The return from the bye weekend is a crucial round for a number of clubs in the Central Highlands FL senior grade. None more so than Bungaree and Waubra who are just one of a number of fascinating matches. Waubra will have the advantage of facing the second placed Bungaree at home but that might be where the advantage ends. The clash of the ruckmen will be one of the highlights of the game with the inform Dave Benson and Matthew Wapling both playing a key role in getting their side moving forward at stoppages. Benson in particular is having a strong year and proving to be a danger for opposition backs when he drifts forward. It will be an interesting clash of the strong bodied midfielders also with Heath Pyke and Chris O’Keefe being keys which Matt Dawson and Tom Nijam will need to contain. On the form to this stage of the year Bungaree will start favourite and potentially put Waubra two games behind the ladder leaders. Another key match is Dunnstown against Beaufort with the Towners needing to win or their place in the eight will be at risk.
Beaufort are sitting comfortably on top of the ladder 80 percent clear of Bungaree and have a real chance to consolidate themselves ahead of those lower in the eight.
Jacob Garvey and Jack Duke have probably been the most consistent players for the Crows so far each has the talent to do something special and give their side an advantage. However it is others such as Brendan Howard, Alex Petrie, Rupert Sangster and Lachlan Pfeifer who are providing the strength of performance across the ground to make them a legitimate premiership challenger. Dunnstown are continuing to rely most heavily on Sam Jenkins who is having a great year through the midfield along with Aaron Sawers and in more recent weeks Aaron Brennan. In recent matches Rhys Cahir is proving a handful up forward with multiple goals in a number of games and when added together with Peter McGettigan and even Tyson Ednie it gives Dunnstown enough scoring options to give Beaufort a few headaches. Dunnstown have a tough month ahead of it and if they are going to make finals they must win at least one but probably two games against teams higher than them on the ladder. This week is probably as good an opportunity that they will get. Daylesford have continued to improve and in the past month have shown a lot of confidence in their method. A good win over Learmonth last week was another important step forward for the Bulldogs and they will go into this week’s game against Gordon with a belief that they can cause an upset.
Five seasons ago Gordon were in a very similar position to Daylesford are now in a team full of players who had progressed through their junior grades into senior football and they were starting to have an impact against the better sides.
This memory should be enough for the team leaders in Luke Gunnell, Tye Murphy, Mark Gunnell, Brad Hallam and Gerard Clifford to not take this match as a certain win before they start.
Michael and Ken Cummings are having a very good year for Daylesford and their experience is crucial at those times when the opposition start to build some momentum. Their forward line is young and risk taking which creates opportunities through quick ball movement which few defences at this level are able to cope with attack after attack. Cameron Ralph is becoming a tall target and in the process creates scoring chances for Jordan Alexander, Cam Lovig and Seb Walsh.
The overall evenness of Gordon will be a distinct advantage but they will find that Daylesford will remain in the contest until well into the match.
Learmonth will be smarting after another close loss against Daylesford and the impact that this may be the game which puts them too far behind the eight to have a realistic chance of making the finals.
With just two wins so far they are three victories behind Dunnstown but they have been so close in many matches.
The Lakies have pushed Hepburn, Ballan, Gordon and Daylesford but not got the points in any of these encounters.
They now have a really tough task of trying to overcome Springbank who have suffered just the one defeat at the hands of Beaufort. Learmonth will find it very difficult to control the tall timber which Springbank has a good sprinkling across the ground.
Matt Tyler across half back is having his best season since he joined the Tigers which is allowing Michael Searl to swing between defence and attack and as he showed in last year’s finals when he has this freedom he can turn a match in five minutes. Joel Maher and Brenton Powell will be one of the great clashes for the season with the two being excellent in close and able to win their own football. The problem for Learmonth coach Powell is that there are a few other strong contributors in the Springbank midfield who can pick up the slack if he does win his contest. This constant supply for the Springbank forwards in particular the hard working Paul McMahon will be enough to allow Springbank to keep Learmonth down at the lower end of the ladder. Ballan has a chance to sneak into the eight if they have a very big win over Skipton and Dunnstown lose heavily to Beaufort. It is unlikely that they will be able to gain enough of a percentage advantage but they should place themselves in a position to put a lot of pressure on Dunnstown.
Skipton are continuing to struggle and whilst Angus Mason, Tom Breed and Patrick Kluver are having consistent seasons they are just not able to kick enough goals to put pressure on their opponent. It is difficult to see how they will be able to overcome the Ballan defence lead by Daniel Nielsen. Carngham Linton might be competitive when they tackle Creswick, the combine’s first game of the season at Snake Valley but it is unlikely that they will be able to contain the Wickers for long.
Creswick did quite well against Waubra last round being within four goals at half time and having plenty of control of the football but they couldn’t keep it up for the whole game. Against the weaker Carngham Linton they should be able control the game for long to set up a win.
Smythesdale has continued to remain more competitive against strong opposition in recent matches and they will again find the opposition this week Buninyong too strong but they are expected to work hard to kick a reasonable score. The Bulldogs will not have enough depth to contain the powerful forward line of Jake Dunne, Joel Ottavi, and Glen Phelps who will receive plenty of opportunities from Joel Morgan, Sam Turner and Jake Romeril. Clunes will be more competitive against Newlyn than they have been in many matches this year but the Cats will again be too strong for the Magpies. Rokewood Corindhap will also be competitive at home against Hepburn but they will not be able to win in enough positions to create any real chance of victory. Caius Barrenger, Ben Harris, Ross Arnall and Jonty Wall will test their opponents but it will be hard for them to overcome the class of Ricky Ferraro, Andy McKay, Lee Cox and Leigh Calder who have been very good in recent weeks.