CHFL – Queens Birthday Bye
At the virtual half way mark of the season there is a familiar look to the Central Highlands FL ladder but not necessarily the same clubs showing through. It is a league which often features a backed group at the top of the ladder and this year is no different and all clubs within the top eight at this stage could be contenders at the end of the year. Bungaree and Waubra remained out on top for the longest as the undefeated sides but both lost on the same weekend in round six and then there were seven clubs all on five wins, an amazing scenario. Springbank as reigning premiers were slow starters losing to Beaufort in round two but this jolted them out of their hangover and they were ruthless ever since defeating other top eight sides Buninyong, Hepburn and Bungaree since the loss. The Tigers of the last month have looked as strong as the team which swept all before it in the second half of 2015 and are now favourites to go back to back.
There have been a couple of key inclusions in co-coach Nick Couch and Tyson George who are adding to the already excellent depth that the club has. Gordon has gone about their start to the season quietly only losing to Bungaree in round 1 to this stage. This initial game of the season was of enormous quality and showed the level of football which is played at the top end of the league. They are getting a very even contribution across their team and in particular the maturing of juniors such as Gerard Clifford and Adam Toohey is making them real chance to avenge last year’s grand final loss. Bungaree started brilliantly with small forward recruit Christian Elliott busting into the competition with 6 goals in round 1.
He has been less prolific since but remains a quality player who is sure to feature in the finals. The return of possibly the most effective kick in the league Marty Dufty has done a great deal to build upon the sound defence that the Demons have.
It is also the experience of coach Heath Pyke, Chris O’Keefe and giant ruckman Dave Benson which is keeping Bungaree at the top. Beaufort has only lost to Waubra in round 5 and other than that have not been challenged. They have had a particularly good win over Springbank but apart from Waubra they have not as yet faced any of the other top contenders.
The major challenge of the season for them comes in the next month and they would need to win at least two of these games against other top eight teams to remain in the chase for a top four finish.
Brendan Howard has been a strong addition for the Crows and along with Jake Garvey and Jack Duke has been very good up to this point.
Hepburn lost by a significant margin to Springbank early in the season and in a number of matches have been tested by clubs who are sitting outside the eight before drawing away from them for reasonable wins. It was not until round 7 against Waubra that they were able to claim a big scalp.
This victory was crucial as it kept them in the top bracket of six clubs with just the one loss.
The Burras major test doesn’t come until July rolls around when they will face a month of matches against top eight sides and their finishing position could be determined through this period.
Buninyong is the other club with ticking along nicely at the top of the eight. Early in the season they didn’t appear to be as smooth as some of the other contenders but as the season has progressed Matthew Caris, Jake Dunne and Liam Rigby are all proving to be very effective recruits that are going to have an impact in the league. On top of this the continued superb form of coach Jarrod Morgan, Sam Turner and Ned Gilbert makes the Bombers a definite premiership chance.
Waubra led the competition for the first six weeks and then lost two in a row to Buninyong and Hepburn. They are getting good service from Matt Wapling and Matt Dawson but they are struggling to find multiple goal kickers other than Tim Boyle.
The Roos are a good side but it is still to be determined if they are going to be able to match it with the best at the end of the season. Dunnstown have definitely improved this year and side in the eight and their best effort was probably their effort this week when they pushed Gordon to 15 points but close losses will not be enough.
The final spot in the eight looks like it might be a battle between Dunnstown, Daylesford and Ballan and they team that can defeat a couple of the teams above them will be the one that will play finals.
Daylesford have improved dramatically on last year with the return of Seb Walsh and Jordan Alexander key aspects in this. However they are seeing strong efforts from Max Risstrom, Sam Winnard and Cam Ralph and they are becoming effective senior footballers in this competition. The win over Learmonth this week may have been one of the key victories as the Lakies had designs on the final spot in the eight, but with just two wins, albeit with a few close efforts mean that Learmonth need a lot to go their way to make finals. Ballan were excellent last season in making it to the preliminary final but they have not been able to repeat this effort to the same extent and even though they have strong recruits in coach Justin McConnell and Jason McNamara to replace those they lost it is not being shown in victories. They sit just one win out of the eight but they have a good month in the next month with just one match against a top eight side. Smythesdale in recent years has received some sensationalised publicity based around the extent of their defeats but this year they have taken an important step forward with two wins and a stronger showing in a number of other matches. The three that have dropped away dramatically and at this stage have not recovered a win are Skipton, Carngham Linton and Clunes.
Skipton and Ballan clash in a couple of weeks time so one of them will be able to celebrate some respite in the tough task facing them each week.
Rokewood Corindhap are following a similar path to last year when they are showing themselves to be able to defeat a few clubs but not make an impact against those who are just ahead of them on the ladder. A few seasons back they had an under 17 side which had a good year and some of these players are making their presence felt. Caius Barrenger in particular is in great form to the extent that he showed in the interleague match game against Geelong DFL that he was not out of his depth. Newlyn will be disappointed that they have not been able to make an impact more regularly and sit in 14th spot behind their nearest neighbour Creswick on percentage both having had just the two wins. Both clubs can stick with the top eight for half a game but they just don’t have the ability to keep the pressure on and then put doubt in the mind of the opposition. As has been the case for the past few years the battle for finals action in the CHFL looks likely to go down to the wire and build towards an exciting finals series.