NFNL scribe Doug Long has scrolled through the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 history books in a bid to predict what we could expect from the competition once football resumes.
April is normally an exciting time in football.
All teams start on an equal footing and players in Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 usually get to strut their stuff a week before the other divisions play a full round.
In 2020, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, players have had to cool their jets until a new starting date is announced.
Despite the wait, the season can still be anticipated and previewed.
This article will look at Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 from a purely statistical perspective, in order to look at each team’s 2020 prospects.
The division began in 2009, when the bottom-six clubs on the Division 2 ladder at Round 13 broke away to form the inaugural third division, where each club played each other once – then finals.
From 2010 onwards, third division was played normally – with a full home and away season followed by a final-four finals series.
In each season from 2010 onwards, the Division 3 winner was promoted to Division 2. In most seasons (but not all) the Division 2 wooden spooner was sent down to Division 3 the following year.
The 2019 premier – Panton Hill – was promoted to Division 2 with no team dropping back to Division 3 in 2020, making for an eight-team competition.
With no team dropping from the higher division, the three teams to make finals in 2019 – South Morang, Laurimar and Kilmore – will all fancy their chances to be there again this season once play resumes.
And so they should.
Teams featuring in Division 3 finals but not progressing to Division 2 have not missed the finals since St Marys’ in 2013.
Before that, Parkside (2012) and Reservoir (2011) were the only teams to drop out after finishing in the top-four the previous year. Season 2009 to 2010 has not been included here because 2009 was not a full season.
Teams who missed finals last year will also look to improve.
Since 2011, eight teams have managed to make the jump. In fact, a team has achieved this feat in each of the past four years.
St Mary’s made the top-four in 2016 after missing out in 2015, followed by Banyule in 2017, Laurimar in 2018 and then Kilmore in 2019. Banyule went on to win the flag that year, while the other three were all eliminated in the first week of finals.
Mernda has finished fifth in three of the past four seasons – including last year – and would be considered one of the better chances to make finals in 2020.
Another leading contender is Heidelberg West. The Hawks began Division 3 as regular cellar-dwellers but have improved markedly in recent years.
Old Eltham Collegians cannot be left out of the picture. The Turtles finished the 2019 campaign well, highlighted by a big win over grand finalist South Morang in Round 16, and look like possible improvers.
And while Lalor and Reservoir appear to be a long way from finals action based on 2018 and 2019, it should be remembered that Laurimar jumped from eighth place in 2017 to play finals the following season.
Which team will go all the way in 2020 and take the flag?
One would expect the runner-up from the previous year to be the most likely team. That was exactly the scenario last year with Panton Hill victorious after playing second fiddle to St Mary’s in 2018.
The Redbacks also won the flag in 2013 after being runners-up the prior season. A third team to win after losing the grand final the previous year was Reservoir in 2015.
Three teams have lost the first semi-final and then won the flag the following season. Thomastown achieved this feat in 2014, followed by Watsonia in 2016 and then St Mary’s did the same in 2018.
Somewhat surprisingly, no team has yet lost a preliminary final and then won the flag the following season in Division 3. Laurimar will look to buck that trend this year.
Meanwhile, Mernda in 2012 was the only team to win the flag immediately after being relegated from Division 2.
Two teams have risen from sixth in a season to claim the flag the following year, being South Morang in 2011 and Banyule in 2017.
While the teams competing in the 2019 finals series are best placed to claim the 2020 flag, the wins by the Lions in 2011 and Bears in 2017 give some hope to those teams that missed finals action in 2019.
All will be revealed when the season eventually commences.