By Matt Fotia
After a strange lead in to the 2021 season, which saw coach Luke McCormick step aside and East Ringwood legend Marcus Buzaglo step up, the Dogs were strong starters in the Premier Division, before finishing fifth with a 6-4 win-loss record.
They’re now a bit of an enigma the Dogs.
They have several youthful players like Ben Willis poking their head up as the front of the next generation, but a few their best players remain in the veteran category or are edging closer to it.
2022 will be a line in the sand year, with a few senior Dogs set to hang on for one last dip at another top tier title.
Best Win – South Croydon 11.10(76) def Balwyn 5.15(45)
Albeit against a Balwyn side that hadn’t quite hit their straps, this win from the Dogs was one that showcased some genuine premiership credentials, as they travelled to Cherry Road and came back with a comfortable five goal win.
Both sides started slowly, with South Croydon’s second and fourth quarters the difference, as they booted 9.6 to 2.7 in those two stanzas. The final term was most pleasing to Bulldog fans, as their boys in Red, White, and Blue booted five goals to one to stamp their authority on the division.
Recruit James Wilsen was a key cog once again, booting four majors, whilst Nick Evans, Jordan Walker and Matt Burt made up the best three pups for their afternoon trip to the leafy inner eastern suburbs.
Worst Loss – Norwood 7.10(52) def South Croydon 4.10(34)
A disappointing performance from the Dogs against a Norwood side who have shown a tendency to drop games against fellow top six sides in recent years.
Playing against a side spurred on by the context of the day – Norwood were playing in the EFNL’s first ever indigenous jumper, designed by player Jamie Bennell – South Croydon never got out of first gear, kicking just one goal to three quarter time – going goalless for the second and third quarters – before matching the Wooders in the final term to fall three goals short.
It’s all inconsequential right now, but if the Dogs had won this game they would’ve finished the season in 3rd position, not 5th.
Evergreen inside midfielder Daniel King was amongst the best players on a bland afternoon for the Dogs.
Star Player – Jordan Walker
The Former Box Hill Hawk and Eastern Ranges Premiership player was a regular fixture in the South Croydon best players in 2021, providing both drive and grunt through the midfield.
He was named in the paper, well online but you understand the sentiment, on six occasions this season, including a best on ground performance against Norwood and back-to-back-to-back appearances against Balwyn, Doncaster East, and Vermont, all of which including goals.
As South Croydon continue their evolution, players of his ilk and age bracket will become more and more crucial to their on-field success.
It’s important the Dogs don’t go too big in the off-season recruiting window given their Premiership Window is closer to shutting than opening.
Adding more players around the age of Walker and younger will make sure they don’t slide down the table as some of their older, more household names begin to retire in future years.
Regards to positions/areas that need attention, there aren’t too many other than another ruckman which would allow Max King to play more forward and give South Croydon more aerial depth. Other than that, there’s no doubting the Dogs will be around the mark once again in 2022.
Following their 2019 Division One Premiership, remaining competitive at the top level was prerogative number one for the Dogs in 2021 and they did more than that, as they finished second on the table, albeit four goals behind the undefeated Blackburn.
Best Win – South Croydon 7.8(50) def Vermont 4.3(27)
The Dogs really showed their muscle as the year went on and this win over Vermont was massive in the race for second place.
South Croydon were top class after quarter time, keeping the Eagles to just three behinds after the first break, kicking 4.7 themselves in the process, all on the Eagles home patch.
Small forward Taylah Black booted three goals, whilst Brenda Lay, Tanikka Martin and Sarah O’Toole were amongst the best Dogs on the day.
Worst Loss – South Croydon 5.6(36) def by Blackburn 6.5(41)
Hard to call it their worst loss given the fact Blackburn went through the season undefeated, but the Dogs had a great opportunity to inflict the Panthers only loss and let it slip.
Following a four goal to none second term, South Croydon went into the half time break by two goals but failed to find another major in the second half as Blackburn ran out winners, kicking 1.0 to 0.3 in the last quarter.
Star Player – Tanikka Martin
Martin was always a short priced favourite to influence the game somehow for the Dogs in 2021, whether it be via the scoresheet or the best players.
Martin played eight games for the Dogs and was named in the best players on seven occasions, including a Best on Ground performance against Chirnside Park in the final round – along with two goals.
The only game where she failed to be named in their best six, she still kept her name in lights slotting one against the Panthers from Kimberley Drive.
After leading the competition from the start of the season, the Dogs second side fell by the wayside, losing their final two fixtures to Fairpark and Blackburn to miss out on the Division Three Minor Premiership, despite having beaten the eventual winners Chirnside Park just a few rounds prior.
Best Win – South Croydon 9.6(60) def Chirnside Park 8.2(50)
The aforementioned win against the eventual Minor Premiers.
The Dogs were challenged at times by the Panthers, whose accurate goal-kicking kept them in the match for longer than they probably should’ve been. Incredibly Chirnside were just five points down at three quarter time despite having five less scoring shots (6.5 – 6.0), before a three goal to two final term saw the Dogs run out victors.
Alana Prendergast kicked two goals, as did Ruby Kelly who was also named Best on Ground.
Worst Loss – Fairpark 5.4(34) def South Croydon 1.1(7)
Just the next week South Croydon were bought back to earth, going down to an inexperienced Lions outfit.
Incredibly the Dogs failed to score after the quarter time break as the Lions steadily increased their lead to win by 27 points.
Prendergast was their only goal kicker, whilst Emilie Fogarty was their best afield.
Star Player – Emilie Fogarty
Speaking of Fogarty, she had a wonderful season for the Bulldogs second side, playing in all 11 fixtures, named in the best players on seven occasions.
Whilst her only best on ground performance was in their loss to Fairpark, she opened the season incredibly well, kicking two goals in a strong outing against Croydon North MLOC.
She enjoyed playing sides from that end of Maroondah Highway, named in the best players both times they took on Chirnside Park as well!
The Dogs Female Program is really starting to take shape and we’re seeing players make the step up from the Development side into the Senior side and look assured at the next level, a testament to their coaching staff.
That should remain the focus, as they look to build a sustainable and enviable Female Football Pathway at Cheong Park.
They’re in very good hands with Simon Hammersley at the helm.