A WEEK OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE CHASING PACK
The return to action this week in the Central Highlands FL shapes as a round where all the favourites, the clubs currently higher on the ladder should be the winner. This however will be looked at quite differently by those clubs who will see this Saturday as a great chance to step up to another level and cause an important upset and possibly get their season heading in another direction.
Skipton will host undefeated Bungaree and it is difficult to see how they will be able to find enough winners to overcome the overall strength of Bungaree. Matt Rea continues to be the primary contributor for the Emus and last round a return to form of Tyrone Ross was a welcome increase to the power of their midfield. However as a team they lack sufficient tall targets to put real pressure on Bungaree. As a result of this players such as Nich Weightman, Mitch Bruns and Chris O’Keefe are able to then run the ball out easily and their ability to find team mates and set up scores makes it difficult for all opponents. Bungaree should remain undefeated on top of the ladder.
With just the one draw detracting from Waubra’s perfect start to the season it is difficult to see how they will be able to be unseated by Creswick. At this stage Creswick are doing reasonably well sitting just outside the top eight and building some momentum however they have not been able to put the current top teams under enough pressure for long enough to wrest control of a game.
Based on recent efforts it is expected that Creswick will again be able to have periods where they will put the Kangaroos on the defensive but can they do it for long enough?
It is unlikely that they will be able to add this pressure for long enough. Liam and Caleb Hepworth will each have massive jobs to try to give the Wickers some ascendency in the tall man department particularly as this is an area where Waubra Central Highlands FL Preview is showing as being quite strong.
Mark Nunn and Tim Boyle when he is available are proving to be problems for opposition defences against Waubra. Whilst neither has torn a game apart at this stage with a couple of returns of two goals each it means that Creswick will still need to focus some of their key defenders against them.
Hepburn will be keen to bounce back from their last round defeat and unfortunately Carngham Linton with one of the youngest groups in the league are sure to suffer at the hands of the Burras. It will be the start of an important phase for Hepburn as they face an extended period without their premier midfielder Andy McKay.
To add to this will be the absence for a number of weeks of Jason Ferraro who was suspended for striking Skipton’s Adam Slater after the round six match. Dan O’Halloran had a superb start to the season and will need to take that lead again and he will be looking to Brad McKay and Brad Stringer to add support. The Dummett brothers Brandon and Chase have been able to provide some strength in contests but they are not able to overcome the weight of numbers which each of the opposition has had to this stage of the season. Tim Clark and Joshua Benfield also continue to be important players for the combine but they also need to have additional assistance to make some headway on the scoreboard. Smythesdale will be at home to the other league leader in Beaufort and it shapes as another difficult day for the Bulldogs.
Ryan Rattley has clearly been Smythesdale’s best to this stage of the season and he has been a good contributor each week but few others are able to join him consistently in the cause. A high point though has been the development of junior Jackson Cranny as he starts to find his feet at senior level. Building their juniors will need to be an important step across the rest of this season as the clubs attempts to move forward. Beaufort will not have any difficulty in getting their seventh win of the season. Rokewood Corindhap has shown good signs of improvement this year getting closer to causing an upset and consistently defeating or at least challenging the other clubs around the middle of the ladder but it is hard to see how they can do this to Buninyong this week. The Bombers have dropped a couple of matches and this means that they are not able to take any match easy as a further loss or two will put them at risk of missing finals action. The combine’s Caius Barrenger has been more closely marked in recent weeks slowing his goal scoring rate and it is not going to be any easier this week. Chris Wills will definitely be one of those who pick up the Rokewood Corindhap’s youngster and his size and speed should still enable him to be a keyboard to many Buninyong attacking moves.
Sam Turner and Jarrod Morgan are sure to be hard working through the middle of the ground and choke most of Rokewood Corindhap’s efforts to set up scoring opportunities. Dunnstown has shown as much improvement in recent weeks as any team in the competition with good wins over lower ranked opposition.
This week though they play the powerful Gordon outfit in a fixture which is always a highlight of the two clubs. Mark Stewart brings enormous experience into his role in the ruck and is developing a strong playing relationship with the very talented small brigade of Sam Jenkins, Aaron Sawers and Lachlan Poulter. The experience of Rhys and Jaye Cahir is enabling them to take on roles of shutting down key opponents. However it is hard to see that they will have enough players winning their position to be able to put real pressure on Gordon. Chris McGuigan, Tye Murphy and Steve Patterson are providing a great deal of strength and speed to the Eagles engine room. They should be able to set up enough scoring chances for Steve Nicholson, dynamic little man Mick Nolan and Hamish Watts to set up a winning score for Gordon. Based on current form Ballan will be too strong for Newlyn.
The Blues have recruited widely to set up the team this year and they have been too strong for all teams which sit below them but not been able to match it with those above them. So with Newlyn coming in to this week a game behind Ballan it would be expected to be a win for the visitors. However it should not be underestimated the incentive for the Cats this week because if they do win then they too will be on the edge of the top eight. Springbank and Learmonth should be too strong for Clunes and Daylesford respectively but the Lakers will need to become used to six weeks without their infield leader Brenton Powell who broke his hand last match.