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.
- Finals Debut
Another Premier Division weekend gone, and another club’s finals hopes have been dashed, whilst another side is set on the same path.
Norwood and Vermont have both been ravaged by injuries and look destined to miss the top six this season. The Eagles are still just a win out of 6th spot, but with their current form line it’s hard to see them squeezing in.
Norwood have never really got going in 2022 and with Saturday’s spirited loss they’re locked in for another year on the September sidelines.
South Croydon and Doncaster East both got big wins to move two games clear inside the top six and would need to suffer a dramatic collapse to miss the six. The Lion ascension to Premier Division finals is not as surprising as it would seem on paper, given the talent on their list and the number of close losses they suffered last season.
Blackburn have the front running for the last spot in the six, with Park Orchards the only genuine threat at the time of writing – and it’s safe to say a few sides will be cheering the Panthers home for the remainder of the season.
Park Orchards, despite their 5-6 record, would pose more of a threat to the likes of Balwyn, South Croydon, and Doncaster East in a one-off elimination final. The Sharks have beaten both the Tigers and Lions already this season and went down to South Croydon by 17 points despite having eight more scoring shots.
That’s a common theme for Dennis Armfield’s men.
In four of their six losses this season they’ve had more scoring shots and they had the same amount as Blackburn when the Burners squeezed home by 10 points under lights at Morton Park. Losses to Norwood (5 points, 10 more scoring shots) and Vermont (16 points, 4 more scoring shots) will sting the most, with both sides sitting below them currently.
The Sharks brand of football is one that could wreak havoc in do or die finals.
They’re the number one clearance side in the competition and the number one intercept team. They’re also in the top three for tackles and forward 50 tackles. Tag onto that the fact they’re quick – something that will worry the likes of Balwyn and South Croydon.
Speed that is accompanied by a potent attack, The Sharks average 88.6 points per game, 5th just 0.2 behind Rowville, and boast five players with 13 or more goals, led by Connor Hickey who has 29 majors for the season.
Armfield and company have three must win games in a tricky run home. They take on Vermont (A), Norwood (H) and Blackburn (H) in Rounds 15,16 and 17 and simply must take 12 points from those three games to be a proper finals chance.
Pinching a game or two either side would be handy, but with Noble Park (H), South Croydon (A), Rowville (H) and Doncaster East (A) either side of that non-negotiable trio, that’s a more difficult proposition.
Regardless of where they finish in 2022 Park Orchards can head into the 2023 pre-season knowing two things.
They’re belong in the Premier Division.
And they need to work on their goal kicking.
Down in Division Four there’s an intriguing two horse race for the finals emerging after Kilsyth’s loss to Chirnside on the weekend, and Forest Hill’s gritty win over Croydon North MLOC.
The Zebras are back in the four thanks to a superior percentage, but it’s nothing to hang their hat on, with their 90.6 just 0.3 more than the Cougars.
They’ve come together on two occasions already this season, with Forest Hill winning on both occasions, despite Kilsyth having more scoring shots in both Round Two and Round Nine.
Forest Hill will need to repeat the dose in Round 16 if they’re to play finals in 2022, with the Zebras run home slightly harder than their counterparts out at Pinks Reserve, with Justin Scicluna’s troops resting up this weekend before taking on Silvan, Chirnside Park, Kilsyth, Surrey Park, and Nunawading.
Kilsyth will host Silvan this weekend before taking on Surrey Park (after the bye), Forest Hill, Nunawading and Croydon North MLOC.
Should they win their two games against Kilsyth and Nunawading, Forest Hill will finish on 28 points, but Kilsyth will still be in the box seat to finish in the four, with their final two fixtures presenting them an opportunity to supersede the Zebras percentage and squeeze in despite failing to beat Forest Hill across the season.
4th spot in this Division was decided by percentage back in 2019, as Surrey Park edged out Silvan in a frantic final day.
Hopefully for the neutrals sake Forest Hill can set up another one in 2022.
- More than a game
Saturday was a big day for the Norwood Football Club.
Not only were they playing to keep their season alive, but they were, more importantly, putting on a special NAIDOC event – an EFNL first, as two sides wearing indigenous jumpers met on the same day.
Norwood have become the leaders in the Indigenous space for the Eastern Football Netball League community across the past two seasons, ever since they debuted their Indigenous jumper against South Croydon last season.
The initiative has since grown to six clubs in 2022, with Rowville, Whitehorse, Warrandyte, and South Croydon all wearing Indigenous jumpers of their own during the season, with East Burwood set to debut one soon, with each design telling a different story and sparking some more interest in a crucial topic.
Aided by Jamie Bennell and his incredible skillset in this space, the Wooders have taken the ball and run with it since then.
Walking into Mullum Mullum on Saturday there was an instant energy.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were on centre stage, painted on the wing and up the driveway flagpole.
Players and supporters alike were eager to show their support, with plenty of Clothing the Gaps gear splattered amongst the crowd.
The day was supremely well organised – albeit with a Covid related hiccup – and climaxed with a special on ground ceremony following the Premier Division Reserves clash.
Six teams gathered on the oval – Eastern Devils were also part of the day taking on South Croydon’s women’s sides – with the Norwood senior side all dressed in Black ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ T-Shirts, as the Koorie Youth Will Shake Spears Dance Group took the players through a smoking ceremony, before welcoming all onlookers onto the ground for a pair of traditional dances.
Engaging ceremonies like this one play a key role in the education process. They’re a hook, something to get people interested.
Once people are interested, they won’t turn back.
The Norwood Football Club and its members are already educating themselves more and more on the history of Indigenous Australians, with Jamie’s support and they’re not afraid to dig deeper, ask questions and learn about one of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.
Most exciting of all is the willingness Jamie and Norwood have shown to help other EFNL clubs follow suit.
Clubs and players have been encouraged to get in touch – much like South Croydon and Warrandyte did – to learn how to get the ball rolling.
Onwards and upwards into 2023.