By Ryan Long
The Blues were rated as the premierships favourites coming into the season and at certain times of the year, they looked just that.
Croydon recruited well ahead of the 2021 season, with Joel Koger moving across from Lilydale and Dale Hehir originally from Rowville being a big boost for the club’s premiership chances following a runners up finish in 2019.
Their start to the year was an impressive one, looking at their best when they won three games in a row against Park Orchards, Mitcham and Mooroolbark with an average winning margin of 51 points.
At the peak of their powers, Croydon was arguably the most dangerous side in the division with a potent attacking style of play that helped them score heavily against opposition teams. Having Costantino, Hehir and Ficorilli all inside the forward 50 is enough to have any opposition coach pulling their hair out.
Their form however did waiver late in the year, dropping games to East Ringwood, Park Orchards and Montrose and only just holding on to beat Bayswater in a two-point thriller. With constant season interruptions, it’s difficult to tell if this was a worrying trend or not.
Best Win: Round 4: Croydon 16.9 105 def. Park Orchards 9.12 66
The Blues comfortably took care of the eventual Minor Premiers at Stintons Reserve with a 39-point victory. After a bit of an inconsistent start to the year in terms of playing their best football in patches during games, Croydon put in a full four-quarter performance to keep Park Orchards to one of their lowest scores for the season.
Croydon’s forward line was up and firing with Billy Dickson kicking four and Hehir, Constantino and Prior booting two each. The future minor premiers had no answer for the constant attacking pressure that the Blues possessed. It was a very well-rounded Croydon game that speaks volumes to just how dominant of a side they could be.
An honourable mention to their 71-point demolition of Mooroolbark just two weeks later where the Blues kept the in-form Mustangs to just three goals for the game and reduced the impact of Mustangs star Aaron Mullet up forward.
Worst Loss: Round 7: Croydon 7.11 53 Lost to Montrose 8.8 56
After coming off three impressive wins against three finals contenders, Croydon dropped the ball in their Round seven clash with Montrose at home. The side struggled to score, managing just two goals in the second half.
Their defence failed to contain Montrose’s Bailey White who kicked five goals in a low scoring affair, being the ultimate difference in the match.
With plenty of scoring opportunities, it was certainly a very winnable game that the Blues failed to take advantage of, especially after an inaccurate 1.4 last quarter. Constantino was busy up forward, playing an important role kicking two of the Blues seven goals but it wasn’t enough to take home the four points.
Standout Player: Riley Costantino
The forward starred for the Blues throughout the season, kicking an impressive 30 goals in 11 games. That was enough to be the leading goal scorer for the entire division, finishing one ahead of Mooroolbark star key forward, Aaron Mullett.
Costantino kicked a major in every match he played, including three bags of five goals against Bayswater, Mitcham and Mooroolbark. Since moving back to the blues after four years at Norwood, Costantino has thrived, kicking 28 majors in 2019, a year that the Blues made it through to the Grand Final.
Costantino had plenty of help from a talented midfield with underrated stars such as co-captain Billy Dickson, giving him a very accurate supply of delivery from the middle of the ground. He’s been a hard player to match up on and has also certainly benefited from the amount of other high-quality forwards that the club now has.
Earning a spot at Full Forward in the EFNL Division One team of the year, Costantino will be looking to replicate that form once again next year.
Off Season Focus:
With an attacking game style, plenty of depth in the middle of the ground and the forward 50, the one weakness Croydon may be in their defensive 50. It isn’t an overly tall back six which may be something to think about over the off-season in terms of recruiting.
Like many sides, Croydon will be hoping for an uninterrupted season in order to create a more consistent patch of form.
However, the Blues do look set to be one of the top contenders for the premiership in 2022 with a star-studded line-up and a list that looks to be right at the perfect average age level. Dickson, Carter and Constantino who all made the EFNL team of the year look to be the core players of the list that can bring a flag home to Croydon.
Despite finishing below East Ringwood and Mooroolbark on the ladder, there’s a very high chance that Croydon will enter the season as the premiership favourites.