WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
PREVIEW – ROUND 5
By Russell Bennett
Much of the attention tomorrow turns straight to Denhams Road for Kooweerup’s clash with the under-siege Bunyip.
The two sides entered the first season of the new WGFNC as two of the strongest line-ups on paper, but both have had their issues so far.
Bunyip’s concerns are the more severe, but the Demons’ starts to each of their four games so far have done them no favours either.
Ben Collins’ men have trailed at quarter-time every week since Round 1 – including in defeats to Phillip Island, and Cora Lynn on Sunday.
They’ve performed particularly strongly for large parts of games and were outstanding in a pair of stirring fourth-quarter fightbacks – against Kilcunda Bass and Nar Nar Goon – but they didn’t have to be in that position in the first place.
They’ve got the talent to put most sides away, but it’s almost like they wait for the challenge to come before putting the foot down.
On Saturday they could get the chance to go for the jugular early against Bunyip, and if the opportunity presents itself the Demons have to take it. This season is so unbelievably tight from the top to the bottom of the competition that just a few percentage points could easily decide who makes the finals and who misses out.
But beware the wounded Bull, or – in this case – Bulldog.
The boys from the Kennel have been smashed from pillar to post in most corners lately for their 0-4 start but the quality in their list remains (particularly taking into account the new arrivals of Joel Gibson and Jason Fisher). They could still get their act together this weekend and revive their season, but they have to do it now.
They jumped Dalyston early on Saturday before fading badly in a 51-point loss, but if the Dogs get off to another positive start against the Demons – a typically slow starter – it could provide all the encouragement they need to push on with it and finally kick-start their 2017 campaign.
The danger, though, is if the Demons – smarting off their loss to the Cobras on Sunday – come out firing from the outset. They’ve got the firepower to make mincemeat out of sides down on confidence and form, and they could be boosted for the weekend’s clash by the inclusion of Justin McCleary. A three-time premiership-winning centre-half back with Cora Lynn, he signed at Sorrento this season and made a superb start before player points pressure hit the Sharks with a bang. He has since been cleared to Kooweerup and will be reunited with the likes of Anthony Giuliano and Nathan Muratore.
Garfield, meanwhile, was super impressive in its clash against Kilcunda Bass on Saturday – rebounding from a brutal loss to Cora Lynn the week before. The young Stars could have gone into their shells, but instead they pushed the Panthers to the brink in a stirring late fightback.
They’ll need to capitalise on that momentum this week against Phillip Island at Cowes. The home side is particularly strong over the ball and hard at the contest, and on the smallest playing surface in the competition, they’ll look to apply relentless pressure right from the outset this week.
If the Stars are to cause an upset they must find a way of curtailing the influence of gun Bulldogs ruckman Nick Higginson. Garfield isn’t blessed with a wealth of height, so coach Joel Morgan will have to throw a series of looks the way of Higginson and his stellar on-ball brigade including Jarrod Witnish, Leigh Warne, and Jaymie Youle.
Elsewhere in the round, the boys from Cora Lynn will look to celebrate skipper Tim Payne’s 200th senior game in style when they head to Korumburra to tackle the Giants.
A four-time senior premiership player since debuting in 2005, Payne was initially made to earn his stripes after a stint in the reserves. He has since gone on to captain the Cobras in three premierships (2014, 2015, and 2016) as well as represent the EDFL at interleague level as full-back in each of those years. Payne is the kind of leader his team mates would run through a brick wall for, and sets the standard for them to follow on game day.
No side in the competition this season can afford to become complacent, but against the struggling Giants the Cobras have a real opportunity to boost their percentage and strengthen their grasp on a high ladder position. Look for Rolls Royce performer Brady White to continue to ramp up his form after a delayed start to his campaign through injury.
Nar Nar Goon will still be fuming from their horror late fadeout against Inverloch when they head to Dalyston to take on the Magpies. Kris Fletcher’s men will have their work cut out for them in stopping the likes of Chris Graham and Brad Fisher up forward, ruckman Kurt Thomas, and impressive on-ballers Clay Tait and Michael Marotta, but they’ve got the talent across all lines to rebound from their clash with the Sea Eagles with a stirring win over the Magpies.
Finally, two of the competition’s best midfields will go head-to-head when Inverloch hosts Kilcunda Bass. Sea Eagles champion Andy Soumilas is under some doubt, however, due to a hamstring complaint.