By David Nagel
Block-buster after beautiful block-buster.
That’s the titillating forecast for the next five weeks of the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) with Tooradin-Dalmore and Inverloch-Kongwak beginning the smorgasbord at the Tooradin Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The next five weeks will give us our best indication yet on the overall landscape of the league with games between Nar Nar Goon and Phillip Island (R8), Tooradin and Phillip Island (R9), Nar Nar Goon and Tooradin (R10) and Inverloch and Nar Nar Goon (R11) set to keep us intrigued as we head towards this year’s finals series.
And these games are all so important, with a top-two position and a guaranteed double-chance all resting on the shoot-outs between the big-guns.
This week, the undefeated Seagulls welcome a high-quality and well-organised Sea Eagles outfit to the banks of Westernport Bay.
Tooradin could hardly have been more impressive this year, winning six on the bounce with a minimum-winning margin of 51 points.
That round-four game against Cora Lynn (97-46) was the only time the Gulls haven’t smashed through the 100-point barrier this season.
The Gulls have had seven players kick four or more goals in a game, with Blake Grewar, Brad Butler, Stewie Scanlon, Kris Sabbatucci, Jimmy Trezise, Julian Suarez and Adrian Gileno all having days out over the first six games of the season.
The Sea Eagles have four, with the classy left foot of Toby Mahoney being complemented by the exploits of Tristan Van Driel, Oscar Toussaint and Will Turner.
This is the first real test for the Seagulls, who face the Sea Eagles, Bunyip, Phillip Island and Nar Nar Goon over the next month of footy.
Tooradin coach Lachie Gillespie is confident the Gulls’ brand of footy will stack up.
“We’ve obviously done well to retain our list, and just having the group together for that extra amount of time has allowed us to work on things a bit more,” Gillepsie said.
“We’ve worked quite hard on our defence, and I’m not talking about our back six, but our team defence.
“We probably got a bit leaky at times last year, maybe a concentration and structure thing, where we did get scored against at times…in chunks.
“But we’ve identified that and put things in place to remedy that.
“Hopefully, under pressure, that works, and we can also tidy up our efficiency heading inside 50.
“They sound simple, but team defence and efficiency going forward are probably the two main things that we’ve looked to improve on.”
The Seagulls have brought in some real quality over the last two seasons, with Adam Oxley and Brent Macaffer having vast AFL experience, and the classy Blake Grewar bringing VFL quality to the list.
Gillespie insists their combined quality and experience are important – but rates their ability to fit in as the vital ingredient moving forward.
“They’re really important, playing at a higher level they understand what you need to do and what you need to sacrifice to have success, so that’s nice,” he said.
“But they definitely don’t overstep the mark, they’re very much just one of the boys and the other boys just watch and learn from their leadership.
“Some of our younger guys also drive standards, like this is how we do it at Tooradin, and it almost meets in the middle.
“Having the experience is fantastic, but they’ve also joined forces with the younger guys and that’s pretty exciting for us moving forward.”
After a dominant start to the season, the Seagulls are looking forward to a challenging next month of football.
“It’s really exciting to be honest, because you don’t know how things are going to pan out,” Gillespie said.
“We feel like we’ve overcome some good opposition, but taking on your Inverloch’s, your Phillip Island’s and Nar Nar Goon – who are looking strong – and Bunyip, who are thereabouts…that’s our next four weeks, so that’s exciting.
“And more importantly the boys are up for the challenge, playing the best is what we play for.”
Tooradin has certainly been impressive this season and many believe that Gillespie and his team are the front-runners to take on the brute force and belief of Phillip Island.
But the Seagulls coach believes the competition has depth of quality at the pointy end of the table.
“I see very well coached and very well organised football teams,’ Gillepsie said of his fellow premiership contenders.
“Phillip Island is so strong, and you could see that in the last quarter against Inverloch, and they understand how to win and have absolute faith in what they do.
“Then you’ve got Inverloch who have been consistently good for many years, and have a great coach (Ben Soumilas), and Nar Nar Goon is the same, very well structured and (Luke) Youngy has done a great job with them.
“All those top teams probably play slightly differently due to personnel…but are all very well structured.”
This one should be a beauty…but expect the Seagulls to claim their biggest scalp of the season with a 23-point victory.
Another intriguing clash this week sees a rapidly improving Warragul Industrials welcome a red-hot and undefeated Nar Nar Goon to Western Park.
The Dusties have already proved themselves to be a top-half-of-the-ladder team…but most would agree that the Goon sit marginally above them in the pecking order.
The Dusties have rolled Bunyip, earning that fifth ranking, with the next step to knock off a major contender.
On their home deck, in-form and firing, this is the perfect day for the Dusties to make a statement.
Dusties’ stalwart Shane Brewster has been through the highs and lows and with players like Luke Walker, Bailey Beck, Kyle Beveridge and Anthony Bruhn by his side must be confident that a competitive finals campaign is just around the corner.
Brewster is still a major asset for the Dusties, and will need to be at his very best against a classy opponent this Saturday.
The Dusties rolled the Goon, at Spencer Street last year…and Luke Young and his team will remember that game well.
The Goon just weren’t mentally prepared, but appears a more settled and mature line up this time around.
Dermott Yawney has added fire-power up forward while skipper Brendan Hermann and gun-mid Trent Armour can match it with any players in the league.
This one is so hard to tip…but we’ll go for the Goon by seven points.
Cora Lynn will look to continue its upward spiral when the Cobras head to Kilcunda-Bass on Saturday.
These two sit side-by-side on the ladder – in eighth and ninth position – so this is a must win for both clubs.
The Cobras, after a zero-five beginning to their campaign, appear to be back on track but will take nothing for granted against the home side on the weekend.
“I know it’s clichéd but we can’t do anything but take it one week at a time,” said Cobras’ coach Shaun Sparks.
“Obviously health is going to be a major factor, but we need to get to work, because the reality is we are one and five.
“We’ve got a lot of ground to make up but we’re a confident bunch…especially when we get our tails up.”
Nathan Foote, dale Gawley and Marcus Baxter would appear the main stumbling blocks for the Cobras, with all three having consistent seasons for the Panthers.
But with Nathan Gardiner back in form, and Lachie Peluso, Tim Payne and Robbie Hill patrolling the back half, the Cobras will pack too many guns.
They’ll make it back-to-back wins with a 24-point victory.
Expect endeavour to be a commodity found in abundance when Kooweerup welcomes Garfield to Denhams Road.
The Demons have already won two games this season and Rhys Nisbet will have them fired up for the next fortnight of footy…with the Stars and Korumburra-Bena both more than winnable assignments.
Expect Nathan Voss and Jason Wells to prove too hot to handle and to lead the Demons to a 32-point victory.
In other games, Phillip Island will remain undefeated with a triple-figure margin over a low-scoring Dalyston, while Bunyip will bounce back to form with a 12-goal victory over Korumburra-Bena.