CHFL Round 11 – Preview For those who sit outside the Central Highlands FL they would have looked at the senior scores from last weekend and thought that Carngham Linton would have had an awful day, losing to seventh placed Buninyong by 96 points, but in fact there was much about the day which the Saints would have been very happy with.
It was the return of a favourite son in Nick O’Brien back to the club for the first time in many years and hundreds arrived to enjoy a beautiful afternoon at Snake Valley. O’Brien with 14 AFL senior matches for Essendon is the clubs current VFL side captain and who in 2016 was runner up in the prestigious South Australian NFL Margery medal is a quality footballer who made the club stand tall. Bringing with him his former teammates Jason Winderlich as a player and legend Dustin Fletcher who assisted in a coaching role the day was a success with the biggest crowd seen at the venue in many years. Early in the match they were very competitive with Nick O’Brien at the bottom of every contest and Wunderlich threatening to unleash his renowned speed but it was the youngest of the four O’Brien brothers in the side who was taking the game to the Bombers. Dean O’Brien who still eligible to play under 16 football kicked the Saints two goals in the first quarter and had a near miss on a third one, had his team within a goal of Buninyong. However in the next two quarters Buninyong upped the pressure and kicked eight goals in each and Carngham Linton were not able to go with them.
It was an important win for Buninyong as they were sitting on the bottom of the eight before the game and they need to start putting some pressure on those clubs above them. They have been hit extremely hard by injuries throughout the year, one week they had nine of the first picked team unavailable due to injury and even on Saturday inspirational captain coach Jarrod Morgan was a late addition to the side even though he was not planning on playing due to still suffering from a sternum injury. The bonus for the Bombers is that they now meet thirteenth placed Clunes before the mid season competition bye and then have an additional week off due to being fixture to play Smythesdale who are not fielding a senior team.
The extra week off which is not often seen as being good for momentum during the season but in fact it might mean that Buninyong get back their best team for a crucial clash against Learmonth in round 13. Carngham Linton will find it difficult to get any momentum on the field from the success of the overall day last Saturday when they take on Ballan. Early in the season Ballan were struggling to get any semblance of form but over the past month they have shown quite a lot in many of their matches, which Jason McNamara would be happy with and they should be too strong for Carngham Linton. Adding to the woes for the Saints will be that Ballan are sure to be desperate to redeem themselves for missing out on four points when they allowed Creswick to kick four goals in the final quarter last week resulting in the first draw of the year. Creswick will be no less frustrated by the outcome of the Ballan match and they will be looking to bounce back when they travel to Dunnstown.
The interesting aspect of this match is that whilst Dunnstown are sixteenth on the ladder they have been playing much better than this in recent weeks and have back to back wins over Skipton and Rokewood Corindhap under the belt. On Saturday they took a half to shake the winless Emus but then dominated the second half for a 14 goal win.
If they are able to use this confidence of the past fortnight they will be a real chance to get three wins in a row.
Of particular note in the Towners win was a number of different names featuring in their better players; Michael Archer, Thomas Botter and Joe Stefani. If Dunnstown coach Justin Abram is able to keep developing more players to step up to help Aaron Sawers, Aaron Brennan and Sam Jenkins they could give opposition clubs some real concerns before the season finishes.
There are two crucial matches on the shape of the eight this week with league leader Springbank to play eighth placed Waubra and Bungaree to host Learmonth.
Last year a similar scenario faced Waubra when they headed out to clash with the Tigers.
In 2016 Waubra was coming of a loss to Daylesford and needed a win to make sure they didn’t drop to the bottom of the eight. This year they are smarting from a loss to the Bulldogs Spa Country neighbour Hepburn and successive losses will probably see them drop out of the eight. The bonus for the Kangaroos is that last year they stepped up to the challenge and defeated Springbank.
Additionally on Saturday they got closer to Hepburn than Springbank did just seven days earlier, So they will come into this game with a justified belief that they can win. Springbank has been struggled to kick goals against Hepburn and Waubra will be working to stretch them in this area as well. This will rely on forcing the Tigers to take Michael Searl out of a key post in the forward line and make him ruck for extend periods of time.
Brock Freeman though has been playing well as the first choice ruckman for much of the season and again featured in the best last week against Newlyn. His clash with Waubra’s Dean Robertson and Geordie Lukich is sure to attract plenty of attention from the stands. Matt Dawson has been the most dominant mid fielder for the Kangaroos for the past two years and he will again be a key when he clashes with the inform Tyler George.
This match could go either way!
Learmonth meanwhile could drop from second to ninth in the space of two weeks if they lose to Bungaree.
Whilst they have had a great start to the year the Lakies have not at this stage beaten any other side in the top nine and it could be that their position in the eight was not a true reflection of their ability. So for the sake of their season Learmonth must step up this week and topple third placed Bungaree. Bungaree has been a puzzling study to this stage of the year.
They have lost just the two matches to Beaufort and Waubra but they have struggled in some games against sides positioned much lower on the ladder. Current reigning Geoff Taylor Medallist David Benson has been the their dominant player and he must be right in the mix for back to back medals and without his efforts the Demons could easily have lost to teams outside of the eight.
The contradiction though is that they have made sure that they did achieve the win and winning form is good form.
However the risk is that if they are slow starters against Learmonth they could find that the game has gone before they know what happened. Veteran Pat McGuigan is having a good year for Learmonth, as he has for most of the past decade and is in good goal kicking form after his bag of four against Daylesford.
He has the ability to take some of the scoring pressure off Matthew Bond and Brodrick Campbell for Learmonth and spread the Bungaree defence putting the individual defenders under more pressure. When Skipton joined the Central Highlands FL their clash with Beaufort was looked forward to eagerly by both towns, this year it will only be the Crows who are looking forward to the opportunity to build their percentage.
With such a close race for the top four and a double chance in the finals on offer, percentage will be an important matter for many clubs and this will be an important match for Beaufort to score heavily. Hepburn will probably have a similar mindset when they host Rokewood Corindhap. Since round seven when Rokewood Corindhap forced Buninyong to score late goals to win they have not been able to show strong enough form to suggest they will have a win in the near future and with Hepburn flying at present the Grasshoppers are not going to get their second win this week. The final game of the round brings ninth placed Daylesford up against tenth placed Newlyn but despite the closeness on the ladder the Bulldogs appear to be a long way ahead of the Cats. With three losses compared to six Daylesford has been able to achieve some key victories, in particular over Hepburn in round two and last week over Learmonth. Newlyn on the other hand has not had any impact in matches against those higher on the ladder than them. Last week they had matched Springbank with three goals each in the first quarter but the Tigers had wasted many shots with five behinds and after the first break Newlyn was not able to go with the ladder leader. It would be expected that they will stick with Daylesford for more of the match this week but it is hard to see that they have enough talent to maintain the effort for four quarters and the Bulldogs should win comfortably and probably move into the top eight.