Six Straight

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By Connor Schmidtke

Division One has seen two clear favourites emerge over the course of the regular season, with both Mooroolbark and East Ringwood sitting well clear on top of the ladder. The two teams have jostled for top spot, losing just one game each from their 15 matches so far, handling the rest of the competition with ease.

 

But with these two clear on top, the chasing pack are fighting it out for the remaining finals spots with the hope of causing an upset in the post-season.

 

Wantirna South have poked their nose in front with just three rounds to go, notching their ninth win of the season last Saturday against Bayswater. The win puts them into third place, meaning they’ll likely need just one more win to secure a place in the finals.

 

The win against Bayswater also marked their sixth straight victory, after a shaky start to the year. The Devils season has already surpassed their efforts in 2021, where they only managed four wins from 11 matches, leaving them seventh on the ladder when the season was cancelled.

 

Wantirna South are led by head coach, Steve Cochrane who said that self-belief and confidence played a huge part in his side’s resurrection this season.

 

“I suppose getting some confidence has helped.

 

“We’ve had a consistent year, apart from two games in the first half of the year where we weren’t competitive against the top two sides.

 

“We’ve been quite competitive against everyone else. A bit of belief and confidence has been enough to turn some of those losses from the first half of the year to wins in the second half.

 

“Being able to stabilise the side a bit as well has definitely helped, with guys understanding what their role is within the side.”

 

One of the features of Wantirna South’s year has been their improved offence, averaging over 80 points per game with several goal kickers in the top 20 for Division One, led by youngster Liam Hewett.

 

Cochrane said his forward line has strengthened its output, but credits the team’s ball movement heading inside 50 for the main improvements.

 

“Our general ball movement has been a real focus for us. The offshoot to that is getting better ball into our forward line, with some guys who can take grabs and convert it makes a big difference.

 

“This year we’ve had a really concerted effort on trying to improve our ball movement, then our connection between our midfielders and forwards has improved from that. Being a little more patient with our last kick inside 50 too, rather than kicking in hope.

 

“Each game we have different focuses though, different areas we’re trying to improve and build on.”

 

The Devils were one side that didn’t hunt big names during the off-season, maintaining a reasonably similar roster whilst relying on reserves and juniors coming through to strengthen the senior side.

 

Cochrane said it was one of the first times in his coaching career that recruiting wasn’t a huge focus, given their acquisitions over the 2020-21 period.

 

The Devils still require at least one more win to secure a spot in finals, with just three games to go in the season. These three games include games against the top two on the ladder, giving them the chance to prove their legitimate premiership aspirations against the flag favourites.

 

Cochrane says that his team will just take it one week at a time.

 

“It’s the old cliché, we’re just going to deal with each week as it comes. We’re not going to treat each week any differently than we treated Bayswater or any other side.

 

“We probably need to earn a little more respect, because they did a number on us the first time around. Our performances weren’t up to standard last time we faced them, so we’re keen to challenge ourselves again against these guys and put up a lot better performance than last time.”

 

Wantirna South begin their run towards finals with a clash against East Ringwood this Saturday.

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