By Matt Fotia
That’s right this weekend our 18 month wait for local football will finally end, as Division One, Two and Three begin their respective battles for ultimate glory.
The landscape will have changed, with football shrinking in its overall importance in recent times, but once that first ball is bounced (thrown) a sense of normality will have returned to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
There’s new clubs, new structures, new rules, new players and new coaches, so to help you break it down, the first edition of our new weekly column – In and Under – will go through each of the divisions and give you a Riser, a Slider and a Supriser.
Waverley Blues have been bullish in the build-up to this year’s campaign and have created a sense that they’ll be clear favourites for the 2021 title, but Division Three promises to be an exciting competition this season with the departure of South Belgrave opening things right up for the rest of the league.
Warrandyte have done some clever work in the background, Ferntree Gully won’t be going away anytime soon and the new boys East Burwood and Fairpark will be eager to flex their muscles and show they’re no joke either.
Riser – Donvale
The Magpies have finals firmly in their sights following a fairly decent season back in 2019 where they came away with an even ledger. They’ve since announced club legend Kevin Collins as senior coach and gone about building up on their list.
The likes of Haig, Murphy, Toce, Rausa, Grocott and Wignell will make up the core of their group, whilst ex Balwyn star Steve Kenna has signed on as an assistant coach and will provide an unrivalled amount of guidance and nous.
Only four teams make finals in this division which makes things harder for the Magpies, but given South Belgrave monstered the competition last time out, it’s a fairly open playing field and the Magpies are ready to swoop.
And yes I’m well aware that finishing just outside finals wouldn’t technically be rising, but they did finish last year with a negative percentage.
Slider – I don’t really see a massive slider in this division, but I do see Ferntree Gully stagnating.
The Eagles crashed out of the finals in 2019 after finishing in second place on the home and away ladder, and although they haven’t shown any signs of falling off the radar, the work that both Warrandyte and Waverley Blues have put in over the off season means that they may not be able to keep up with their premiership rivals.
I still expect them to be around the finals mark, but with Donvale brimming with confidence it’s no sure thing.
Supriser – Despite a disappointing end to 2019 and some nerves heading into 2020, Scoresby are looming as a surprise packet in 2021.
The Magpies have added some good youth to their list and seem rejuvenated under Kristian Bardsley, who says his side has a good mix of outside dash and inside grunt.
They’ll be a lot better than people expect and as we know, if the Magpies can get some early season momentum, they’re very good at carrying it across the entire year.
- Waverley Blues
- Ferntree Gully
- Whitehorse Pioneers
- Glen Waverley
- East Burwood
Waverley Blues want the favourites tag, so they can have it. But watch out for the chasing pack – Warrandyte are doing some good things – don’t forget the recruits they made prior to 2020- , Scoresby we’ve spoken about and Ferntree Gully will be there or thereabouts once again and I think they’ll have enough to just hold out Donvale.
As for the bottom end of the table it’s harder to pick.
East Burwood have seen a number of players head back to Knox and despite some good pre-season form I’ve got them sitting at the bottom of the table, whilst I think Fairpark will hurt teams on their home track and can see them getting away with a good first year in Division Three.