Beaufort upset top team Bungaree who suffered its second defeat for the season on Saturday at Beaufort going down to the home side by 31 points and in the process the top eight has become a log jam where any one of the eight could potentially finish in the top two positions.
The Demons were only able to kick five goals for the whole game a far cry from how most of their matches have gone in the past two seasons.
Beaufort’s leaders clearly stepped up for the day with Alex Petrie, Zac Marrow, Michael Foster and Joe Mason all had a significant influence on the outcome. Dale Power would have been particularly happy with the spread of eight different goal scorers for Beaufort. If they can keep this spread of scorers they will stretch all other contenders. Beaufort must be considered a real contender for the premiership having now defeated Bungaree, Springbank and drew with Waubra during the course of the year so far. The task gets no easier for them this coming week though as they must now tackle sixth placed Ballan. The Crows sit half a game behind Ballan.
Ballan have very smoothly moved up into sixth spot equal with Gordon on eleven wins over recent weeks. Last week they were able to comfortably defeat Dunnstown by 42 points. Coach Mark Williams is clearly having his best season since joining the Blues in 2013. He is providing a dangerous option up forward which he has always done even as a premiership player for Hawthorn but this year he is also fit enough to move higher up the ground and stretch opponents with his speed.
A clear benefit for Williams is the overall improvement across the ground of the rest of the Ballan outfit both through recruiting and local players developing. Opposition coaches cannot afford to double team Williams because the Blues have enough other options to create havoc and set up a win.
Some enthralling clashes shape in this crucial match between two contenders. Daniel Nielsen as the key tall back man for Ballan will need to contain either of the experienced Crows Jarrod Trigg or Michael Foster and Jake Garvey is likely to have the task on Mark Williams at the other end of the ground. Ballan has a very tough finish to the season against Beaufort, Buninyong and Hepburn, so a win to start this cycle will be a great step forward for them. Bungaree will need to lick their wounds and bounce back quickly when they need to face Buninyong, possibly the club travelling the best across the whole league. Creswick might have been still harboured hopes of sneaking a finals spot until the Bombers held them goal less on Saturday in heavy conditions at Buninyong. Buninyong and Bungaree each sit on twelve wins along with Springbank so the winner will retain its position in the top two.
The powerful Buninyong mid field were well suited to the tough conditions against Creswick, Ned Gilbert, Jarrod Morgan, Sam Turner and the always improving Josh Renga totally dominated the flow of the game.
Turner is not usually known as a dangerous goal kicker, usually setting up the forwards through his work up the ground but on Saturday he enjoyed time closer to goal and ended with five majors. Over the past two seasons whenever a strong challenger has come at Bungaree they have been able to find another gear and find a way to win. This week though might be their biggest challenge so far and Buninyong will start favourite on recent form. Hepburn has lost the past two games, to Buninyong and Gordon, and has dropped back to eighth spot, two games behind the ladder leaders but with the best percentage of all teams.
They should bounce back onto the winners list this week when they travel to Creswick. The Burras were able to welcome back their key midfielder Andy McKay last week and whilst he scored three goals he didn’t have his normal impact further up the ground, but as long as he stays fit he should be back nearing his best by the time finals come around.
Hepburn have been hampered over recent weeks by injuries to both McKay and primary forward Lee Cox. Against Gordon even though both coming back from injury they were responsible for six of ten goals.
They along with the rest of the team should be able to find it easier against Creswick who will find it difficult to stay on top of the ground after their mauling by Buninyong and enable them to move past the loser of the Ballan Beaufort clash.
Clunes and Dunnstown is a match which will be eagerly approached by both clubs as they attempt to take hold of the higher spot on the ladder. Clunes sits a game clear but behind the Towners on percentage, but the Magpies have the better recent form. Dunnstown have been winless for a number of weeks and after a really good spell from rounds three through to ten they have lost momentum. Both clubs have the potential to be the winner and it will be a game which will be close throughout.
Daylesford is another club which is continuing to show that they are improving as the season progresses. At the start of the year Carngham Linton looked to be a more accomplished side than Daylesford but that would appear to have turned around after the Bulldogs defeated them by nine goals at Snake Valley on Saturday. Whilst it was veterans Robbie Rodgers and Michael Cummings who kicked eight goals between them there was another ten who also kicked at least one goal during the match.
Many watching the league are being impressed by the work of Daylesford coach Joel Adams and his senior players who they are starting to bring together a team which should be the backbone for another period of success for the club. As has always been the case in football across the land periods of success are built upon wise development of a group over number of seasons. Their clash with Rokewood Corindhap this week should be another close match which will highlight which club is developing the best as the season draws to a close for each of them.
Springbank, Gordon and Waubra all are expected to be too good for Carngham Linton, Newlyn and Skipton. Smythesdale made good use of the wind to lead Clunes at quarter time last week but they will not be expected to seriously challenge Learmonth who is playing closer to last year’s finals form.