Last weekend in the Central Highlands FL there were a number of important matches which could have a significant impact on the final ladder positions in the top eight. It essentially also ended the hopes of finals action for any club outside the top eight unless something extraordinary happens in the weeks following this weekend’s competition bye. The clash of heavyweights Springbank and Waubra allowed the Tigers to get some revenge back from last year’s defeat in the same fixture. Even though they have just the one loss for the season Springbank have looked vulnerable at stages over the past six weeks with a number of players injured and unavailable for a range oreasons.
There was plenty of interest in whether Waubra could rebound from their round ten defeat at the hands of Hepburn.
In addition to this Waubra’s place in the top eight was at risk if they were defeated for a fourth time. As it turned out there was little between the two teams but essentially Springbank showed themselves to be about one goal better each quarter and won by a comfortable 19 points.
Waubra was within reach throughout if they could get a still of goals in succession but this was not able to be manufactured. Tyler George has been in strong form in the past month, leading the Tigers through the midfield. This continued against the Kangaroos when he also hurt the opposition on the scoreboard finishing with a team high three goals. Brock Freeman was also an important contributor in the ruck against one of the strongest ruck units of Dean Robertson and Geordie Lukich but he came away with the points in that battle. This will have been a good confidence boost for Freeman as the run into finals commence after the bye.
Another important bonus was the return to form of Shannon Donegan who featured in the better players for the first time since round 1.
Again it was the inability of Waubra to score heavily against the top sides which hurt their efforts on Saturday.
Tim Boyle had another strong game in front of goal but other than him only Austin Murphy and Joshua Doggett were able to get their name on the score sheet.
Rarely will a team be able to find a win when they have just three forwards winning consistently. Waubra also missed the contribution of probably their best midfielder in Lincoln Barnes who was injured in the last minutes against Hepburn last round.
This loss has resulted in Waubra now dropping out of the top eight for the first time this season. This is probably going to be short lived as their next month of football is primarily against clubs from the bottom half of the ladder which they should win comfortably. Bungaree and Learmonth was another match which brought together to clubs who were in the top eight, Bungaree third and Learmonth sixth. Whilst Learmonth has been as high as second on the ladder they have not this stage defeated another team in the top nine. On Saturday they felt that throughout the game they were always in with a strong opportunity to reverse this trend. The Lakies lead at half time by three points but then they were three points down by three quarter time. Then Bungaree followed their pattern of the season s far and had one quarter when they dominated the contest to kicking four goals to one amongst nine scoring shots to run away for a comfortable 24 point victory.
This was an important win for the Demons as they have had a number of weeks against lowly placed clubs and at times they have not inspired their supporters in these clashes. David Benson has in most weeks taken control of the game against his direct opponent and often been one of Bungaree’s leading possession winners around the ground. It was not much different this week against the undersized Learmonth where he was able to control much of the game. Heath Pyke will be happy though with the gradual development of some of the clubs juniors who are now starting to get a reasonable number of matches under the belts.
Jack Oostendorp has played some good games in defence and Alex Browning continues to build on the ability he showed as a junior a few years ago. Senior players Chase Morgan, Matt Sheridan and Joel Mirtschin all have been strong contributors at different stages of the year so far and will be vital in guiding the younger players into the finals. Learmonth meanwhile hangs on to the eight by their fingernails especially as their next two weeks brings them up against Gordon and Buninyong. Buninyong in particular will be primed to ensure a team who potentially will finish in the bottom four of the eight are pushed behind them.
Buninyong have been very hard hit by injuries but over the past three weeks they have had solid wins against Creswick, Carngham Linton and Clunes to steadily climb back into the eight, currently sitting in sixth spot.
Jake Dunne and Jack Robertson have been in excellent form this year with Dunne chipping in with six goals against Clunes on Saturday. Dunne had some good performances last year in his first season in the league after being recruited from Eat Point FNC but he now looks to be comfortable in the different style of football of the CHFL and he will prove a handful for the rest of the year.
Buninyong’s other premier player this year is the key midfielder Ned Gilbert. He is playing as well as anyone in the league as has been the case for at least the past five seasons and he is in most matches the player the opposition coach focuses on first at their selection table. Beaufort made it an awful day for Skipton last week winning by 171 points and in the process gave their percentage a handy boost to now lead in this aspect of performance, positioning themselves very well if Springbank happen to drop another match. The addition of Jarrod McCorkell to an already strong team makes Beaufort appear to be ready to step past the initial week of finals where they have fallen in the past two seasons. A key for the Crows in the lead up to the finals is to bed down their scoring options. Lachlan Murray and Jack Duke are equal to any other mid size forward in the league with 66 goals between them. Can Rohan Brown find a tall target able to kick two or three goals and provide an option for the very strong midfield to kick high into if the leading forwards Murray and Duke are covered? Hepburn has had a number of years off recruiting from across the metropolitan leagues but found that in finals these players were not quite at the level required in this league. This year though it looks that they might have hit the mark to build on the players that have been providing the base for the club for many years.
Sean Salmon, Luke Stanton and Kamen Ogilvie are having a big influence on a weekly basis and the potential to have Nick Del Santo on the big grounds is very exciting for the league. The return of Daniel Rees from the Wimmera FNL is another recruit who has previously performed very well for the Burras. They are topping off Andy McKay who is in superb form as is Segfili Asa Leausa, Jacob Brown and junior Bryce Coffey. Hepburn is showing all the signs that they are capable of being at least in the final two come September. Gordon had an erratic start to the season losing three in a row at one stage but since then they have been steady against mainly clubs in the lower end of the ladder.
They sit fifth on the ladder but to hold this position they will need to be at their best after the bye with matches against five other top eight sides in the final six rounds.
A top four finish will be in their own hands. Cam Richardson had his best match in round ten against Clunes and his proven ability will be vital against eh top sides. Chris McGuigan appears to be running in to better form after a slow patch in the middle of the year and his influence in the middle is crucial.
The Eagles most consistent performer this year has been Tye Murphy and his hard approach on the ball takes many players with him.
Daylesford continues to be the quite achiever after a big win against Hepburn in round two they had a patch where they couldn’t match some top eight clubs and then dropped a match to their bogey team Creswick. Joel Cowan and Sam Winnard have had great seasons for the Bulldogs and are key players in a solid midfield. However they are another club who lack a key forward who can kick a big bag of goals.
If their mobile forward line is on song they can potentially defeat any team in the league as they showed against Waubra’s in last year’s elimination final but they can be held tight but a miserly defence. Ballan is the best of the rest sitting two and a half games outside the eight but they do not appear to be playing well enough to be able to win against any of the top eight.
They will need to win every match from here on to make finals and this includes games against Learmonth, Daylesford and Bungaree.
Dunnstown may be the club with the best form outside the eight with three wins in a row including over Creswick last week. It appears that there is little between Creswick, Dunnstown, Ballan and Newlyn sitting outside the top nine but they have not made any impression against those clubs above them.
Clunes, Carngham Linton, Rokewood Corindhap and Skipton have had some good performances even sticking with top eight sides for three quarters but they then drop away dramatically. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of hope for them winning many games over the remaining rounds.