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.
- The Blues Got You Down
Whilst the rest of the league is distracted watching the race to the top between Mooroolbark and East Ringwood in Division One, Croydon are keeping their head down and going about their work in an impressive manner.
Six weeks into the season and Croydon sit third on the ladder with just the one loss to their name, coming at the hands of East Ringwood, and are well placed to get another shot at the double chance in 2022.
Croydon have an A+ midfield and when Joel Koger is on his game they can hurt sides out of the middle, with Ficorilli, McKenzie, Hotker, Carter, Christie, and Lynch all capable of cutting teams open when given the silver service the former Lilydale junior can provide.
But the biggest tick in the Croydon column so far this season has been their defence. The Blues concede just 49.6 points per game to be the stingiest side in the Division and it doesn’t look like that number will change anytime soon.
The Blues push numbers right up the field and look to cut off any simple balls for their opponents, forcing a dump kick down the line.
And that’s where their back six come into it.
Croydon average 48.7 intercept possessions and 17.5 intercept marks per game, creating plenty of repeat entries.
Fraser Smith leads the way in this statistic, averaging three intercept marks per game, along with Billy Dickson (2.6) and Jai Mortimer (2.5). Dickson also averages 4.9 intercept possessions per game to boot.
Beaconsfield did find a way through the Blues defence in the third quarter though.
Not only did they start to even things up around the ball, but they also started to take a few more risks and avoid the long dump kick down the line whenever they could.
The Eagles looked to take the 15-metre option more often, were more willing to give off a risky handball and added some more speed to their game, and whilst this style can look very ugly when it goes wrong, it does mean that the Croydon defenders have to turn and run back towards goal and they weren’t happy about it on Saturday, with Beaconsfield forwards Jafar Occa and Matthew Johnson both creating headaches at different stages.
There’s another left field option to consider when taking on the Blues grid defence as well that might suit the likes of East Ringwood, Mitcham and co, who have a star power forward.
Concede a number up the ground and leave a Jake Parente or Trent Farmer stationed deep at all times.
Back your midfielders and defenders to get the ball down there and force Croydon to decide, do they stay a bit deeper than they’d like to cover the deep forward, or do they risk giving away some very easy goals out the back.
Regardless of how opponents choose to approach playing the Blues, they’ll all find that they have periods where they can’t escape their defensive half for life or for money, and it’s all down the system and personnel that the Blues have in their back six.
- Five don’t fit into two
Staying in Division One and given the early season dominance of the top three – Mooroolbark, East Ringwood, and Croydon – it looks like there are just two spots left available in the top five, and there are five clubs who have still have a solid claim to making it, with Wantirna South, Montrose, Mitcham, Bayswater, and Beaconsfield all within a game of each other.
So, who’s in the box seat?
The clubs have all played at least three games against one another, with Wantirna South (currently 4th) having played all four of the aforementioned sides.
Here’s how those games have panned out.
|v W Sth||v Mont||v Mitch||v Bays||v Beac||W/L (+/-)|
|Wantirna Sth||Loss (1)||Loss (1)||Win (34)||Win (21)||2/2 (+53)|
|Montrose||Win (1)||Win (11)||Loss (6)||2/1 (+6)|
|Mitcham||Win (1)||Loss (11)||Win (16)||2/1 (+6)|
|Bayswater||Loss (34)||Loss (16)||Loss (38)||0/3 (-88)|
|Beaconsfield||Loss (21)||Win (6)||Win (38)||2/1 (+23)|
The Devils, Demons, Tigers, and Eagles have all won at least two of their games, with the Waters the obvious fifth seed, yet to defeat one of their direct rivals.
Wantirna South have the best points differential, up by 53 across those four games and their two losses have come by just one point, whilst Beaconsfield are sitting just above Montrose and Mitcham using that same metric.
Beaconsfield are the best defensive outfit of the five, conceding just 389 points across the opening six rounds, with Montrose (414 points against) and Wantirna South (424 points against) behind them by 25 and 35 points respectively.
The Devils have 510 points to their name, 43 points more than Montrose who are the next best offense of the five teams in focus.
So, what does all this mumbo jumbo tell us? To me it says two things.
Bayswater are a good side, but not really finals material at this stage, a little bit off the pace.
And that Wantirna South might be better than their record suggests, with a point here or there the difference between the Devils being 5-1 and their current predicament of 3-2.
But ultimately all these stats don’t mean that much after just six weeks of the 2022 season.
Beaconsfield will claim they’re yet to play the bottom two sides, whilst Montrose will point to their performances against the likes of Mooroolbark and East Ringwood.
Regardless, three good sides will miss finals in Division One this season, and I for one, am all for it.
- Relegation Race
Speaking of races, the race to avoid the drop in the Premier Division took another turn on Saturday, as Doncaster dragged themselves out of the mess – for now – and Berwick almost pinched one against the tide.
The Wickers stormed home to hit the front against Blackburn, thanks to a six-goal haul from Harry Money, before a late Samuel Harte set-shot left the two teams deadlocked at the final siren, with Berwick taking their first points – albeit just two of them – of the season.
It leaves the Wickers in second last on the Premier Division ladder, above North Ringwood, who were unable to capitalise on a half time lead against Doncaster at Schramms Reserve.
Doncaster, who were the beneficiaries of some woeful goal kicking the weekend before against Berwick, looked to have kicked themselves out of it, down by 13 points at the main break (3.9 to 6.4) and three points at the final change (4.15 to 6.6), before Kyle Viccars (3.5) and Chris Annakis (2.4) found their kicking boots to push the Sharks to their second win in a row.
It leaves Robin Nahas’ men rock bottom after five rounds with a tough fortnight ahead as they take on Balwyn this week and South Croydon the next, before they finally meet the Wickers.
Interestingly enough the two sides meet again in Round 18, meaning we could have a relegation play-off on our hands.
Don’t discount North Ringwood though.
On several occasions in 2021 the Saints looked dead and buried before producing a trio of enthralling wins, including two big come from behind victories against the Doncaster sides and a boilover against Blackburn.
All this shows is that sometimes there’s more action at the bottom of the table then the top.