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By Matt Fotia

Ferntree Gully fudged it and put their top four hopes into jeopardy, Norwood did the same, Mitcham miss a massive chance, South Belgrave are primed for an assault and Nunawading get the monkey off their back.

It’s In + Under time.

1.Gully Problem

Ferntree Gully were both mightily unlucky and very deserving of their loss to Donvale on the weekend, going down by the solitary behind thanks to a late double from Billy McCormack.

The Eagles dominated the game after quarter time, having the lions-share of possession as well as dominating the territory battle and showed why they’ve been entrenched in the Division Three top two for the season thus far.

At their best they spread the ball well, stretching their opposition, and had some real pace and fluency to their play, but a number of key mistakes cost them the four points and could hurt them in the long run.

Ferntree Gully took too long to react the mis-matches in their defensive 50 during the first quarter, when the Magpies were more or less walking the ball out of the stoppage.

Nicholas Murphy, Zac Haig and Billy McCormack (who were rotating between Ruck and Full Forward) had way to much aerial strength for the undersized pair of Luke Sproules and Dane Wilding, whose lack of height – in comparison – was compounded by the quality of forward 50 entry the Magpies were getting. All the while Michael Topp twiddled his thumbs down the other end of the ground with nothing to do.

Topp was swung into defence after quarter time and was able to put his football IQ and organisation skills to work, helping Sproules and Wilding with their mammoth tasks, as well as kick-starting attacks for the Eagles, eventually named in the Gully’s best players.

Whilst at its best the Eagles ball movement was a pleasure to watch, the first quarter and a half was anything but.

Ferntree Gully were slow to move the ball on and seemed way too keen to kick long when going inside forward 50 to the dangerous Wayne McInerney, a good idea in theory, but Donvale’s defensive system had at least one player, usually Ethan Duncan, sitting in the ‘hot-spot’. On occasions the Magpies were able to get both Duncan and the ruckman (Haig or McCormack) to cover both the hot-spot and create a double up on McInerney – who once the Eagles quickened up their ball movement, looked easily the best forward on the ground – guaranteeing an intercept mark.

The final flaw in the Eagles performance was their decision to try and ice the game after Liam Acosta-Harvey’s snap put them two goals up. There was clearly a miscommunication on how much time was left, as the Eagles sat back and returned to their first quarter ball movement, going long down the line and taking away that run and spread that had given Donvale so much trouble up until the final 10 minutes.

This move to sag back gave Donvale a chance to recycle possession and have repeat forward 50 entries, and whilst they tried their hardest to blow their chances, eventually McCormack stood tall to drag them across the line.

So, from now on, it seems clear what Ferntree Gully need to do if they’re to get back in the Premiership race.

Start Michael Topp in defence, move the ball quickly and never, ever, take the foot off the gas.

2.What’s going on with the Wooders

A week is an awfully long time in footy.

This time last weekend, Norwood were the toast of the town, shutting out the best attacking unit in the competition on their way to what seemed a season defining win, as they looked to cement themselves in the top four. This week, they’re still in the top four, but they’ve dropped in terms of stature, going down to Berwick by five goals, kicking just three majors in the process.

It’s the second very winnable game dropped in three outings for Norwood, who went down to Doncaster in similar circumstances in Round Nine, and even though the got the four points against South Croydon last weekend, they’ve struggled to put a score on the board since the return of local footy.

Norwood have kicked just 15 goals in their three games since the three week break, down from 26 in the fortnight preceding it – and the stats show us why.

In the last three weekends Norwood have had 144 inside 50’s – 43 v Doncaster, 55 v South Croydon and 46 v Berwick – for just 49 scoring shots.

Their opponents are also finding it fairly easy to escape the Wooders forward arc, clocking up 121 rebound 50’s in the same period – 39 v Doncaster, 42 v South Croydon and 40 v Berwick.

In the two games they’ve dropped to Doncaster and Berwick, the opposition have been able to escape 88% of the time, in comparison to the fortnight before the break where Norwood had 108 inside 50’s and their opponents had just 71 rebound 50’s (65%).

It’s clear the Wooders are struggling to lock the ball inside their forward half, and given the make up of their forward line, it’s something they have to work on – along with their inaccuracy in front of goal.

Their run home is difficult, with games against Blackburn (twice), Noble Park, Balwyn and Vermont, and it can be looked at two ways.

One is to complain about bad luck.

The other is knowing that if they do manage to play finals football, they’ll bloody well deserve it.

3. 4th or 1st

South Belgrave sit fourth on the Division Two ladder after the weekend and following The Basin’s win over Ringwood, seem the most likely side for Boronia to mow down, as the Hawks look to jump back into the top four.

But the Saints could just as easily head in the finals as the premiership favourite.

They grabbed another percentage boosting win on the weekend over Knox, storming past the 100 point barrier once again with 27 scoring shots.

Tim Smith snagged another four majors, whilst big names like Odermatt and Liam Kidd gave the faithful another performance to look back on fondly.  The win takes the Saints to a percentage of 171.8%, 15 percentage points higher than anyone else in the competition.

Their remaining fixtures will likely see them push towards the 200% mark, with games against Templestowe and Mulgrave (twice), whilst a three week period that sees them take on Heathmont, Boronia and The Basin will decide whether they’re in a battle for fourth or first.

Win all of their remaining fixtures and there’s a reasonable chance the Saints will finish on top due to their superior percentage.

Lose one or two and they’ll open themselves up to the Hawks.

Wherever they finish, I believe they’re the side that most worries Ringwood, with the star power made for finals.

4. A point or two

A point here or there and we could be having a very different conversation about the Division One top four, but here we are with Montrose the team most likely to jump in, just one weekend on from their shock loss to Lilydale.

Mooroolbark have locked in their spot by scraping past Mitcham in a nail-biter, 9.5 (59) to 8.10(58).

The win puts the Mustangs into third spot on the ladder, two games and fair chunk of percentage clear of Montrose. Meanwhile Mitcham will be rueing their inability to both kick straight and capitalise on their second quarter dominance where they kicked 3.5 to 0.1, with the loss making it incredibly hard for them to play finals.

They have a better percentage than Montrose, but sit two games back from – the now fourth placed – Croydon.

The Tigers also have a tough run home, with games against the Blues, East Ringwood and Park Orchards – twice.

As for Montrose, a last quarter comeback where they booted five goals to none has seen them move to fifth spot, just one win behind Croydon whom they host in three weeks time and whilst this shapes up as a ‘ virtual quarter final ‘ once you scratch below the surface the Blues still look the goods to make the four.

Montrose still have to travel to Park Orchards and their final month sees them take on Mooroolbark and East Ringwood twice, whilst the Blues only have Mooroolbark (of the top four) remaining in their run home and play the second bottom side Lilydale twice in the last month.

5. Relief

Relief down at Koonung on Saturday night, as Nunawading avoided a winless season with an eight point win over Croydon North MLOC, moving off the bottom in the process and avoiding a backwards step in their development.

There would’ve been a few nervous folks when the KangaRams kicked six goals to one in the second quarter to jump out to a 19 point lead, but the Lions steadied themselves in third quarter dragging the margin back to 11 points before a three goal to nothing final term got them across the line. Former Bulleen-Templestowe man Trent Sanguinetti booted four majors whilst returning Lion Nicholas Tomazic – via Manningham Cobras – was best on ground with his two goals.

With the monkey now off the back, Nunawading can get back to the job at hand – rebuilding.

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