By Matt Fotia
There’s troubling brewing at Cherry Road, a big fortnight approaches for The Bears, Devils turn the corner and more in this week’s In + Under.
1. Berwick’s Big Day
Berwick announced itself to the Eastern Football Netball League in Round One it seemed, when they ran a now 2-1 Noble Park right to the line.
Their announcement seemed short lived however when they went down hard against a young Rowville side the weekend after, albeit hurt by injuries.
But on Saturday the Wickers well and truly put a marker down in the Premier Division, knocking off perennial contenders Balwyn on their own patch, 10.17(77) to 9.12(66), with the Wickers kicking seven goals to five after half time to grab the victory. It could’ve been by more too, with Berwick having kicked 3.11 at the main break.
The Wickers had 26 less disposals than their opponents, but won a number of key stats, going plus 18 in contested ball, plus nine for inside 50’s (plus 10 for deep inside 50’s) and plus four for marks inside 50. They also took seven more intercept marks than the Tigers and forced 15 turnovers inside their forward arc.
Club veterans Travis Tuck (20 disposals + six tackles) and Madison Andrews (24 + four) did the grunt work on the inside, whilst Tom Brennan was crucial having eight inside 50’s from his 19 touches.
But in a low scoring and overall inaccurate game, it was the work of live-wire forward Harrison Money which swayed the game the Wickers way, with Money kicking 5.2 from his 10 touches, taking six marks and laying three tackles along the way as well.
If Berwick laid a foundation on Saturday, Balwyn shattered the one they’d placed back in Round One. The Tigers will be pleased with the output of star recruit Jordan Lisle who had five marks inside 50 and three majors on the weekend (Eight for 2021) and Paul Pattison continued his strong early season form – averaging 21.7 disposals and 5.3 marks per game – but the Tigers just aren’t putting it together.
They’re now 1-2 – which you could argue was where they may have expected to be given their early season fixtures – with Blackburn and South Croydon to come in the next two weeks, meaning they could very easily be 1-4.
It’s not panic stations yet, but there will be a finger hovering over the panic button, that’s for sure.
2. Devil’s Corner
Did Wantirna South turn the corner on Saturday, as they put Montrose to the sword to grab their first win for season 2021?
The Devils were expected to improve a fair bit this season given their off-field work leading into the return to football, but had failed to impress in their opening three weekends, struggling to get any real flow or pace into their game and kicking some pretty low scores.
On Saturday they went up a gear, almost tripling their previous best, booting a tripe figure score, with a 10 goal to six second half the catalyst for their comfortable win over the Demons. Pleasingly for Devils fans it was some of their new recruits that played a key role, with winger Pat Wallis named Best on Ground, Hamish McGowan trailing close behind. Up forward former Vermont Reserves spearhead Jack O’Keefe jagged three majors and ex Knox man Marcus Jordan booted two.
With games against Lilydale, Park Orchards (Home) and Upper Ferntree Gully to come the Devils have a big chance to make up for their slow start and get right back amongst it in 2021.
3. Bears Big Test
The Basin have proved they’re no flash in the pan this season, defeating the highly rated South Belgrave Saints by three goals on Saturday night in front of a vocal BearCave to go 4-0.
Their early season form has been built off the back of an incredibly strong defence, with the Bears averaging just 35.25 points against in 2021. They kept the usually high scoring Saints to just four goals on Saturday Night, kept them goalless in the second and third quarters and scoreless in the second.
The next fortnight is the big test for Justin Stanton’s men.
Are they the best of the rest or are they genuinely in this race?
We’ll find out after they take on both Boronia and Ringwood away from home.
If they don’t come away with four points on either occasion, but show they can match it with the universally assumed front runners for the premiership, The Basin will win some more admirers and prove they are the real deal.
4. Hanegraaf’s Heroics
Knox Premiership player Mitchell Hanegraaf’s move to Forest Hill has gone under the radar, but the former Falcon – who booted two majors in their 2017 triumph – has grabbed some attention in the past fortnight following consecutive hauls of nine goals for the Zebras against Nunawading and Chirnside Park.
He’s proving to be an absolute handful in 2021, also managing three goals against the more formidable Silvan and has appeared in the best on each occasion in 2021. The Zebras are expected to be around the bottom end of the Division Four top four and with Hanegraaf in this sort of form, there’s no reason why they couldn’t challenge the likes of Silvan and Surrey Park.
Keep an eye out for the Zebras number two.
5. Coldstream’s Curse
Coldstream are the best team in Division Four, there’s absolutely no doubt.
The Cougars have top end talent all over the ground, whether it be Koger and Fritsch in the forward line, Carrigan, Shield and Batten-Leitch in the middle or London and Price in defence, the Cougars have one of the best Division Four sides in recent memory running around on a weekly basis. Couple this with one of the bigger home ground advantages in the competition and the Cougars are nailed on for the flag.
Only one thing can stop them.
Silvan started the game all over the Cougars, bashing them from pillar to post in the middle and making the game a real scrap, narrowing the giant expanses of Coldstream’s ground and bringing the Cougars down to their level and when it was there, the Cats were a real show.
Once Chad Rogers side steadied and got the game played the way they wanted, Silvan couldn’t lay a glove on them and I doubt any other side can.