By Matt Fotia
Local football means a lot to all of us and here at the EFNL we’re committed to giving you the analysis it deserves in the weekly Eastland In and Under column, where Media Manager Matt Fotia gives you his three key takeaways from the weekend that was.
- Compliments to the List Manager
Mooroolbark have taken all before them in Division One this season and withstood another strong challenge on Saturday against third placed Mitcham in front of a strong crowd at Heights Reserve.
Mitcham kicked the last few goals of the third quarter to close the gap to within a kick and were poised to upset the top of the table Mustangs after a rousing three quarter speech from coach Neil Winterton.
10 minutes into the final quarter and any hopes of an upset win were quashed, as the Mustangs pulled out to an unassailable lead and kept their incredible winning streak alive.
Mooroolbark’s rise to the top of the division hasn’t come out of nowhere of course.
The club has several junior sides in the topflight and have been one of, if not the best clubs on the recruitment front since 2019.
In 2021 they finished up third on the table, averaging 81.5 (ranked 3rd) points for and 63.5 (ranked 4th) points against per game, with their midfield of Noonan, Maki, league medallist Austin Smith and co the envy of the competition.
But it was obvious they needed to strengthen their key posts.
A reliable goal kicker was needed to help assist Aaron Mullett in front of the big sticks – and allow the club’s marquee player to roll through the midfield more regularly -, another marking defender was a must, especially following the exit of Troy Wright and a first-class ruckman was top priority to make their all-star midfield almost unstoppable.
By the time the 2022 season kicked off the Mustangs had ticked off every box, welcoming back Trent Georgiou from Silvan, Jai Jordan from a self-induced footballing break as well as recruiting big man Ryley Monkhorst from Woori Yallock, catapulting themselves into pole position for the Division One premiership.
The Mustangs are up a net total of 26.3 points on last season (avg 99.2 for, 54.9 agst) and are yet to lose a game in 2022, with those three new (or returning) Mustangs have played key roles in their undefeated campaign.
Georgiou has teamed up with Shane Kennedy to create a quasi May-Lever partnership. The soon to be life member is averaging 2 contested marks per game, 2.3 spoils and 4.5 rebound 50’s, using that bullet like left foot to kick start Mooroolbark attacks.
Monkhorst has been named in their best on five occasions this season, averaging 27.2 hit outs per game, 3.6 score involvements and an impressive 9.5 clearances, adding to Mooroolbark’s already imperious midfield set up.
But most impressively has been the performance of Jai Jordan. A prestigious junior Jordan became one of Mooroolbark’s most important players and leaders very quickly before stepping away.
His output in 2022 shows why he shot to Mustangs prominence so quickly.
He’s booted 37 goals from 11 games, averages 2.6 marks inside 50 per game, 6 score involvements and 1.8 contested marks.
Crucially for Brett Lavars and co, he seems to be loving his footy.
Mooroolbark have steadily built themselves into a possible Premier Division club with blossoming juniors, an impressive coach and now a super list, and kudos must go to the chef – whomever they may be.
- Back on the Burners
Saturday was massive for the Blackburn Football Club.
Not only were they able to break a five-game losing streak against one of their biggest rivals – raining on Vermont’s Past Players Day parade in the process – they managed to close the gap on the Premier Division top six and put themselves in a strong position ahead of an interesting run home.
Blackburn are stuck in a bit of a flux.
They’ve been ruthless when playing sides around them or below them (barring their draw with Berwick) but have proven well off the pace of the current top five.
Against sides in the top five they’re currently winless, with a losing margin of 41 points, conceding 100 points on average – something they’ll have to tidy up if they’re to compete in the second half of the season.
|Balwyn||BB 35 def by Balwyn 96||L (-61)|
|South Croydon||BB 82 def by South Croydon 112||L (-30)|
|Noble Park||BB 84 def by Noble Park 95||L (-11)|
|Doncaster East||BB 35 def by Doncaster East 97||L (-62)|
|Overall||BB 236 Opponents 400||0 – 4 (-164)|
Against the chasing pack – Vermont, Norwood, and Park Orchards – Blackburn are undefeated, with three crucial wins. Notably they’ve been able to shut all those sides down, averaging just 56 points against in those matches.
|Park Orchards||BB 63 def Park Orchards 53||W (+10)|
|Norwood||BB 78 def Norwood 53||W (+25)|
|Vermont||BB 72 def Vermont 62||W (+10)|
|Overall||BB 213 Opponents 168||3 – 0 (+45)|
The Burners are currently in 7th, half a game behind Vermont and Doncaster East. Their draw against Berwick may well come in handy, as their percentage is well off the pace at the midway point of the season.
Their fixture is a tricky one.
They have three games against the current bottom three left (Doncaster, North Ringwood, and Berwick), two against their mid table peers (Park Orchards and Vermont) and four against the top five (Rowville, Balwyn, South Croydon, and Doncaster East).
Should they continue their current form line, they’ll finish on 38 points (9.5 wins), which could be enough, but 10.5 would be much more comfortable.
That extra win must come against a top five side, which would in turn give Blackburn both a finals spot and the knowledge they can knock off the 2022 big boys.
- Shoutout for Silvan
We probably haven’t given Silvan enough credit in 2022.
The Cats have not stopped purring since the season began.
They’re yet to kick a score under 100, with their lowest score coming against Surrey Park when they struggled to 102 points against the defensively sound Panthers.
That day also saw their smallest winning margin, as they clung on to win by 35 points in a edge of your seat thriller.
They’ve kicked past the 150-point mark on five occasions this season – as well as getting stuck on 149 in round one – and have just put together back-to-back 200-point scores – including one against second placed Chirnside Park.
They’ve got the two best forwards in the division in Leigh Kimpton and Justin Ficorilli, with the former Croydon duo kicking 101 between them thus far this season (Kimpton 60, Ficorilli 41) and the Cattery has seen four 10+ hauls this year, with Kimpton (2) Ficorilli (1) and Billy Rattray (1) all getting into double figures at some point this season.
Whilst no neutral really enjoys having a side so clearly ahead of the competition, it’s hard not to admire the pure dominance of the Cats in 2022.
Who knows what they could get up to in the back half of the year.