Six games, six things we learned from round 5 from the state’s #1 football league..
1) Lions functioning forward line
Whilst much talk has surrounded Colac emerging as a finals contender following their last gasp win against South Barwon, it would be remiss not to mention Leopold in the same breath. The reigning premier brushed aside North Shore and now sit fifth on the ladder. What would please the Lions most would be their offence starting to click into gear. Grand final hero Brandon Howarth has kicked 10 of his 14 goals in the last two weeks, including a haul of 6 opposed to the Seagulls on Saturday. Alex Maloney only kicked his first goal for the year against Grovedale three rounds ago, but now has 8 for the year, and with Logan Wagener to return next week, things are starting to click for Leopold.
2) Cats falter
May be a bit harsh on a side who have struggled to string wins together over the past couple of seasons, but Lara’s 58-point loss to St Albans was billed as a possible chance of an upset. After all, the SuperSaints haven’t had the greatest start to the season either, yet to win a game before the clash with the Cats. The SuperSaints blew Lara out of the water in the second term however, kicking six goals to none to have the margin sit at 46 points at the main change, and were never headed. It is particularly frustrating for Lara staff and supporters alike, following a strong showing against South Barwon last week. This is not to say they should’ve beaten St Albans on Saturday, but need to be closer than near-on ten goals to show the gulf in class isn’t a vast as it appears.
3) Where is St Joeys’ weakness?
One of the most complete performances in recent memory from any side is what came to mind following St Joseph’s spanking of St Mary’s. Both teams were unbeaten at the start of the match, but now the Joey sit alone at the top of the GFL ladder. It speaks volumes that they conceded over 100 points, allowed Sam Dobson to kick seven goals, and still won by 56 points with thirteen individual goal kickers to boot. On paper it is a star studded team, and was further boosted on Saturday with the VFL listed Ben Maloney making a rare GFL appearance, in which he battled with Brant Haintz for best on ground honors. Dan Lovick is as impressible as ever down back, Zach Morrison is the most under rated player in the competition, and they’ve fixed their ruck issues with the combination of Denning and Tudor, with a midfield of Haintz, Davis, Adams, Rees and Kershaw burrowing off their taps. Lech Featherstone and Rhys Hultgren are an imposing forward pair with Luke Webb, Pat Kelleher and Jacko McLachlan at their feet. Paliouras, Fawkes and Dreher are available to come in, but who makes way? This is an impressive team, and loom now as the hunted.
4) VFL’s loss is the GFL’s gain
While we’re on players, it was a great boost for the GFL to have numerous VFL-listed players turn out for their home clubs on the weekend. Due to the strength and healthiness of many AFL teams, local players are being squeezed out, which further strengthens the number one league in the state. Following the already mentioned VFL regular Maloney, ex-Geelong player now Essendon VFL’s own Michael Luxford turned out for South Barwon against Colac, who also boasted the Geelong listed Sam McLachlan and Campbell Floyd. While we’re on Colac and South Barwon, two teams who were in direct competition with each other last season played out a thriller at McDonalds Reserve, with the Tigers holding firm in the last 5 minutes to win by two-points. They now incredibly sit at 4-1 and fourth on the ladder, with their youth first policy following their Premiership win starting to pay dividends. Sterner tests await with Bell Park, Grovedale and St Joseph’s in their next four rounds, but all their big guns are firing.
5) Will the real Grovedale please stand up?
A third straight loss for Grovedale following their four-point loss to a youthful Newtown side on the weekend, Tipped by many to take the extra step into Premiership contention this season with the Delaney brothers and Daniel Kee arriving at Burdoo Resere, the rot continued against the Eagles at Elderslie Reserve. 34 points down at the first change wasn’t exactly coming out breathing fire following consecutive losses, and while they clawed their way back it wasn’t enough to fully erase the margin. Credit must to go Newtown, who had 11 players with less than 20 GFL senior games under their belts. The Tigers are now a game outside the five, and it doesn’t get any easier with St Mary’s, Colac and Bell Park in the next three rounds.
6) Draw opening up for the Dragons
A fourth straight win against Geelong West Giants on Saturday has Bell Park second on the ladder, who have been quietly going about their work in a typical Bell Park manner. Their heavy loss to St Joseph’s in round one is starting to look not so bad such is their form at the moment and the Dragons can all but sew up a finals berth after this weekend’s game against Colac, with their next eight games coming against sides all sitting outside the finals race. These include playing South Barwon twice, Lara, St Albans and Geelong West. Inaccurate kicking on Saturday robbed them of a bigger winning margin, but Jarrod Garth still nabbed five. Todd Stevenson is also staking his claim for recruit of the year.
*NB- The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of AFL Barwon or its clubs