With a quarter of the season already down, Round 5 is shaping as a vital one in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 ahead of the representative break.
The top-four sides have opened a one-game buffer on the rest of the competition, ahead of a round that sees four of the current top-five sides face off against sides inside the bottom-five.
The round’s only match between two top-five sides will be played at J.E. Moore Park where second-placed West Preston-Lakeside hosts fifth-placed Montmorency.
It shapes as an intriguing battle, with the Roosters one of the form sides of the competition throughout the opening month, while the Magpies have been hot and cold across the first four rounds – scoring two massive home wins, sandwiched between two poor losses on the road.
West Preston-Lakeside heads into the game on the back of a 74-point win over Northcote Park at Bill Lawry Oval. The Roosters’ three wins this season have all been recorded on the road and have come at an average margin of 65 points.
The Roosters were able to cover competition leading goal kicker Ahmed Saad’s absence last week and still managed to record 35 scoring shots in the dominant win. They raced to a 30-point lead at the first break, before stretching their advantage at every break.
Sam Glover produced his best game for the club in a dominant showing across half-back, while skipper Nathan Valladares, Daniel Valeri and Liam McVeigh (four goals) all made prominent contributions.
Montmorency was unable to continue its Round 3 form into last week’s match against Macleod, where it was humbled in a 61-point rout at De Winton Park. The Magpies kicked the opening two goals, but only managed another four after the five-minute mark of the first term.
With Ben Fennell and Tyrone Leonardis both on VFL duties, and Ben Walton sidelined by injury, the Magpies’ cause was further hampered by a knee injury sustained by Pat Fitzgerald in the opening quarter. While the star forward played the game out, he was clearly under duress.
Perhaps the only positive for the Magpies was a solid defensive display by Michael Fitz-gerald, who did a superb job to quell Macleod forward Ben Lennon, and another impressive effort by 19-year-old Sam Binion – who featured in the best players for the third time this year.
North Heidelberg and Bundoora are both looking to arrest three-game losing streaks when they meet at Shelley Park. Despite both entering the game with 1-3 records, it is the reigning Division 2 premier who comes in with the better form.
The Bulldogs were involved in one of the games of the season last week, where they succumbed to a nine-point defeat to Greensborough in front of a massive crowd at War Memorial Park.
After the Boro made the early running, North was able to produce arguably its best football since returning to the top-flight to take a 35-point lead during the second quarter. They held an advantage until midway through the last term, before being outlasted by the home side.
If the Bulldogs can maintain their best football for sustained periods, there is absolutely no doubt that they can push for a finals place in 2018.
Last week’s performance was highlighted by another strong game by Michael Florance, who teamed up well with Jesse Tardio, while 23rd player Brayden Hirt showed plenty of positives near goal.
Bundoora went into its match against Heidelberg severely undermanned but stuck within a kick of the Tigers midway through the last quarter, before the visitors kicked away for a 20-point triumph.
It was a gallant effort without Matthew Dennis, Brent Marshall, Andrew Sturgess, Danny Younan, Ben Young and Josh Iacobaccio, however the result consigned the reigning premier to ninth place on the ladder.
The Bulls will be counting down to the representative break more than any other team in the top-flight, in a bid to get injured players back on the park. However, should they drop this week’s game, they will have a long road back from 1-4.
Heidelberg and Hurstbridge will both be looking to extend winning form when they meet at Warringal Park. The Tigers sit in fourth place after three-successive wins, while the Bridges last week jumped off the bottom of the ladder following their first victory of the season.
Heidelberg looked set for another tense finish last week when Bundoora closed within a kick in the last quarter, before breaking away for a 20 point-win. Given how close the Tigers’ results have been this season – the final result must have felt like a blowout.
Big man Jake Thomas had his breakout game for his new side, finishing with five goals, while Chaz Sargeant added three majors to take his season’s tally to 10. Fielding a relatively inexperienced side, the Tigers were also well served by Matt Cecchin and Lachlan Wilson.
Having won its past three games and with its three upcoming matches against sides currently placed inside the bottom-four, Heidelberg has a real chance to set up its 2018 campaign in the next month.
Hurstbridge will head to Warringal Park somewhat rejuvenated after getting its season on track with a 42-point win at Whittlesea last week.
The Bridges held a 32-point lead at three-quarter time after a five-goal to two third quarter, before staving off a spirited fightback by the home team to finish with six of the last seven goals.
Mitch Burton returned to his best form – kicking majors goals after being kept goalless in his first two games this year. Tom Simpson and Brayden Shaw also had big impacts, while Mitch Hymus continued his good run of form.
Northcote Park and Macleod meet in a rematch of last year’s second semi final.
Macleod will enter as a warm favourite based on recent form and 2017 meetings between the sides – with the Roos winning all three encounters between the sides last year by an average margin of 88 points, including a 106-point drubbing in the second semi.
Since losing to North Heidelberg in Round 1, last year’s runner-up has claimed three-successive wins by an aggregate total of 201 points – that’s despite fielding a largely different side to the one that played off in the grand final last September.
Last week’s win over Montmorency was built on the back of relentless pressure, with the Roos’ midfielders and defenders not giving their opponents any time with ball in hand. In the attacking half, Patrick Martin again shone and finished with six majors – making it 10 in two weeks.
Hamish Paynter again racked up plenty of the football, while Ned McKeown and Brad Leggett led a resolute defence that only allowed the visitors 13 scoring shots for the day in near perfect conditions.
Northcote Park entered its game against West Preston-Lakeside without Ash Close, Nick Carter, Joel Donaldson and Luke and James Svarc and battled all day. The writing was on the wall early, with the Roosters kicking 4.7 to 0.1 in the opening term.
Paul Dirago and Bronik Davies tried their best to inspire their undermanned side, but it was to no avail, as the Cougars succumbed to their second home defeat of the season and relinquished the Mellerick/McNiece Cup.
Whittlesea travels for the first time this year when it makes the trip to War Memorial Park to take on Greensborough.
The Eagles will be searching for a response after slipping to the bottom of the ladder following last week’s poor showing against the previously winless Hurstbridge. The 42-point loss was Whittlesea’s third-consecutive defeat at home.
An unlikely win appeared momentarily on the cards when Chris Horman put through three goals early in the last term to pull his side back into the contest after a poor third quarter. However, the Eagles couldn’t maintain the fightback and kicked just one of the game’s final seven goals.
Xavier Dimasi again showed his class, despite the final scoreline. He was joined in the Eagles best players by Riley Dyson, Luke Deards and youngsters Clancy Bland and Mitchell Andrews.
Greensborough moved back inside the top-three after overcoming a gutsy North Heidelberg and will be favoured to improve its record to 4-1 ahead of the break for interleague football next weekend.
Reigning best and fairest winner Jack Johnston was once again exceptional across defence in the win over the Bulldogs and would likely be leading the club championship count after four rounds.
Brody Tickell, Andrew Stellas and Zak McCubbin each had solid outings and combined for nine of the Boro’s 16 goals in the high-scoring affair, while Charlie Molyneux featured in the best players once again in his second game in green and white and capped his performance with one of the goals of the season.
Greensborough was a convincing winner in both outings against Whittlesea last year, scoring victories by 45 and 74 points.