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.
- Real Deal Rowville
There surely can be no more Rowville doubters out there anymore.
Heading into the season it was the widespread opinion that the Hawks would be young and talented but would struggle to keep up with the big boys in the Premier Division. An up and down year would take place, with Ben Wise’s group riding the inconsistent roller-coaster that only a youthful football side can provide.
A month in and said opinion couldn’t have been more inaccurate. The Hawks sit on top of the Premier Division Ladder with some big scalps to their name. They blew Noble Park out of the water in Round One, handled North Ringwood with consummate ease in Round Two, kept Norwood in the game with poor goal kicking in Round Three and announced themselves as the real deal in Round Four with a gritty win over an uber talented Balwyn side that battered them from pillar to post less than 12 months ago.
The Hawks are quick, they harass their opponents and they’ve got the ball more often than not.
Ranked #2 for total disposals, just behind another impressive outfit in Doncaster East, the Hawks are the number one uncontested side in the Division. They also take more kicks than anyone else and have more groundball gets.
If they’re that good on the outside, surely, they struggle around the coalface?
The Hawks are ranked third for centre clearances and have depth through the middle, with the likes of Anthony Brolic, Alex Frawley and Lachlan McDonald benefitting from the brilliant ruck work of Nik Schoenmakers.
McDonald has been the star so far in 2022. He’s averaging 27.5 disposals per game (#5 League Wide), 8 clearances (#6), 3.3 of those centre clearances (#2).
The only other midfielder to have a better start to the season across all categories is Noble Park champion Kyle Martin – that’s decent company.
Down forward they’ve improved as well. Last season Lachlan Wynd impressed with limited opportunities in front of goal and seemed to be the Hawks only real threat in front of the big sticks.
This season he’s one of 15 players to register a major and he isn’t the main man just yet.
Matt Davey is enjoying a career best start, with the mid-sized operator booting 10 goals in four weeks.
Davey is well on track to beat his career best goals tally of 30, which he snared back in 2012.
You know what else happened in 2012? Rowville won the flag.
- Mighty Mustangs
Mooroolbark’s undefeated start to 2022 is somewhat less surprising than Rowville’s.
The Mustangs have been vocal with their intentions of becoming a Premier Division club sooner rather than later and were bullish after a promising campaign in 2021.
Despite this promise, Mooroolbark were a little bit off the pace last season – to be fair Park Orchards were head and shoulders above the rest – with their lack of match winners letting them down. The simplest knock was that they needed a pair of Aaron Mullett’s.
One to get the footy and one to kick the goals. And after five games in 2022 it’s safe to say they’ve added the missing pieces.
Junior prodigy Jai Jordan has returned to the senior side for the first time since 2018 and relished a role in the forward half, booting 14 goals in five games. Jordan wasn’t shy of a goal in his previous life, but even still his best season tally is 24 back in 2016, when he played 20 matches.
Jordan isn’t the only new attacking weapon firing in 2022. Under 19 Ryan Symons has added something different to the Mooroolbark unit this season, after debuting in the senior side last season. Despite his age Symons has 19 goals in nine senior games.
They’ve added some extra spice around the ball as well, particularly in the Ruck, with former Balwyn and Woori Yallock ruckman Ryley Monkhorst having an immediate impact.
Monkhorst has given the likes of Austin Smith, Kane Noonan, Cayden Maki, Mullett and former Essendon man Heath Hocking, first class service so far this year as well as contributing himself.
Against Mitcham Monkhorst had 34 hit outs and eight clearances, and he followed up with 26 and 11 against Montrose.
Things were promising in 2021 for Mooroolbark.
They look even better in 2022.
- Landmark Moments
Two results stood out above the rest when scrolling through Saturday’s results.
One in Division Four and one in Division Two.
Let’s start in Division Two, where Mulgrave showed their early season potential was genuine, making it two wins in a row, as they knocked off premiership favourite South Belgrave.
No one had come close to the Saints in the opening month and this victory will be something for Mulgrave to build off in 2022.
The Lions have now played all of the current top four and a pre-season finals contender in Heathmont and have come away with a 2-3 record.
Their performances have been built off a nice mixture of youth and experience, with the evergreen Adam Booth (16 goals) and Dean Siakoulis combining beautiful with the next generation of Mulgrave stars in Connor Tilyard, Jaxon Gervasoni and Jack Davidson.
With games against Templestowe (A), Knox (H) and Oakleigh District (A) in the next three weeks, it’s imperative that Mulgrave cash in on this great start to the season. If they can hit the turn with a positive win-loss record, they’ll give themselves a pretty good look at the club’s first finals series since 2014.
Now onto the biggest story of the weekend.
It was inevitable that one of Croydon North MLOC or Nunawading would take a scalp eventually. If not this year, the next.
Both clubs have put in a mountain of work to get themselves up to the level and on Saturday the KangaRams scored a landmark victory with a comfortable win over perennial Division Four finalists Forest Hill.
Former East Ringwood swingman Daniel Butera booted four, whilst another recruit in Robert Hudson was best afield, getting himself a second consecutive appearance in the KangaRams best players.
This win has plenty of importance for this young club. Not only will it be a date to look back on for years to come, but it also provides some much-needed confidence and momentum ahead of a tricky set of fixtures as they take on Chirnside Park (A), Surrey Park (H) and Silvan (A) in succession.
But now buoyed by their breakthrough win, who knows what the KangaRams can do. Win one of those three and finals might just be a possibility.
Who would’ve thought that 12 months ago.