By Nick Creely
Here we go again..another Covid-19 lockdown and therefore the pause of what has been a fascinating local footy season in the AFL Outer East.
But with no footy over the weekend, it’s time to have a look at how each club is shaping up in the Premier Division…
Ladder position: 1st – 8 wins, 0 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Brandon White, Jake Bowd, Nick Battle, Tylah Stokoe, Jafar Ocaa
What’s working: Almost everything at the moment. Mick Fogarty’s group are the top attacking and defensive unit in the league, and across each line have experience, some youth and class to help them along. Three of the eight wins have come against Cranbourne and Narre Warren, suggesting they’re the real deal. The Eagles are playing some attacking, fierce football at the minute, with Brandon White dominating his first year back and boom recruit Nick Battle seemingly unstoppable.
What hasn’t worked: Not a lot needs to be tweaked, but the challenge ahead of finals – and in finals itself – is the hunger and whether opposition clubs have enough time to make up ground. Fogarty has been vocal in saying that the Eagles haven’t quite achieved anything yet, so the pressure stakes are certainly higher than they were at the start of the year.
Fixture: Round 14 vs Olinda Ferny Creek, Round 15 vs Wandin, Round 16 v Pakenham, Round 17 v Woori Yallock, Round 18 v Upwey Tecoma
Ladder position: 2nd – 5 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Jarryd Barker, Jordan Bertrand, Brandon Osborne, Marc Holt, Dillan Bass
What’s working: The Cranbourne forward line is one exciting machine, based around the power of Marc Holt but scattered with plenty of able goal kickers capable of having a big impact. Defensively – led by skipper Brandon Osborne – the Eagles have conceded under 50 points five times which is an impressive result. They look every bit a bona fide premiership contender when their game is up and running.
What hasn’t worked: The Eagles have been in strong positions in both games against Beaconsfield, so know that they’re good enough to match it with the ladder leaders. But in both contests, a brief lapse has been the catalyst, but ahead of finals finding more consistency in their game will be the key. While there have been patches where the Eagles haven’t been at their best, the win-loss column is well and truly in their favour.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Upwey Tecoma, Round 14 vs Wandin, Round 15 vs Doveton, Round 16 vs Olinda Ferny Creek, Round 17 vs Pakenham, Round 18 vs Narre Warren.
Ladder position: 3rd – 6 wins, 3 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Trent Cody, Tom Miller, Jesse Davies, Jake Richardson, Brad Scalzo
What’s working: Despite the 2019 premiership defense not going perfectly, the Magpies remain in a good position as they slowly but surely get some key players back. The Maggies have rarely had a first-choice team available, but have still banked six wins. The seasons of Trent Cody and Tom Miller in particular have gone a long way to helping the Magpies remain a massive threat, with speedster Miller going to a whole new level in 2021.
What hasn’t worked: In recent losses against Cranbourne and Beaconsfield, the Magpies almost pinched wins but found themselves too far behind at the final break on both occasions, so putting together more rounded four quarter performances against contenders is the key. Getting some key players back – such as Mat Suckling, Tom Toner and Nathan Foote – should help their cause, but the disruptions to the season don’t help get that continuity.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Olinda Ferny Creek, Round 14 vs Woori Yallock, Round 16 vs Wandin, Round 17 vs Upwey Tecoma, Round 18 vs Cranbourne
Ladder position: 4th – 4 wins, 3 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Jake Barclay, Jordan Stewart, Liam Tyrrell, Zac Stewart, James Harrison
What’s working: Many (including the Gazette) tipped the Lions to be perennial strugglers this season after being promoted from Division 1, but it’s in reality, been quite the opposite. The Lions have been full of ticker once again under Ash Green, and keep pushing the best sides in the competition. They are one of those sides you just don’t want to face in a cut-throat final because they’re so even across the board and have such goal-kicking depth to rely on each week.
What hasn’t worked: The Lions have always been defensively minded but against the top sides are still learning how to kick a winning score – or over 100 points. This can be put down to the fact it is a young side without a recognised goal kicker, but it’s something that Green is mindful of ahead of finals. The Lions are systems-based, but have an attacking flair that needs to be seen more of. The loss against Woori Yallock has hurt the club’s chances of realistically placing higher than fourth, with a tough run home.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Wandin, Round 14 vs Doveton, Round 15 vs Olinda Ferny Creek, Round 16 vs Beaconsfield, Round 17 vs Cranbourne, Round 18 vs Woori Yallock
OLINDA FERNY CREEK
Ladder position: 5th – 4 wins, 3 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Kelsey Currie, Matthew Scharenberg, Nick Keegan, Matthew Rosier, Lachlan Taylor
What’s working: The Bloods are rapidly improving each and every week, and despite a few disappointing losses, have looked every bit a finals side with its hard-nosed approach to the contest and an increase in their scoring capabilities. The first season of ex-Pie Matt Scharenberg has lived up to its billing, he’s been a class above, finding plenty of footy and instantly made this Bloods side an even trickier prospect.
What hasn’t worked: With a tough run home, the Bloods had to beat Upwey Tecoma just prior to the lockdown to have a realistic chance of clawing further up the table, and despite facing some seriously tricky opposition in the run home, it will be something relished by the club. If they can bank a few big wins it will give them supreme confidence that they can do damage in finals.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Narre Warren, Round 14 vs Beaconsfield, Round 15 vs Pakenham, Round 16 vs Cranbourne, Round 17 vs Doveton, Round 18 vs Wandin
Ladder position: 6th – 4 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Kane Thompson, Zach Monkhorst, Ryley Monkhorst, Liam O’Dea, Josh Neal
What’s working: The Tigers have built into some pretty strong form – akin to 2019 – in the last month, with just the one loss, a draw, and two wins giving them plenty of breathing room inside the top six. The likes of Zach Monkhorst, Ryley Monkhorst and Liam O’Dea have in particular really lifted over this time. At their best, the Tigers are certainly not a sixth-placed side, and just by qualifying for finals they won’t be an easy proposition.
What hasn’t worked: The slow start. The Tigers started the season with a 2-3 record, which immediately meant they needed to play a bit of catch-up footy, and during that period averaged 85 points against. Since that time, Jack Cole’s group has tightened up defensively and conceded on average just 49 points so things are trending in the right direction. But even one unexpected loss in the run home could leave them vulnerable.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Doveton, Round 14 vs Narre Warren, Round 15 vs Upwey Tecoma, Round 17 vs Beaconsfield, Round 18 vs Pakenham
Ladder position: 7th – 2 wins, 6 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Bailey Oates, Glenn Costas, Ben Hinton, Haydn Stanley, Keenan Hinton
What’s working: The Tigers have steadily improved as the year has progressed under new playing coach Stuart Hill, and played some pretty competitive footy against some terrific sides in Beaconsfield and Narre Warren before running out of steam. Wins against Wandin and Olinda Ferny Creek indicate the Tigers are on the right track, and could make for a tricky prospect in the run home.
What hasn’t worked: While the Tigers are a work in progress and weren’t expected to be right up in the thick of the premiership race this season, scoring has been an issue with an average of just 41.5 points a game, and a best of 83 against Wandin. Defensively the Tigers haven’t been disgraced, but generating more scoring pressure is what needs to improve at the back-end of the season.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Cranbourne, Round 15 vs Woori Yallock, Round 16 vs Doveton, Round 17 vs Narre Warren, Round 18 vs Beaconsfield
Ladder position: 8th – 1 win, 7 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Patrick Bruzzese, John Ladner, Thomas Hinds, Patrick Hodgett, Connor Smith
What’s working: Despite sitting in the lower portion of the ladder, the Dogs have been able to generate some scoreboard pressure on occasion, as showcased by scores of 91, 81 and 84 in an impressive three game block. There is every indication that Nick Adam’s group is improving and can quickly get back into final calculations in the near future. Pat Bruzzese is putting together another ace campaign, and will be high on the radar for Team of the Year calculations.
What hasn’t worked: The Dogs have really struggled to keep the chain on opposition forward lines, with way too many scores well above 100 holding them back from staying competitive in a lot of matches. This may come down to the need for more improvement through the midfield with the defensive unit battling hard with a barrage of inside 50s, so the focus for the rest of the season needs a stern focus on improving that area.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Pakenham, Round 14 vs Cranbourne, Round 15 vs Beaconsfield, Round 16 vs Narre Warren, Round 18 vs Olinda Ferny Creek.
Ladder position: 9th – 1 win, 7 losses
Potential Best and Fairest candidates: Luke Daidone, Sam Muirhead, Mark Seedsman, Daniel Zajac, Jake Mullen
What’s working: A first-round win against Wandin may be the only time the Doves have sung the song this season, but it was an indicator of what Daniel Charles’ side can do at their best. It’s been tough going since then, but signs over the last few weeks have suggested that there is some steady improvement for a young team that has not been helped by a long-list of departures.
What hasn’t worked: It hasn’t been a season that’s gone to plan for the reigning Division 1 premiers. Some big name departures and the combination of youth being injected in the side were always destined to yield some pain, so the task is to try and be as competitive as possible for the remainder of the season, and hopefully stay up in the Premier Division in 2022. A clash against Upwey Tecoma at home in the second-last round could decide their fate.
Fixture: Round 13 vs Woori Yallock, Round 14 vs Pakenham, Round 15 vs Cranbourne, Round 16 vs Upwey Tecoma, Round 17 vs Olinda Ferny Creek
**The Gazette will have a look at the Division 1 competition next week