conversion, the Goulburn Valley’s first since midway through the third quarter, jolted the visitors into gear.
Shepparton ace Mitch Brett booted a long goal, before his Bears teammate Luke Smith played on from a free kick to incredibly put Goulburn Valley in front by a point at the 12-minute mark.
Goulburn Valley had all momentum, including being on the right side of some debatable umpiring decisions, and it appeared a first interleague win since 2014 was on its way.
But some heroics from Ovens and Murray’s Jono Spina and former AFL players Ben Speight and Mark Whiley ensured the home team would get up and regain the famous trophy named after league legends Stephen Ash and Mick Wilson.
Ovens and Murray big man Lachlan Howe iced the game with a set shot, backing up Speight’s steadier.
Rochester talent Steven Stroobants, who booted three goals after being under an injury cloud for the past two weeks, slotted a consolation major, but it came too late.
Wangaratta’s former Melbourne forward Michael Newton might not have been named in Ovens and Murray’s official best, but he was almost the difference.
He was doubtful to play all week, but showed no signs of injury to create a threatening presence up forward.
Tatura stopper Chris Ryan started out on Newton, with Rochester defender James Gledhill also going to him at times.
But his marking ability and pace allowed Ovens and Murray a big target to kick to, hitting the scoreboard more often when going forward.
Goulburn Valley’s midfield of Ash Holland, captain Jason Cole, Sam Martyn and Mahoney were winning the majority of clearances in the first half, but the ball was rebounding out of the forward 50 too easily.
What Morgan and his coaching staff would not have done to get Jarrod Bannister, Ruory Kirby or Kayne Pettifer in there.
There were shining lights for the Goulburn Valley, with Rochester’s Nathan Marrone putting in a terrific performance in his first senior interleague game.
He found plenty of the ball off half-back, used it well and attacked every contest as fierce as the last.
Marrone was duly recognised by receiving the AFL Victoria medal as the Goulburn Valley’s best player.
Seymour star Ben Clifton did some inspirational things, particularly in the third quarter when Goulburn Valley had come out from half-time a bit flat.
After playing off for the top spot in the country rankings against powerhouse Geelong in 2015, Goulburn Valley has slipped back to the nine versus 10 game.
Adding metro competitions into the mix last year has not helped the Goulburn Valley’s cause, but a fourth straight interleague defeat would be nothing short of a disaster for a league with such a proud record at representative football.
Goulburn Valley 3.3, 6.7, 7.10, 11.13 (79)
Ovens and Murray 3.3, 7.4, 10.8, 12.14 (86)
Oliver Caffrey’s best
Goulburn Valley: Nathan Marrone, Sam Martyn, Ben Clifton, Jason Cole, Ash Holland, Luke Morgan, Tom Bennett, Mitch Brett.
Ovens and Murray: Jono Spina, Ben Speight, Michael Newton, Mark Whiley, Matt Dussin, Jack Di Mizio, Michael Bordignon.
Goulburn Valley: Steven Stroobants 3, Brad Mangan 2, Luke Smith, Ben Clifton, Mitch Brett, Brett Mahoney, Jason Cole, Nick Warnock.
Ovens and Murray: Michael Newton 3, Ben Speight 2, Tom Johnson 2, Brad St John, Lauchlan Taylor-Nugent, Lachlan Howe, Joel Mackie, Elliott Powell.