One round, six things we learnt..
1) St Joeys are the real deal
Following a finals exit in 2016 that came and went without a whimper (somewhat surprisingly), questions were being asked about whether Joeys could rebound and get back to the top, after winning the premiership in 2015. Dale Carson vacated Drew Reserve in the off season, as did Ryan Williams and Josh Hovey; not exactly the three easiest men to replace. However Joeys’ first three rounds of 2017 could not have been any more impressive, and have put the doubters to bed. A near-10 goal win against Bell Park raised eyebrows, as did the ANZAC Day flogging of South Barwon due to its sheer brutality, and last weekend they brushed aside an improved Geelong West Giants. Riley Ferguson is enjoying more freedom up the ground, Luke Webb and Callum Mitchell have slotted in to either end of the ground seamlessly, and Coburg recruit Lech Featherstone finally fired, with an incredible 10 goals against the Giants. The rest of the GFL have been warned.
2) Leopold showed why they’re Premiers
Speaking of questions, with 2016 reigning Premier started the season at 0-2, Leopold traveled to Burdoo Reserve on Saturday with the unwanted history of becoming the first ever reigning premier to lose three straight hanging over their heads. A four goal first term whilst keeping Grovedale to none would’ve eased nerves, and pushed the lead out to 31 points toward the end of the second term. The nerves would’ve returned however, as Grovedale piled on 7 goals in the third term to take a narrow lead into ¾ time. Missing captain Jai Thompson, plus premiership heroes Jye Walker, Jeremy Larcombe, Ben Carmichael and the luckless Jye Cross, it looked as though the Lions were going to be part of a bit of unwanted history. Yet they dug deep and showed why class always shines through. Kev Bourke was instrumental in taking home the Let’s Kick Cancer Medal, and Captain Matt Pitt stood up to hold off Grovedale by 7 points.
3) High scoring Saints tame Tigers, and the GFL should take notice
St Mary’s kept charging along on Saturday- last year’s feel good story have seemingly got even better in 2017, and took care of Colac by 44 points. It wasn’t all plain sailing, with Colac snaring a 20-point lead at quarter time, before the Saints kicked into gear. They piled on 19 goals to 8 after that point, having 12 individual goal kickers in the process. St Mary’s have a number of young players who are giving them fresh legs as the game wears on, allowing them to crack the 100-point barrier in all three games so far, and have nearly double the points for than second placed St Joeys. The Dobson brothers combined for 11 goals between them on Saturday, and the Saints will hope the VFL coaches stay away.
4) Not all doom and gloom for the Eagles
Newtown is regenerating under new coach Damien McMahon, but is showing enough in the early stages of 2017. Following a surprise first up win away from home against South Barwon, they dropped a game to Geelong West which was an equal surprise in round 2. They came up against a Bell Park side on Saturday on the rebound, but acquitted themselves well. Despite being undersized due to some young talent in the 22, McMahon said it was “a step forward after last week” and if they hadn’t missed their first two shots on goal, who knows what would’ve happened to the Dragons mental attitude. As it was, despite staying in touch with a 14-point deficit at ¾ time, Newtown lacked the cutting edge in the last- their entries inside 50 a sticking point for the Eagles, who face Colac, Grovedale and Leopold in the next three rounds.
5) Davenport states his case
Jason Davenport led his Seagulls to an emphatic 97-point hiding of Lara, and once more laid claim to being the best footballer in the GFL. Yes, we are all aware of Lara’s struggles and Davenport will come up against sterner tests- but he couldn’t have been any more imperious, slotting home 8 goals floating between the midfield and forward line. In front of the 1977 and 1997 Premiership sides, the North Shore coach had 5 goals to half time, pushing the lead out to 54 points and then went away with the game from there. At his very best, Davenport is nearly without compare.
6) A day bigger than football
Finally, the Grovedale-Leopold encounter played host to the inaugural ‘Let’s Kick Cancer Cup’, raising funds for the Andrew Love Cancer centre. The day received great backing from all involved, including attendees, the league and AFL Barwon. The brain child of Leopold member Tim Russell, whose Mother passed away last year, said the day was a huge success. “We’re a big community in Geelong, and if we can do our little bit, and everyone else can do their bit, in the future we can become this big entity that can do this, then that’s what we’re striving on.” Geelong stars past and present including Tim McGrath, Cam Guthrie and Paddy Dangerfield were on hand to auction off some items and raise some vital funds in what was a great day. The event will only get bigger in years to come.