RETURNING to home and away matches after a break for the WorkSafe Country Championships provided Clunes with its first opportunity to sing their song after a senior win this season.
Facing up against fellow winless opponent Daylesford added incentive for both sides to get their initial four points on the ladder. It was the home club which proved to be too strong but not by much, ending up a single goal better after four quarters. Interestingly it proved to be a day for the veterans to enjoy their opportunity to shine again. Glenn Handley and Jason Hill were two of the better players for Clunes along with proven performer Michael McKenzie. McKenzie has played many strong matches when he was at Buninyong is one who the Magpies will be looking to hoping that he will lead the next batch of youngsters forward to be strong contributors each week.
Whilst for Daylesford it was veteran Andrew Button who tried hard to get the Bulldogs over the line.
Along with Rob Rodgers, Button is working each week to teach the youngest club in the competition how to compete week in week out, setting up for their next golden period.
The win enables Clunes to move forward slightly on the ladder and they now sit equal with Carngham Linton and Skipton on one win each.
Carngham Linton had no answers for the challenge placed on them by Buninyong. Probably the most interesting aspect of this match was the continuing return to form of the Bombers full forward Glenn Phelps. He finished the day with ten goals, and his brother Mark also had a great day with five goals. As the year has progressed Glenn Phelps is showing good signs that he is becoming fitter and will become a significant headache to many backmen across the league. The other key to Buninyong’s success who is returning to top form is Sam Turner. He has probably been the best inside midfielder in the league for the past three seasons when he returned from serious injury and after an interrupted start to this season he is again doing a great job at stopping opposition from running the ball into their forward line easily. With the big percentage boost which Buninyong received this week they have moved into sixth ahead of Springbank.
The Tigers themselves had a good win over a persistent Ballan. Springbank had only four more scoring shots than the Blues but the end result was a comfortable 29 point win.
It was probably seen as being a danger game for Springbank with so many of their team coming off the interleague fixture compared to Ballan who had no players available to participate. However it was still the key drivers for the Tigers Paul McMahon, Joel Maher and Michael Searl who lead Springbank to victory. Ballan will be starting to wonder if they are going to be moving into the same cycle as they faced last year where they were able to overcome almost all sides outside the top eight but not be able to get the crucial win over teams above them on the ladder. They currently sit on the edge of the eight, just percentage ahead of Dunnstown. Dunnstown were able to make the most of the opportunity to build percentage over Smythesdale, who had a slightly better day than last round when Gordon feasted on the Bulldogs. Aaron Sawers, Sam Jenkins and Mark Stewart are doing well over the past few weeks gradually building a stronger unit around them after a couple of lean years for the Towners, however they have a big task facing them next round against Gordon.
Learmonth will be satisfied with improved form even though they went down to Gordon by six goals. Early in the season they were not competitive against a couple of the higher placed teams but they lead fourth placed Gordon at three quarter time. It was only the overall class of the Eagles with a six goal last quarter which enabled them to get away with a win. Corey Grills will be working hard on his Gordon team to ensure that they learn from this scare and do not take any opponent easy. This will particularly be the case when they face Dunnstown next round.
Match of the round was the undefeated Waubra having to face the challenge of Hepburn but the Kangaroos proved up to the task and held sway by 17 points, even though they trailed by four points after three quarters. Nickolas Aringo returning after a two match suspension had a strong day for Waubra, along fellow midfielders Tom Nijam and Alex McPherson. However it was the ability of Waubra across the ground to keep the influence of normal key players for the Burra’s Ricky Ferraro, Andy McKay and Dan O’Halloran down on what has occurred up until this stage which was crucial for success. Waubra are prepared to score few goals themselves as long as they are able to keep their opponents contained and so far this season this has occurred each week.
Creswick will be frustrated that they missed an opportunity to add to their percentage against Skipton, scoring just the one goal in the final quarter. For the clubs on the edge of the top eight percentage could prove to be vital by the end of the year and every match needs to be approached with this in mind, Creswick may have missed a chance to build theirs. Skipton on the other hand proved competitive across the ground but not able to score. Saturday would have been one of the games which they would have hoped to be able to cause an upset in but it wasn’t to be.
Bungaree and Beaufort continued their unconquered form sitting along with Waubra as undefeated, even though the Crows and Kangaroos drew a few weeks back. As a result Bungaree remain on top of the ladder, two points clear. Their strength continues to be the breadth of contributors across the ground. As ground conditions start to be become heavier over the next few weeks it will also be the physical strength of the Demons which will prove crucial. Jackson Murphy, Tom Wilson, Ricky Cummins and Chris O’Keefe will have key roles and all are in good form. All will enjoy the opportunity to freshen up this week with a bye for the Queen’s Birthday weekend before a long haul to sort out the strongest over the last ten weeks of the home and away season.