Another pivotal round awaits in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1, with action to take place across both days of the weekend.
Fortunately, the forecast looks much brighter than last week, following a severely weather-affected Round 10.
Conditions could hardly have been tougher last week, however the competition’s best sides still managed to show their class – with the top-three sides again demonstrating their dominance with commanding wins.
While the top-three are just about locked away entering Round 11 – the middle of the table remains heavily congested and it appears far too early to predict which two sides will make up the final composition of the top-five.
Last week’s results provided the first change inside the top-half of the ladder since Round 3, with a fourth-straight win propelling reigning premier West Preston-Lakeside inside the top-five for the first time this season, at the expense of Northcote Park.
With just two wins separating fourth down to nine, it looks inevitable that there will be far more shifts inside the top half of the table than what we witnessed in the opening half of the season.
Every side remains a mathematical chance to play finals, however the top-five will be far from the minds of Hurstbridge and Lower Plenty when they meet at Ben Frilay Oval in a match that will have a major impact on the relegation battle.
It’s incredible to think that Hurstbridge has been playing for a spot inside the top-five in each of the past two rounds but could find itself in bottom place should it lose this weekend.
Just one win and eight percent separates the Bridges from the Bears, so this week’s game will be pivotal in determining which side is relegated at season’s end. A win to the home side would leave the Bears languishing two games behind with seven rounds to play.
Both clubs will be looking for much improved performances after struggling to handle heavy conditions in Round 10.
The Bridges were soundly beaten at Montmorency – going down by 54 points in a match they may have been favoured to win based on the form lines going in. The Bridges were outscored eight goals to one after half time in their worst performance since Round 3.
Lower Plenty didn’t fare any better and managed just one behind in its defeat to North Heidelberg at Shelley Reserve.
The Bears only just avoided entering the record books – registering a behind in the final term to avoid becoming just the second side in history to fail to score in a Division 1 senior match. That occurred back in 1960 when Diamond Creek was kept scoreless in a 176-point defeat to Heidelberg.
Hurstbridge claimed a 31-point win in the Round 4 outing between the sides at Montmorency Park South Oval – setting up the win during the second and third quarters when they booted nine goals to four. Daniel Keenan was best afield, while Cooper Perrin booted four goals.
Macleod and Heidelberg meet at De Winton Park where the Roos will be looking to cause a boilover against a side that has been in devastating form over the past two rounds.
The Roos are on the rebound after proving no match for Greensborough in last week’s 51-defeat at Greensborough War Memorial Park – a defeat that was further soured by suspensions to key duo Lucas Hobbs and Matt Dornauf.
It was a deflating defeat for the Roos, who managed just two goals against the undefeated ladder-leader. The Roos had played their best football of the season in the month leading into the game and had loomed as a threat for the all-conquering Boro.
Macleod has won its past two at home and could potentially move inside the top-five with an upset win this week, which would certainly be the club’s biggest scalp of the season. The Roos currently have a 0-1-4 record against the current top-three sides.
Heidelberg gave yet another reminder that it is more than capable of going all the way in 2019 with a determined performance against Bundoora – keeping the Bulls goalless after quarter time in the runaway 49-point win.
The Tigers have conceded just six goals over the past two weeks and look to be firing across all lines as they stride towards their first finals appearance since winning the premiership in 2016.
Sam Gilmore has been in scintillating form in the ruck and has polled a perfect 10 in the Coaches MVP award in each of the past two weeks. His aerial dominance has been key to the Tigers getting on top in the midfield.
Down back Josh Gribben, Daniel O’Dwyer and Tom Sullivan are in great touch, while the forward line looks dangerous with the likes of Chaz Sargeant, Josh Minogue and Anthony Bonaddio wreaking havoc. This will only get stronger once Sam Grimley returns to the side.
Heidelberg had major trouble against Macleod in 2018 and 2017, when it lost all four matches between the sides by an average of 63 points. However, the reversed that in the earlier match-up this year, where the Tigers romped to a 53-point win on Anzac Day.
Old foes Montmorency and North Heidelberg meet for the first time in 2019 when they clash at Montmorency Park North Oval.
We are still no closer to working out who the real Montmorency is, with the Magpies proving to be the NFNL’s version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Over the past six rounds the Magpies’ results have included wins by 54 and 53 points and defeats by 125 and 48 points – making them a tipster’s nightmare.
Last week’s runaway victory over Hurstbridge left perhaps more questions than answers, with many left to ponder just how good the Magpies could be if they produced a similar level of performance on a consistent basis.
Jesse Donaldson has long been one of the premier players in the competition, but he is in arguably in career-best form in 2019 and is on track to claim his second Coaches MVP award, after also winning the gong in 2014. The Magpies skipper has kicked 15 goals from the midfield, which includes five over the past two weeks.
Any midfield that features the likes of Donaldson, Stephen McCallum and Matt Hunt is sure to cause concerns for their opposition and North Heidelberg will have to work hard to suppress the trio while many of their best midfielders watch on.
Nick Matthews could be the man to get the job on Montmorency forward Patrick Fitzgerald in what shapes as an important battle. Fitzgerald has averaged better than five goals a game in the Magpies four wins this year but contained to an average of two in the five defeats.
North Heidelberg returned to form emphatically last week despite being severely undermanned and moved six points clear of Bundoora in third spot, with results elsewhere also aiding the Bulldogs in their quest for a second-consecutive top-three finish.
The Bulldogs thrived on the contested football in heavy conditions to keep Lower Plenty to just one minor score on the day in a 52-point triumph, with Daniel Harris and Liam Nunan the two major standouts.
Shane Harvey will always draw the most attention when discussing North Heidelberg’s attacking force, however the Bulldogs forward 50m spread remains one of its most underrated strengths.
Only Greensborough has more players to have kicked 10 goals or more this season and the likes of Shane Biggs, Jhye Baddeley-Kelly and Jackson Jones look set to have a big say on just how far the Bulldogs go in 2019.
Bundoora and Northcote Park are both desperately seeking a morale-boosting victory in their meeting at Yulong Reserve.
The Bulls remain in fourth place on the ladder despite winning just two of their past six games. The margin in the two wins were just one and seven points, meaning the Bulls have a percentage of only 89 following a 5-5 start to the year.
You just need to look at the players missing from action to understand the recent struggles, with the likes of Brent Marshall, Brendan Carlyon, Dale Marshall, Matthew Evans and Brenton Briffa all unavailable during last week’s defeat to Heidelberg – while Scott Dowell was also injured during the match.
Bundoora will be desperate to quickly address its losing streak at Yulong Reserve. Usually one of the most fearsome grounds for opposition sides to travel to, the Bulls have lost their past three home games and have averaged just eight goals during those defeats.
Despite its own recent struggles, the Bulls will enter this game as favourite, taking on a Northcote Park side that hasn’t been able to take a trick in recent weeks.
The injury-ravaged Cougars succumbed to a sixth-successive loss last week, with the 38-point defeat to West Preston-Lakeside further compounded by injuries to Ash Close, Jackson Starcevich and Lachlan Boscarini.
The defeat pushed the Cougars down into seventh spot on the ladder and leaves them precariously placed entering the final two months of the season. The current form line suggests they are more involved in the relegation battle, than the fight for finals.
The next three weeks look pivotal in determining the club’s fate in 2019. This week’s clash against Bundoora is followed by consecutive home games against Montmorency and Lower Plenty – with all three looking winnable if the Cougars can dig deep and find a way to reverse their recent woes.
Two positives from last week’s loss was the dominant form of Jordan Perry in his return from injury and the continued emergence of Ben Augustus. Perry was the best player on the ground in his first game since Round 6, while Augustus’ past two weeks have been arguably his best at senior level.
The round concludes on Sunday with the pick of this week’s games between West Preston-Lakeside and Greensborough at War Memorial Park.
The reigning premier has hit its stride over the past month and has remarkably pushed up into fifth spot on the ladder, despite its premiership defence commencing with six-consecutive defeats.
Four-straight wins have turned the Roosters from relegation threatened to genuine finals contender, however this week’s clash against the undefeated ladder-leader looks set to provide the big test of the Roosters improved form.
After averaging just 66 points a game across the opening six rounds, the Roosters have been able to turn their scoring woes around. Over the past four rounds they have averaged 103 points a game, second only to Greensborough during this period of time.
The likes of Jackson Clarke, Luke Lirosi, Matthew Signorello, Ahmed Saad and Garrett McDonagh have been instrumental in getting the reigning premiers back on the right path, while Mitch Tobin has taken his game to a higher level and Max Dreher is developing nicely.
While West Preston-Lakeside still have plenty of work to do to clinch a finals spot, the reigning premier will certainly feel it has a point to prove this weekend against a Greensborough which poses the biggest threat to stealing the Roosters crown.
They will also be looking to atone for their 73-point drubbing in the Round 5 outing at Greensborough War Memorial Park. The Roosters managed just three goals in the twilight encounter which marked the lowest point in their 2019 campaign.
Greensborough will be equally desperate to send a message this weekend against a side which is beginning to emerge as a challenger to the Boro’s title hopes, despite coming from a long way back.
The 2019 season is now 10 rounds through and still there has been no weaknesses identified within Greensborough’s line-up or game style as it chases its first senior premiership since 2014.
Last week’s 51-point thrashing of Macleod was another commanding display – with the Boro’s midfield getting on top in heavy conditions, while the backline was resolute and kept the Roos to just two goals – one of which came from a double 50m penalty.
The midfield battle looks a beauty this week, with the likes of Tom Bell, Charlie Molyneux and Ben Fennell set to go up against Luke Lirosi, Matt Signorello and Alex Federico, while Ahmed Saad’s battle with Nick Riddle is set to be eye-catching if it eventuates.
This week’s clash continues a month that will provide Greensborough the biggest test of its premiership credentials. Sunday’s match is followed by clashes with Heidelberg and North Heidelberg in the next fortnight.