By Matt Fotia
Whilst an enforced fortnight hiatus from action was never in anyone’s ideal planning, the competition break has given clubs time to take stock, look at what’s working, what isn’t working and figure out how they can hit the ground running when the EFNL returns.
And if you’re outside the inner sanctum, don’t stress, cause we’ve done it too in our Deakin University Mid-Season Reviews.
Pos: 2nd (Premier)
For (Rank): 66.3 points per game (9th)
Against (Rank): 57.3 (1st)
Leading Goalkicker: Joshua Stern (8)
Best + Fairest Leader: Jackson Sketcher
The Bulls have been one of the surprise packets of the 2021 season.
Following an emotional breakup with long time mentor Mick Fogarty and a year without football, many expected the Bulls to go through a transition phase under Steve Hughes, but the Bulls have been doing anything but, grabbing early wins and solidifying their finals chances.
With arguably the number one midfield in the league, the Bulls are the number one ranked side for disposals (323) and clearances (41.3) and are being led by Kyle Martin (9.4 clearances a game) and Sketcher, who is putting in A grade performances week in, week out, averaging 27 touches, 7 clearances, 4.8 inside 50’s and 3.5 tackles per game.
Hughes said early in the year his side would be well set up defensively and has delivered on that promise. The only real question mark is will the Bulls be able to kick a big enough score to win crunch finals?
So far, so good for these new look Bulls.
Grade – A+
Pos: 4th (Division One)
For (Rank): 70 (5th)
Against (Rank): 62.5(4th)
Leading Goalkicker: Jackson Hallo (11)
Best + Fairest Leader: Ben Joseph
Another surprise packet, this time in Division One.
Mitcham were promoted off the back of a dream 2019 finals run and were unexpectedly quiet on the transfer front across the extra long pre-season, with key defender Dylan Brookes the main inclusion to the side, along with Ferntree Gully youngster Alex Barton-Smith who had been signed pre-pandemic.
The pair have proven good pickups, appearing in the best players on three and four occasions respectively.
The Tigers have won games with a high tackle, high pressure game style, which whilst getting results, may have contributed to their ever-growing injury list. They’ve used 33 players in the senior side this season and have debuted a number of young players – notably key position players – to fill the gaps.
One big tick was the return of Jake Parente in their Round Seven win over Bayswater, with the star forward booting six and leading the Tigers to their only 100+ score of the year.
Grade – A
Pos: 6th (Division Two)
For (Rank): 53.7(6th)
Against (Rank): 80(6th)
Leading Goalkicker: Thomas McGowan (16)
Best + Fairest Leader: Connor Tilyard
Two and Five isn’t where they would’ve liked to be, but the Lions are doing what their list should in 2021, given the stage of their cycle and the overall strength of the competition.
Ryan Webster’s side have impressed for periods against sides in the top five and the first year coach will be keen to see more of Tilyard (Five Times in Best), Falloon and Lecce as the year progresses.
The Lions older brigade are still doing the job as well.
Club legend Dean Siakoulis is still a sniff of another Best + Fairest, whilst games record holder Adam Booth is still getting the job done as he heads towards 40.
The aim for the rest of season will be close the gap on the top sides and get more games into the next generation of Lions players.
Grade – B-
Pos: 7th (Division Three)
For (Rank): 68.6(5th)
Against (Rank): 68.5(4th)
Leading Goalkicker: Adam Amin (27)
Best + Fairest Leader: Scott McInerney
The Hawks are sliding under the radar in Division Three and are an outside chance to squeeze into the top four.
Unlike some of their counterparts in this Division, the Hawks are performing a lot better than their ladder position suggests, ranked as the fourth best defensive outfit and the fifth best offensive unit – albeit reliant on one goal source.
Adam Amin has 27 majors thus far in 2021 and the powerful mid-sized forward has already snagged two hauls of 8+ against Fairpark and the defensive giants in Donvale. New recruit Scott McInerney has added some much need experience across the half back line and Jack Steinfort has also impressed.
The Hawks might have left themselves a little bit too much work to do when it comes to a surprise finals berth, but they’ll play a big role in who makes up the top four regardless.
Grade – C+
Pos: 2nd(Division Four)
For (Rank): 123.1(2nd)
Against (Rank): 59.1(2nd)
Leading Goalkicker: Mitchell Hanegraaf (28)
Best + Fairest Leader: Jack Borrack
Did we sleep on the Zebras?
There wasn’t much chat about Forest Hill being a real challenger to Coldstream in 2021 in the pre-season, but barring a Round One loss to Silvan up the mountain, the Zebras have been faultless, sitting clear in second spot.
Justin Sciculna’s side have kicked five 100+ scores in a row and have only allowed two sides to put 60 points past them (Surrey Park + Croydon North MLOC – 63) since that Round One defeat.
They’ve been spreading the love too, with 15 players having kicked multiple goals in a game this season, whilst Aaron Creak, Elijah Dale, Will Stoneham and Jack Borrack have been showing up each weekend.
Whilst Coldstream still seem a step above them, the Zebras will know more than anyone that it’s about how you perform in September that really counts.
Grade – A
Pos: 6th (Division Four)
For (Rank): 71.6(5th)
Against (Rank): 111.8 (6th)
Leading Goalkicker: Ryan Goodinson (14)
Best + Fairest Leader: Mitchell Jacobs
Much like Mulgrave in Division Two, Kilsyth are doing what’s asked of them in 2021.
The Cougars have had fairly healthy wins over the two sides below them on the table and have shown some promising signs in their games over Chirnside Park and especially Silvan.
The Cougars main aim for the remainder of the year will be to keep building on this momentum and close the gap on the top four to five sides in the Division.
Simon Clarke (4 x TIB), Jarrad Arthur (2 x TIB + 8 goals) and James Anderson (7 goals) have been some shining lights along with Mitchell Jacobs and will be key to the Cougars second half of the year.
Grade – C+
Pos: 5th (Division Three)
For (Rank): 60.5(8th)
Against (Rank): 77.5 (7th)
Leading Goalkicker: Thomas Sonsie (13)
Best+ Fairest Leader: Paul Chadwick
They would rather have the four points, but that Round One draw against Glen Waverley might be a blessing in disguise for the Magpies, with their unusual points tally negating their woeful percentage.
That being said, 5th on the ladder might be a bit flattering, given their lack of scoring power in 2021.
The Magpies having kicked just one score over 70 points this year and two of their wins have been fortuitous, with Fairpark forgetting how to kick in the second half and Warrandyte trying the risky move of kicking behinds exclusively.
Defensively they haven’t been as bad as the stats would indicate, with their thumping at the hands of Waverley Blues skewing the numbers. Remove that outlier and they’re conceding 58 points per game.
Given finals is not the be all and end all for the Magpies in 2021, don’t be surprised to see some more youth integrated into the side and join the likes of Zac Corcoran, Cooper Frith and Cooper Denny.
Grade – B
Pos: 1st (Division Two)
For (Rank): 81.8 (3rd)
Against (Rank): 46.2 (2nd)
Leading Goalkicker: Trent Farmer (13)
Best + Fairest Leader: Jack Blyth
The Redbacks are back again and are poised for another assault on the Division Two title.
Brett Rowe’s men have been as impressive as always in the opening seven rounds of the season and have made Jubilee Park one of the toughest places to go once again, winning all three of their home fixtures by an average margin of 49.3 points.
The return of Trent Farmer has led to more drooling over their forward stocks, Ringwood have five players with eight or more goals in 2021, but it’s their defensive structures that really stack up, with their full ground press often leaving sides stuck at the bottom of Jubilee’s hill. Only the Division’s number one attack, South Belgrave, have kicked more 70 points against them in 2021 and Ringwood let through under eight goals a game.
Like Forest Hill in Division Four, all of this means squat to Ringwood fans – it’s all about the backend of the year and whether or not they can win that elusive premiership.
Grade – A