AFTER two rounds 11 clubs have enjoyed success in the form of a victory on the Central Highlands FL senior grade with round two in particular featuring a number of close outcomes. Some of these close games might have been as a result of a fierce storm which swept through the district early in most senior matches on Saturday, with the Ballan v Buninyong game even needing to be stopped for a period of time in the interests of safety.
Wet, slippery conditions may have brought the scores closer than might have been the outcome in dry conditions, however early signs are that there might be a slight evening out of the competition this season. Clunes made the most of momentum from a strong win over Skipton in round 1 to finish over the top of Creswick in the final quarter and achieve a promising one point win.
Jesse Baird was an outstanding junior for Clunes and is now having an equally impressive impact in seniors starting the season off with two best on ground performances. He is providing the Magpies with a very effective avenue to goal with three goals this week on top of five against Skipton.
Henry Labastida is also having an early impact, after being recruited to the Clunes this year. He has most recently been playing for St. Mary’s in the Northern Territory FL over the summer. Creswick on the other hand will be frustrated that after a hard fought win over Carngham Linton in round 1 they have missed a chance to get a flying start to the season.
Liam Hepworth must be approaching Hall of Fame status at the Wickers as over the past few years he has been the one constant as they have battled along around the middle of the ladder with a couple of finals appearances.
A positive this week was the form of Tyson Randall who has been at Creswick for a number of years but has mainly played in the reserves grade. Along with Scott Hughes and Tom Walmsley he is one of a number of former reserves players coach Ryan Knowles is giving a chance to see if they are able to perform at senior level. Learmonth have also had a strong start to the year, matching Waubra until the finish in round 1 and then comfortably holding Rokewood Corindhap at arm’s length last Saturday. Efficient use of the football in front of goal was the key feature of the Lakers win over the Grasshoppers. They had only one more scoring shot but won by 36 points. Eleven goals from fifteen shots at goal was an excellent effort with Brenton Powell and Matthew Bond each kicking three goals. Powell has started the season as strongly as at any point in his amazing career. He works as hard around the ground as any player in the competition. He defends deep in front of the opposition goal and then will often be the final link in setting up a scoring chance for his team 100 meters further up the ground.
Matthew Bond in his second year at Learmonth provides a legitimate scoring target for his team and this year will be aiming to increase on his average of slightly more than two goals per match.
Rokewood Corindhap coach Jarrod Thompson was the main target at the other end of the ground scoring three of his teams four majors.
Whilst they didn’t score with enough accuracy to match it on the scoreboard with Learmonth a similar number of shots at goal indicates that they were competitive in general play and they will be strong opposition for most sides.
Learmonth’s form against Waubra gives plenty of hope that their best football will be very competitive against all opposition and they may be close to making finals by the end of the season. Last season Waubra positioned itself at the top of the ladder early and were able to match just about all during the home and away matches but then fell short in the one final they played. The initial part of this season looks like they might follow a similar pattern with two positive wins. Against Learmonth in round 1 they were very impressive in the second half with a frenetic style of play moving the ball forward quickly.
Last Saturday against Newlyn they again showed that they can win a lot of the football and create scoring opportunities.
Ben Wilson appears to be a good recruit who is quickly settling into the Waubra style of football after joining the Kangaroos from Redan. Another positive for Waubra was seven different goal kickers against Newlyn. Last year they relied far too heavily on Tim Boyle who is again in very good early season form but if they don’t have a broad number of scoring options they are too easy for opposition defences to match in finals. Newlyn have been competitive in both their initial matches against likely finals teams in Hepburn and Waubra.
In both games they were within 20 points at three quarter time and had given themselves a chance of victory but they need to find the ability to win the last quarter which the better teams always do. Their next month should give them the chance to achieve some wins. Gordon, Beaufort and Springbank have started the season very strongly and it would appear to be very likely that they will be amongst the top of the ladder throughout the season. Beaufort has had the most difficult start to the season facing two finalists from last year in Daylesford and Bungaree and they have achieved comfortable wins in both.
Mick Foster has been a super player for the Crows throughout his career and has shown himself to be a good player in major league football as well. The experience he brings is invaluable and along with a number of other very experienced players such as Brendan Howard, Damien Day and Jarrod Trigg it is providing the opportunity to blood some juniors into a strong team.
Bungaree had a comfortable win over Dunnstown in round one but they were brushed aside easily by Beaufort and this might be an accurate reflection of where the Demons will be this season after they lost many from the strong teams of recent years. Early indications for Dunnstown is that they are again in for a long season after not being able to have any impact against Bungaree or Gordon.
The Towners still look as though they are going to be relying very heavily on Aaron Brennan, Sam Jenkins and Aaron Sawers to manufacture victories for them. Ballan were not able to have any impact against Buninyong and they have now suffered two large defeats against two top teams.
Unfortunately for the Blues early signs are that they are not going to be competitive against the top sides in the league and they will be hoping that they will make some impact against those that are going to be near the bottom of the eight.
Buninyong will be pleased to get their first win for the year after losing first up to Springbank but still appear to be as well placed as any team to feature in finals action.
Over the next few matches they will be able to get a good indication of how they are travelling when they face other potential top teams. Hepburn and Daylesford played another close battle for supremacy in the spa country last week and as is often the case there was little between them at the end with the Bulldogs able to withstand Hepburn’s efforts by just six points. Daylesford’s team features many whose names have been featuring for the club through junior levels for many years and now are strong senior players. Some of these such as Sebastian Walsh now also bring plenty of experience with them.
Joel Cowan has excellent TAC Cup and VFL senior experience and whenever he is able to play for Daylesford he shows his class. It appears that he might be able to play more matches this year and could have a significant impact on many results. Hepburn started slowly last year but were very strong by the end of the season and with quite a few new players being added to the squad this year a similar pattern could be the direction they follow again.
Sean Salmon has played a lot of senior football throughout his career and looks as though he is going to be an important addition to the Burras who have suffered the loss of Dan O’Halloran due to injury for an extended period this year. He will be missed in the midfield as he is their best winner of the football in close quarters. Carngham Linton has been combative in each of their matches and were not pushed aside easily by Springbank this week. They will be looking forward to coming up against some other clubs who are at the lower end of the ladder to see how much they have improved this year. New coach Beau Ketchen has been an inspirational leader on the ground with two very good games. Skipton have played just the one match so far and will be keen to get some extra games under the belt to see what improvement they have made from last year.