By Jared Beanland
For (Rank): 752 (4th)
Against (Rank): 548 (3rd)
Leading goalkicker: Ben Robertson (34)
Best + Fairest Leader: Mitch Mellis
Boronia in 2021 were a team that sat in a middle ground between two groups of teams – one set of genuine premiership contenders, and one set hoping to survive relegation. That lukewarm status is beginning to heat up this year, as coach Matt Clark looks to change how the Hawks go about their footy in 2022.
The main criticism of Boronia in 2021 was their lack of outside speed. The emergence of some hitherto unfamiliar names such as Cooper Dunkinson, Jeremy Mason, and Zak Brasher has begun to change the profile of the Hawks, shifting the balance of their game style to have more outside options. The other name that cannot be passed up when thinking of run-and-carry is Mitch Mellis. A best and fairest winner at the Eastern Ranges, the former Vermont man has added some serious class to the midfield, combining ball-winning ability with the speed to break away from a contest, and ball use as good as anyone on the team. If Boronia are to step up in the late stages of the year, Mellis will have a big part to play in that.
Looking further down the ground, there’s a figure which looms large over the entire division. That figure belongs to Ben Robertson, the leading goal kicker of Division Two. Before this year his territory was around centre half forward, and one of the major changes at Boronia has been his move to a role as a deep forward. This has clearly worked wonders. Look for him to continue this massive year, as the deeper we get into the season, the more crucial a role a key forward plays.
Overall, Boronia have shown that they’re able to beat the teams around them, and match up well against the best teams in the division. There are occasionally shadows of the underperformance of 2021 showing up in games such as against Templestowe, and in their 2nd half against East Burwood. Despite these, Matt Clark is showing that he’s added a string or two to the Boronia bow when compared with last season, and that is playing out in promising ways on the field against most opponents.
For (Rank): 913 (2nd)
Against (Rank): 681 (7th)
Leading goalkicker: Marcus Young (22)
Best + Fairest Leader: Jaymie Kempson
Coming up a division and defeating seven out of your nine opponents in the grade above is a rare feat.
East Burwood have done just that, and look to be a force come finals time. From the outset, and their round one victory against Knox, they’ve managed to maintain the winning form which saw them worthy of elevation from division three. The Rams are forging an identity as a high-scoring team, who are always ready to take the game on.
Highlights of the season would have to include a fast-paced, high-skilled defeat of Boronia, and a walloping of a Heathmont side looking for some mid-season redemption, but the crowning achievement thus far, would be a steadfast performance against Ringwood in their most recent game. This game highlighted they way they’ve changed the way their midfield operates – less crash and bash, more slice and dice. Against the Redbacks, they proved that their midfield can operate well against a quality team without one of their more experienced stars, Matt Mariani. Less experienced players like Matt Martini and Chris Spiteri are standing up in the middle this year, and younger names such as James Reddy and Jaymie Kempson are providing a lot of energy all over the ground.
The Rams have slipped up on occasion, however. Not long ago, they had a rough fortnight against The Basin and South Belgrave – not the worst teams to go down to – however the margins were less than flattering, and have greatly contributed to them being the 4th most scored against team in the division.
Those two weeks were perhaps the only crack showing in what has been an otherwise fine season for the Rams. Expect to see them deep in the finals race come the end of the season.
For (Rank): 652 (7th)
Against (Rank): 643 (6th)
Leading goalkicker: Finn Brown (11)
Best + Fairest Leader: Wade Van Leeuwen
After being a team on the rise in 2021, the Jets have struggled to continue that trend this year, and look to be one of the bigger disappointments in the division.
A team, that last year was a dashing, daring side with exciting young players, and great ball movement is not the team that has come out in 2022.
The depth of the Jets has certainly been tested to say the least, and the lack of depth in the tall department has been exposed. As the season goes on, however, names will start to come back. Rippingale has been a more-than-handy in for the forward line this year, and has spent some of the season injured. In the Jets’ most recent game he popped up and kicked three and will hope to continue uninterrupted for the rest of 2022. Fin Brown continues to show both talent and resilience, as a lot of responsibility has fallen on him this year, yet he continues to shine, and Wade Van Leeuwen has continued his stellar form from the back end of last year. While the Burleigh brothers haven’t set the world on fire in 2022, there’s always going to be so much upside in such a talented pair.
We’re yet to see what Heathmont can do at their best this year. The team’s been cruelled by injuries, yet could still take it up to, and dominate Ringwood for a half of footy even while under that cloud. While finals hopes are fading fast, the Jets aren’t out of it yet, and could at least damage the hopes of one or two teams towards the end of the season. That said, it’s a far cry from the hopes we had for them based on last year.
For (Rank): 523 (9th)
Against (Rank): 762 (9th)
Leading goalkicker: Kieran Edwards (14)
Best + Fairest Leader: Harrison Greaves
Looking in from the outside, the term stagnant is the first that comes to mind when looking at the Falcons. The improvement is there, but it has been coming in small doses, and it is clear that their fellow relegation-battlers of last season in Mulgrave and Templestowe have both passed them in improvement.
The main encouragement a Knox fan could take from looking at the stats alone is that fact that they have improved their scoring from 47 points per game to 58. This healthier attack is also reflected in a wider range of goal scorers. They already have five players with five or more goals after nine games. That doesn’t sound too impressive, but compared with last season, they only had three players with five or more goals, and that was after a whole 12 games. Knox are most definitely making improvements to their game, but are not able to keep up with the rest of the division as of yet.
The highlight of the year from Knox was most definitely their victory over Templestowe. It was a low-scoring come from behind victory which must have taken plenty of grit from a team finding themselves with scoring difficulties. This was their second win in a row, given their defeat of Oakleigh the round prior, however they couldn’t carry this momentum forward. The other positive through the season was a strong four goal to two first quarter against Heathmont. Knox were unable to hold, however it’s these bright patches that need to be emphasised by coach Brendan Whitecross, and the leadership group.
Harrison Greaves continues his excellent for from last season, and wouldn’t surprise anyone if he took home the Falcon’s best and fairest. Rowville recruits Jackson Anderson and Jarryd Hall have also slipped into the line-up quite nicely, and if Knox are to improve this year or next, they will be important parts of that resurgence.
Ultimately this has been yet another disappointing year for the Falcons, and there aren’t the signs to show it will improve into the second half of the year. The marginal improvement they have shown will hopefully continue, but it would only be enough to pick them up another 1 or 2 wins this season.
For (Rank): 721 (6th)
Against (Rank): (5th)
Leading goalkicker: Adam Booth (27)
Best + Fairest Leader: Jack Davidson
The Lions have been the surprise package of the season. Very few would have seen their resurgence coming, especially after the season Mulgrave suffered through in 2021.
The season got off to a rocky start, and fans of Mulgrave would have been forgiven for thinking that they were about to see a repeat of last year. Three losses to start a season is rarely a promising sign. Amongst those games, however, they ran a couple of good teams close, in the form of East Burwood and Ringwood. Their breakthrough win came against Heathmont, a 45-point statement, and was followed up by an even more impressive seven point defeat of top seeds South Belgrave.
From there, they’ve continued in similar form, but have recently dropped a game against The Basin, and shown that they still have some ground to make up, given the 65-point end margin. A finals berth is still very much on the agenda for coach Ryan Webster and his troops, however the stabilisation of teams such as The Basin and perhaps even Heathmont pose a threat to those prospects.
The main worry for Mulgrave before the season begun came in the form of questions around scoring sources. The Lions’ leading goal kicker of 2021 Tom McGowan had taken leave of the club during the off season, and it was widely acknowledged that the legs of Adam Booth could only slow down from here. McGowan has now returned to the club with a two-goal game against The Basin, and Adam Booth has laid any fears surrounding his age to rest for now – 27 is goals in half a season is a solid haul.
While questions remain surrounding how Mulgrave will be able to compete against other finals contenders in the second half of the season, it cannot be denied that the Lions have taking a massive step forward this year. Leaving the relegation battle as a worry of the past, finals are solidly within the Mulgrave sights, and this by far exceeds the expectations of three months ago.
For (Rank): 290 (10th)
Against (Rank): 1426 (10th)
Leading goalkicker: Matt Stojanoski (7)
Best + Fairest Leader: Isaac Conway
Coming from Division One of the SFNL, the Districts always knew that season 2022 would be a difficult one.
At the start of the year there were already questions as to whether this division was the correct fit for Oakleigh District. The result of the past nine rounds has answered that with a thundering “no”. The club is no doubt highly aware of the situation they find themselves in, and it would take a different mindset, and different metrics to rate themselves fairly in a year where they are 100+ points off most teams. Player retention, team spirit, attacking each game with refreshed vigour – all these and more would be of more use to the people of Oakleigh District F.C. than win-loss record, margins, and percentage.
In terms of players worthy of mention – the two who stand out the most would have to be the leading goal kicker Matt Stojanoski – kicking goals regularly against such a stiff tide is no mean feat. Isaac Conway has perpetually featured in the team’s best, and would look to lead the team to greener pastures in years to come.
Sadly, the folks of Oakleigh District will have to wait, but on the plus side – regarding pure performance ratings, few years will be worse than this one.
For (Rank): 760 (3rd)
Against (Rank): 497 (1st)
Leading goalkicker: Mitch Jackson (14)
Best + Fairest Leader: Sam Wadley
The Redbacks were set to suffer a setback this year after sustaining some losses to their line-up. Stars such as the two Farmer brothers, Mitch and Trent, left during the off-season.
However, Brett Rowe, ever the strategist, has maintained stability, and Ringwood continue to be one of the main threats to the Division Two Premiership in 2022.
Not only have their wins been coming consistently, they’ve been impressive wins at that. Only two losses, one against South Belgrave that was close at every change and a recent defeat at the hands of East Burwood. Only time will tell, yet this game has the makings of a Preliminary final, and Ringwood were not far off besting them.
The backline was one area of the ground that has remained relatively unchanged. Tim Jones, Tim Waack, and Scott Laing have all been steadfast this year – the foundations for many of the Redbacks’ victories this year. Also, consistent have been their outside runners. Jack Blyth and James Parker have both been in fine form, continuing Ringwood’s ability to move the ball with precision from last year.
The losses from last year have certainly been made up for some of the way with the inclusion of Vermont recruit Sam Wadley, and the emergence of young gun ruckman Jett Latchford. These inclusions have made sure that Ringwood’s midfield and clearance work are amongst the best of the division this year. The last question on the agenda is that of scoring. They don’t seem to have one go-to player. While a spread of goal kickers is ultimately a healthy thing, the lack of a focal point could harm them in the high-pressure situations of finals. Missing names such as Zach Callinan and Mitch Brereton for some of the year won’t have helped, so fingers crossed for the Redbacks that they can have an uninterrupted end to the season.
Ultimately in a year which brought big changes to Jubilee Park, the coaching, leadership, and culture have all combined to make it seem that nothing has changed at all. Taking a closer look would show that the forward line has taken a hit, and that may impact their chances come the finals. Despite that being said, Ringwood will no doubt continue to impress and threaten into the second half of the season.
For (Rank): 1031 (1st)
Against (Rank): 515 (2nd)
Leading goalkicker: Tim Smith (30)
Best + Fairest Leader: Mitch Garner
While one of the scariest teams of the division in 2021, the result did not bare that out. A 7-5 record once all was locked away belied the team’s raw power. A truth that has certainly come to the fore in season 2022.
It wouldn’t be amiss to consider the Saints the top seed heading into the second half of the season. An 8-1 record with an average score of 115 (inflated somewhat after their recent annihilation of Oakleigh District) does justice to the way South Belgrave has played. The main talking point is fairly obvious – the array of weaponry up forward. Already considered a three-headed beast in 2021, the line-up of Tim Smith, Damien Garner, and Leigh Odermatt have now been joined by another two Garners – Mitch (who’s mostly been used in ruck), and former North Melbourne player Taylor. The three carry-overs from the forward line last year (Damien Garner, Smith, and Odermatt) have combined for a total of 60 goals this season, from just 18 games amongst them, while Taylor Garner has netted 26 from just 5 games.
Casting our eyes into the midfield, the fact that Liam Kidd has been out for all but one game is a scary thought. One of the best during 2021, his absence highlights just how deep the line-up is down the middle. Brother Aiden Kidd, Cayden Black, and new ruckman Mitch Garner have all ensured South Belgrave are able to move the ball down into the crucial hands of the aforementioned goal kickers.
The one blemish of this season was a loss to a resurgent Mulgrave – not the team anyone expected to topple the rampaging Saints, but it was perhaps a game which said more about the Lions then it did about South Belgrave. A recent scare against Boronia also demonstrates that not every team is as out of touch with the Saints as some margins suggest, however there’s not much evidence against the conclusion that South Belgrave will continue to take all before them.
For (Rank): 569 (8th)
Against (Rank) (7th)
Leading goalkicker: Matt Nagel (13)
Best + Fairest Leader: Michael Fogarty
Aggressive recruiting in the off season has not yielded the results Templestowe would have wanted, but it has helped to create a new-look Dockers team for season 2022.
It must be remembered that Templestowe were dead last in the division last year, and didn’t look at all close to beating any of the contending teams. In contrast, this year has seen more than a couple of sparks of promise for the boys in purple. Templestowe’s form really started to ascend in round seven with a win over Boronia, and they followed that up with a similarly close victory against The Basin. These wins are certainly proving that the gap is being closed in this division; they are not wins Tempy would have been close to attaining in season 2021. They’ve also come recently, and is telling of the fact that the incoming talent is really beginning to gel.
The recruits have blended well with the top-end talent of the team from previous years. Notwithstanding star recruit Cameron Cloke tearing his hamstring off the bone in round two, players such as Nick Batsanis, Michael Fogarty, Max Otten, and Toby Ryan have all combined with the familiar names. Matt(s) Zukiewicz, McLellan and Nagel all continue to kick goals, but the problems arise when you try to look beyond these names.
The biggest criticism of Templestowe would have to be the depth in the starting 22. The players mentioned tend to be the ones chosen in the best week in and week out. The improvement seems to have come from the top, and not necessarily the bottom. If Templestowe are to take the next step, and become a sustainable force within in the competition, they can’t afford to rely too heavily on recruits who are already in, or past their prime.
There have indeed been positives, and the Dockers are a team who are improving before our eyes as the recruits are working out how to play together. The wins may start to flow more easily in the second half of the year; however the damage might have already been done in regards to finals hopes. Just the three wins is indicative of the team’s flakiness, and they can’t rely on the top end talent to be firing week after week.
For (Rank): 729 (5th)
Against (Rank): 602 (4th)
Leading goalkicker: Jackson Drake (23)
Best + Fairest Leader: Nick Hallo
A horrendous start to the year has been balanced out by a solid past few rounds down at the bear cave, and a season which should have seen The Basin in premiership contention could still yet be saved.
This half-season could be considered a tale of two halves in and of itself if you’re a Basin fan. A win against Knox in round five should have been a regulation victory this year, not a sigh of relief as they picked up their first win. Losses to Ringwood, South Belgrave, Heathmont, and a draw against Boronia don’t sound awful in isolation, but momentum is as massive between games as it is throughout games in footy. The change in The Basin’s fortunes came from some of the usual suspects of 2021 turning their own form around, or simply getting onto the park.
Jayden Gee, Trevor Mills, Deon Boavida started to flex their muscles in the past few rounds, Mills especially with 17 goals in four games. The impact of these players cannot be denied, nor can the quality of The Basin outfit as a whole, and recent thumping victories of competition upstarts in East Burwood and Mulgrave are a testament to that.
There were a couple of players who have played consistently well for The Basin no matter the form of the team, and they deserve mention. Garfield recruits Jayden Goumas, and Matt Rennie have proven their value very quickly – Rennie with 14 goals for the season so far, and Goumas ranking among the best in every single game he’s played. The other player providing continuity for the Bears is Jackson Drake. Already with 23 goals for the season, he’s been a reliable target up forward all year.
There are still worries about The Basin – their recent loss to Templestowe was one out of the box. It remains to be seen which team that game speaks most about. Other than that, there must be better feeling around Batterham Reserve, than there was just a month ago. After the bye there will be no time for comfort, however and the start of the season could haunt the Bears if they happen to drop a couple more games they shouldn’t.