When the former Lexton Plains FL clubs play each other in the Central Highlands FL there is always a bit more endeavour and pride at stake.
Each of the four clubs hopes to be able to sit back at the end of the season and express that they were the best of the most recent to join the CHFL. For the first time since they joined in 2011 Smythesdale has the opportunity to defeat each of the other three when they take on Rokewood Corindhap at Rokewood this Saturday.
This is already the Bulldog’s most successful season in the league, they have never won two matches in a season but now have wins over Skipton and Carngham Linton and are actually siting nicely in the middle of the ladder after four rounds.
Rokewood Corindhap also has two wins over the same two opponents and has probably been more impressive with their victories by bigger margins.
The younger Grasshoppers players are starting to impress on a regular basis including in fixtures against the better clubs.
This was highlighted through Caius Barrenger and Luke Philp both being given an opportunity in the interleague squad which was announced last week.
Rokewood Corindhap also has a more accomplished group of experienced senior players and it is most likely that this group lead by Ross Arnell, Chad Baker and Brendan Wall will be able to achieve their third win and may even be in the top eight. Springbank have been very impressive in the past two rounds with strong wins over potential top four sides in Buninyong and Hepburn. They have had plenty of injuries making it tougher in these games but they have also had many of their stars stand up when they have been required. Joel Maher has had some good patches of form in the early games but maybe not with the consistency of the past couple of years. Last week he lead from the front and was well supported by Shannon Donegan, Justin Simpson and Simon Quinlan. On Saturday they front up against Creswick and should have no trouble getting past the Wickers who have just the one win so far. Creswick will be frustrated with their form to this stage of the year as they would have started out believing that they might be one of the teams looking at the last couple of spots in the top eight. The Hepworth brothers Aaron, Caleb and Liam are all having reasonable seasons but there doesn’t appear to be others who are contributing enough to win the matches that they need to. Defeats by Learmonth and Daylesford in the last two rounds in particular will leave a sour taste in coach Damien Lubeek’s mouth. Daylesford on the other hand will be feeling on top of their game after getting their first win of the season. They had a tough year last year with a team full of youngsters who at times found it difficult to match it with best sides.
This year they appear to be making some ground on the opposition with two strong performances in a row. In round 3 they stayed in contact with Hepburn throughout and last week were far too strong for Creswick. It is hard to see how they will be able to make it back to back victories though as they host Bungaree this Saturday, who is one of the form sides in the competition at this stage.
Bungaree are undefeated and are currently third on percentage behind Waubra and Beaufort.
David Benson has started the season as well as any big man going around and he looks to be in better condition than at the same stage last year. Then at the other end of the height scale is Christian Elliott who is creating havoc for small defenders with two bags of six goals in just four matches.
The other Demon forward having a great start to the year is Luke Mirtschin also with two bags of five. Learmonth are getting to the stage where they desperately need to get their season moving forward with a few wins. They broke their duck against Creswick in round 3 but last week were brought back to earth with a thud by Bungaree.
In most matches they have been very competitive but do not appear to be able to create enough scoreboard pressure. Just Benton Powell from the midfield was able to kick multiple goals against Bungaree. He continues to lead from the front but there are not enough others consistently wining in their positions. The bonus for many clubs though is there is just one match between eight and fifteenth positions on the ladder. If the Lakies can find a way to win over Ballan this week they will be right back in the mix. Ballan have been able to get back into the winners frame defeat the winless Clunes by 113 points and give the whole team a confidence boost after a couple of disappointing defeats.
Darren Tanti has been outstanding for the Blues in a couple of matches and along with regular top performers Lachlan Herring, Aaron Speak and Zac Peoples are keys through the middle of the ground.
Justin McConnell will also provide a challenge for Learmonth’s key defenders following his bag of 13 against Clunes.
Clunes are one of three clubs yet to register a win and it is not very promising this week when they move just a short distance up the highway from Ballan to Gordon who has suffered just the one defeat for the season. Gordon is a team which enjoys moving the ball quickly and score heavily when they get on a roll. This type of football can be devastating against teams which are struggling so the pain should continue for the young Magpies. Newlyn ran into a fired up Buninyong last week coming off a big defeat at the hands of Springbank and the Cats were simply brushed aside. The 136 point defeat was one of Newlyn’s biggest ever and it will take a lot of work for Kal Young to get them up to be a realistic threat against Hepburn this week. A highlight for Buninyong was the number of goal kickers, 13, with Joel Ottavi leading the way with six. The Bombers will continue on their way this week keeping Skipton winless. The Emus were outclassed by Beaufort also going down by more than 130 points, leaving Beaufort undefeated and setting up a super clash with Waubra, also undefeated. Waubra were had their first strong challenge of the season with a 15 point win over a dogged Dunnstown in a low scoring match but this should have tuned them up nicely to tackle the Crows. Apart from a strong win against Springbank in round two Beaufort have not struck any other top of the ladder opponents, so both will be really looking forward to testing themselves against strong opposition.
Matt Dawson has been a good performer most weeks for Waubra, receiving good support from Lincoln Barnes and the evergreen Tim Mullane. Last week Tim Boyle didn’t play for Waubra and their flow of goals dried up dramatically. If he is not there again next week then Beaufort’s chances will improve.
Brendan Howard joined Beaufort from North City this year and has immediately had an impact. Along with Jack Duke he is taking the Crows to another level.
Another having a great start to the year for Beaufort is Mick Foster. His experience and class could be telling as the year progresses with some of the younger brigade assisting him with the heavy lifting. The Crows look to be the more accomplished side at this stage of the year. Dunnstown will be too strong for Carngham Linton in the final match of the round.