By Matt Fotia
Another weekend passes by in the Outer East and as we head towards the halfway mark of the season we begin to learn more and more about all of the teams in the competition. Not everyone is a winner each week, but you can always find a way to take something away from Saturday’s action.
1. Bullish about the Brookers
They may have gone down by eight goals to an impressive Seville outfit on the weekend, but there is plenty to be happy about for the folk from Gembrook-Cockatoo.
Almost the entire pre-season was spent focusing on the amount of AFL experience on the Brookers list after the addition of Hamish McIntosh during the off-season. Perhaps all the hype buried the lead in the process, as it didn’t shine enough attention on the youth running around in the Gembrook-Cockatoo green each weekend.
Players such as Myles Wareham, Joel Firrito, Darcy Williams and Frankie Trott are all under the age of 21 and look comfortable playing senior football – in fact Wareham and Firrito had two of the stronger bodies on the ground at the weekend.
And whilst he wasn’t playing for the Brookers on the weekend, Joshua Tilly is another one to watch. He kicked one goal for Eastern Ranges in an impressive performance against the Geelong Falcons yesterday.
Not only will they reap the benefits of the playing senior football at such a young age, gaining precious experience both tactically, physically and mentally, these boys also get an opportunity that most other players around don’t get – the chance to learn from some of the games greats.
Seeing how Michael Firrito attacks the football, how Hamish McIntosh positions his body in both marking and ruck contests, how Tarkyn Lockyer makes decisions with ball in hand and how hard all of them work, will provide these young starlets more learning than almost any coach around.
On occasion they may rely too heavily on the star trio to get them out of a sticky situation or deliver the ball to them despite there being a better (less famous) option elsewhere. This will no doubt frustrate Gembrook-Cockatoo supporters but they must remember to look at the big picture.
When Firrito, Lockyer and McIntosh eventually hang up the boots for the Brookers, the boys they are currently mentoring will be ten times better players for it – and so to will the Gembrook-Cockatoo Football Netball Club.
2. Olinda on the mend
The start to 2019 could’ve gone better for Olinda Ferny Creek .
The Bloods lost by 10 goals to Narre Warren in Round One and then started slowly against Upwey-Tecoma in Round Two to lose by 44 points. They got off the mark in Round Three against Healesville but the 10 point margin didn’t send shockwaves through the competition. Whilst their last two outings haven’t sent shockwaves through the Premier Division, it’s definitely making people notice their improvement.
Against Woori Yallock the Bloods kept the game tight, not allowing the Tigers to kick more than three goals in a quarter and won the third term, albeit by one point. If it weren’t for Tigers star Jake Matthews – who booted five goals – they might’ve come away with the four points.
This weekend against Beaconsfield at Holm Park many would’ve feared the worst. Beaconsfield had hosted just one traditional Yarra Ranges side at home this season and won comfortably – defeating Wandin by 110 points in Round Three.
No Yarra Ranges side had played an away cross-over game without conceding a 100 points before the weekend (Wandin – 133, 164, 146, Woori Yallock 137, Upwey-Tecoma 142). But the Bloods bucked the trend on the weekend.
Brendan Donovan’s troops won the first half 4.5(29) to 3.7(25) before the Eagles eventually gained the ascendancy, kicking seven goals to one in the second half to run away 39 points winners 10.17(77) to 5.8(38). Daniel Toma, Callum Beattie and Marcus Hottes were all good performers and young gun Lachlan Taylor kicked two majors.
Whilst it wasn’t a win, Olinda showed they won’t get found out defensively on the bigger ground. Their ability to move the ball on the big surface will come as they begin to play more and more football in those surroundings, but they’ve already got the hop on a few of their Valley counterparts with this weekend’s showing – hopefully they can repeat it again this weekend.
3. Magpie Improvement
In 2018 Belgrave finished second bottom on the Division One ladder above Warburton Millgrove due to their superior percentage.
Superior percentage is a nice way of saying the Magpies were less poor then Warburton Millgrove.
Both sides won just two matches.
Belgrave’s percentage was 45.63, Warburton Millgrove’s was 45.48.
This season things are different.
The Magpies have won just one game this season, but they have been impressive each weekend under new coach Nathan Johns. They’ve conceded over 100 points on just one occasion – this weekend against Pakenham – but also kicked their highest score on that same occasion, against the competitions third best defence.
They lost to the undefeated Monbulk in Round One by 33 points, but dominated possession of the ball and if it weren’t for some costly errors at the end of the second and third quarters they could’ve easily won that game.
They’ve tested Doveton and Officer away from home, going down to the Doves by just 16 points and would be annoyed at their inefficiency going inside forward fifty during their 35 point loss to Officer. They defeated Emerald away from home as well, coming from behind with limited rotations during the last quarter.
In fact their worst performance of the season saw them lose to the aforementioned Warburton Millgrove by six points at home with the Burra’s claiming a last gasp winner.
Johns has clearly implemented a strong system based game which isn’t reliant on any star players, Belgrave have had a couple of players stand out from the crowd this season.
Joshua Richmond has bobbed up as consistent goal kicker, currently sitting second on the Division One table. He has 19 goals this season as a mid sized forward who has a good kick and even better work ethic, whilst through the middle Aaron Johns has been as consistent as they come.
Johns was quiet in Round One before stringing together five brilliant games. He’s been in the best players for the Magpies in every one of those games, with his worst performance coming in Round Three against the Burras – he was named fifth best.
Whilst finals looks to be a bridge too far for the three teams sitting outside the five, Belgrave will be looking to build on the big strides they’ve made so far in 2019.