By Matt Fotia
A near perfect season, which saw them start slowly before hitting top gear throughout the middle of the year, handing out big losses to sides of all calibres, with only East Ringwood able to come close to them after Round Five
The Sharks averaged over 100 points per game and finished with a percentage over 200%, with their free flowing and destructive game style leading them to bring up the ton on seven occasions, run out 50+ point winners on seven occasions and 100+ point winners twice.
With their Reserves undefeated and their Under 19’s set to play in the Division One Finals Series, it was a pretty spectacular year for the Sharks in 2021.
Best Win – Park Orchards 8.11(59) def East Ringwood 5.16 (46)
In an early season title bout with an in form East Ringwood, the Sharks jumped out to a 13-point half time lead, which could’ve been more if not for some inaccuracy in front of goal. Fortunately for Dennis Armfield’s side, East Ringwood took the inaccuracy bug off them in the second half, kicking 2.10 to the Sharks 3.4 after the main break.
Whilst they would go on to have more eye-catching wins across the season, this tough, gritty victory is the type of win clubs can build their culture on and will be the type of win they’ll relish in the Premier Division next year.
Connor Hickey booted 2 goals, whilst Campbell Cromb, Mason Blakey and Kane Keppel did the business across the afternoon.
Worst Loss – Croydon 16.9 (105) def Park Orchards 9.12 (66)
A poor performance that came out of nowhere, as the Blues handed them their only defeat for the season at Stintons Reserve.
Inside midfielder and Blues skipper Billy Dickson dominated the game, kicking 4 goals in a BOG performance, as Park Orchards forgot their two-way running boots when packing their bags in the morning.
The loss did set the Sharks on a mean winning streak which saw them dismantle the likes of Wantirna South, Mooroolbark, and Montrose in the weeks to follow.
Star Player – Kane Keppel
Keppel was outstanding across a big year for Park Orchards, appearing in their best players on seven occasions, including the first six games of the year.
Keppel also kicked goals in all bar three games, finishing with 20 majors for the season, including a haul of five against Montrose and four against Lilydale, whilst his best performance was saved for their comprehensive win over Wantirna South, where he nailed two goals en route to a BOG performance.
Park Orchards have the all the infrastructure to be a strong and sustainable Premier Division clubs for years to come, with a strong Reserves side, consistent Under 19’s and an average list age, primed for some consistent football.
The major hurdle will be avoiding a relegation battle in their first season and to do that they’ll need to transition from Big Dogs in the Division, where they can rack up big scores and play with risk to Little Dogs, who may – on occasion – need to scrap and keep things tight.
Some experience, most likely down the defensive end, will be just what the doctor ordered for that particular ailment.
A middling year for the Sharks ladies in 2021, after a successful 2019 campaign which saw them compete in the North Division Grand Final, which saw them show signs of becoming a genuine finals outfit, sprinkled in with some inconsistent showings along the way.
Best Win – Park Orchards 4.4(28) def Berwick 2.5(17)
Coming off a strong win against bottom side East Ringwood, Park Orchards took on unknown quantity Berwick at home and put together one of their best defensive performances for the season en route to an 11-point victory.
The Sharks jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first quarter before holding the Wickers scoreless in the second term. Berwick came hard in the third quarter, bringing the margin back to just three points, before two goals in the last quarter steadied the Sharks, as they moved to a 2-1 record after a poor loss in Round One.
Star Shark Isabelle Pollock booted two goals in a best on ground performance – shock -, whilst Penny Bowman also found the big sticks on two occasions.
Worst Loss – Boronia 3.5(23) def Park Orchards 3.2 (20)
A last quarter fade out cost the Sharks a spot in the top four – not that it mattered in the end – as they gave away a three-quarter time lead to go down by less than a kick. Although the season still had a long way to run at the time, this game ultimately decided who wound up in 4th place on the ladder, with the two sides finishing 5-6(P/O) and 6-5 (Boronia) respectively.
In a low scoring affair Boronia managed to boot two goals to one in the last to run away with the four points. Kaitlyn Rukavina was the Sharks best, kicking two of her sides three goals along with being named best afield.
Star Player – Isabelle Pollock
Not exactly a hard decision this one. Pollock has been one of the league’s best players for the past few years and she stamped her authority on the competition in 2021.
She tied the for the Division One Best and Fairest with The Basin star Julia Baker, managing 15 goals as a hard running midfielder. Pollock kicked seven goals in the opening three rounds of the 2021 season, named Best on Ground for her side on two of those occasions.
Pollock has all the makings of a long running star of the Eastern Football Netball League and Park Orchards are lucky to have her amongst their midst.
Despite finishing with a negative win-loss ledger, the year was a successful one for the Sharks. They finished with a positive percentage and showed at times that their best football was more than enough to match it with the best teams in the division.
List retention and development remains the number one focus for the near future, as they look to emulate their male counterparts and break into the Premier Division in years to come.