After an opening round that spanned three weeks, Round 2 of Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 provides some continuity with five matches scheduled on Saturday.
The opening round produced a number of interesting results and talking points.
West Preston-Lakeside has built a strong platform for the 2017 season, winning twice in six days; Hurstbridge showed it looks up to the challenge of Division 1 football, while reigning premier Heidelberg has given its challengers a head-start following a 0-2 start to the season.
Sitting one game-clear atop the ladder, West Preston-Lakeside returns from the Easter break when it hosts Hurstbridge at J.E Moore Park.
The Roosters could hardly have made a better start under new coach Rob Maiorana, justifying their pre-season hype with two strong wins in the opening round of the year.
A 13-point win over Heidelberg in the season-opener sent a clear message that the Roosters mean business this year, with Ahmed Saad kicking seven goals, including two goal of the year contenders, and fellow recruit Jackson Clarke superb after joining from Coburg.
The Roosters’ second win of the season was more remarkable, overcoming a 42-point deficit in the third term against Northcote Park under lights at Bill Lawry Oval. The visitors kicked nine of the final 10 goals to steal a stunning 10-point win.
Saad added another six majors, but it was fellow AFL recruit Andrew Walker who dragged his side across the line with a dominant final term. Walker was well supported by Adam Valeri and Josh Novelli.
Having started the season with two wins against 2016 finalists, West Preston-Lakeside will be favoured to advance their record to 4-0 with upcoming matches against Hurstbridge and Whittlesea.
However, one must be wary to make too many predictions in a competition which has produced many upset results in recent seasons, and in the opening round.
Hurstbridge will view its Round 1 loss to Macleod as a missed opportunity after kicking 3.10 in the final quarter when it had last year’s runner-up on the ropes.
The Bridges were competitive during the opening three quarters but trailed by 31 points at the final change of ends. They cut the margin to seven points midway through the last term and could have taken the lead, but for wayward kicking in front of goal.
Former Melbourne captain Jack Grimes was outstanding through midfield, while Tieren Barbera and Lachlan East both showed they have what it takes to play good football in the top flight.
Bundoora plays its first game of the season when it hosts Whittlesea at Yulong Reserve.
The Bulls made a winning start to Ricky Dyson’s coaching tenure, outlasting Heidelberg in a tense battle at Warringal Park. The 10-point win was secured with a long range goal from Isaac Muller in the dying minutes.
The final margin was the biggest gap at any break, with the Bulls leading during the opening half before having to rally in the final quarter – kicking the last two goals of the game to hand Heidelberg a rare loss at home.
Ben Young and Matthew Dennis were Bundoora’s best two players on the day, while Kris Bardon, Todd Hughes (three goals) and Scott Dowell each made contributions in their first game for their new club.
With consecutive home games in Rounds 2 and 3, and with Nathan Thomas still to return to line-up, the Bulls can establish a strong platform in coming weeks.
As it did in the opening round last year, Whittlesea threw away a golden chance to start the season with a win when it succumbed to a three-point loss to Montmorency at Whittlesea Showgrounds.
After overcoming a slow start, the Eagles looked all but home midway through the last quarter when they led an under-strength Magpies outfit by more than two goals. However, the home side conceded the final three goals to slump to a disappointing defeat.
Justin Sherman kicked five of the Eagles’ 11 goals, Jay Russell received seven votes in the Coaches Player of the Year award – the most of any player on the ground, while Tom Falls and Paul Higgins were solid.
The first grand final rematch of the year takes place when Heidelberg hosts Macleod at Warringal Park. Neither side takes strong form into the game, despite the Roos’ notching a win in Round 1.
The Tigers will be desperate to kick-start their campaign after a slow start, while Macleod need only think back to its grand final defeat last September if it requires any additional motivation for the Round 2 clash.
It has been a less than ideal start to Heidelberg’s premiership defence, with the Tigers beaten in two close matches during the opening round, with the combined total of the losses just 23 points.
While the Tigers have not been disgraced during either defeat, the slow start could prove costly in the race for a top-three spot, with the reigning premiers now having to fight through the field, particularly if results go against them this weekend.
On a personal level, Marcus Marigliani and Charles Gaylard have each made strong starts to the 2017 season, and have both been among their side’s best players in both opening round games.
Aaron Crispe has remained at his reliable best, Sam Grimley kicked four goals in his Tigers’ debut and Lachlan Wilson again found the football at will against Bundoora and continues to play beyond his years after last year winning the best on ground medallion in the grand final win.
Macleod just scraped past Hurstbridge in the opening round, however as the old adage says ‘a win is a win’ and the Roos will only improve on their Round 1 showing.
Brad Leggett was outstanding in defence in the win at Ben Frilay Oval and was vital in his side holding on in a tense final term, Shane Doherty impressed, while Jack Langford, Matt Clark and Reid Brandt combined for nine goals.
Northcote Park and Greensborough both enter their clash at Bill Lawry Oval off the back of close losses.
The Cougars looked certain winners during the third quarter of Matt McLennan’s first game in charge and have now had a fortnight to work out what went wrong in the final 40 minutes.
Fielding a strong side that included four players from Collingwood’s VFL side, the Cougars kicked 15 goals before three-quarter time before grinding to a halt in the last quarter, where they managed just two scoring shots as West Preston-Lakeside piled on seven majors.
Ash Close was in superb touch and kicked five goals, Paul Dirago was immense in his Northcote Park debut and Jordan Perry continued his best and fairest winning from.
It was a case of the opposite for Greensborough in Round 1. The Boro trailed by six goals at half time of their Good Friday clash before storming home to hit the lead late, only to be denied by a goal to Eltham’s Josh Merkel in the last minute.
Without retired trio Matthew Hyde, Michael Hooper and Josh Griffiths, the inexperienced Boro were completely outplayed in the first two quarters and were unable to counter Eltham’s midfield dominance.
That changed in the second half which allowed Josh Riddle and Rhys Boyden to get on top inside forward 50 on the back of more supply. Meanwhile, Nick Riddle and Jack Johnston were important with their rebound from defence.
The final game of Round 2 will be played in the twilight timeslot when Montmorency hosts Eltham at Montmorency Park. It is a massive game for both sides, where the winner will start the year 2-0 after missing the finals last year.
Without a host of stars, including Pat Fitzgerald, Ben Walton and Stephen McCallum, the Magpies recorded a stirring Round 1 victory with their backs to the wall.
Early on they were their own worst enemy, kicking 3.9 in a dominant first term to head into quarter time with just a 15-point lead, despite registering 10 more scoring shots.
It looked like the Magpies would be made to pay for their early wastefulness as Whittlesea took control in the final term. However, a late fightback – led by Matt Hunt, Daniel Keenan and Luke Collins – ensured their side left Whittlesea Showgrounds with the four points.
Eltham also looked like it had blown a certain win in Round 1 when it fell behind Greensborough for the first time at the 23-minute mark of the last quarter.
However, a last-ditch coast-to-coast play ended with the ball in Josh Merkel’s hands and the key forward showed no nerves as he kicked a 40m goal in the final minute to give the Panthers a four-point win in Paul King’s first game as coach.
Anton Woods was a standout for Eltham, winning plenty of football in the first half as his side kicked 9 of the opening 12 goals. He was equally good in the second half even when the Boro worked their way back into the game.
Matthew Keys was outstanding in his return to the Panthers and led an impressive defensive line, which also included strong showings from Adam Brovedani and Stephen McIntyre.