The Queen’s Birthday split round has provided a slight breather and a chance to reflect on what has been a fascinating opening to the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 campaign.
A host of clubs will be extremely grateful for the break over the long weekend, which provided an opportunity to give injured players an extra week to recuperate.
Hurstbridge will be looking following a difficult few weeks. The Bridges are yet to live up to their pre-season hype but sit just two games outside the top-five and can still contend for a finals place if they are good enough.
Whittlesea has fallen off the pace and sits a game last. The Eagles will now take stock ahead of what looks to be another battle to stave off relegation. They have been in similar positions over the past two years and on both occasions have bounced back to avoid the drop.
The action didn’t come to a complete halt however, with Macleod hosting North Heidelberg at De Winton Park over the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Macleod continued its strong run of form with a 62-point victory, powering away from the Bulldogs in the final quarter with seven goals to one to take home a 20.14 (134) to 11.6 (72) victory.
The result handed the Roos their seventh-consecutive win and gave them a two-game buffer at the top of the ladder heading into the second half of Round 8.
Patrick Martin booted seven goals in a dominant display up forward for the home side, with the North Heidelberg defence unable to contain him. Ben Lennon also chimed in with three goals, while Anthony Doherty and Billy Barden booted two apiece.
Doherty was named best afield for the Roos, lighting up De Winton Park when the game was in balance. Joel Kidd was also amongst the best for Macleod after his run-with role on Brent Harvey.
The AFL games record holder was still able to hit the scoreboard for the Bulldogs, as him and brother Shane were the only multiple goal scorers with three apiece.
Jesse Tardio was the best player on the ground for the visiting side, fighting hard all day even when the game was beyond reach. Former Coburg man Liam Hunt also played a strong game.
The second week of the split round features games of equal importance, including Northcote Park and Greensborough meeting for the Neale Carroll Cup. The Cougars take a two-game winning streak into the game, while the Boro have lost their past two.
Ash Close again confirmed his status as Northcote Park’s most important player with a 10-goal haul to sink Hurstbridge in Round 7. The star forward has booted 25 goals in four appearances this year, with the Cougars still undefeated with Close in their line-up.
The win at Ben Frilay Oval was set up in the first quarter, when Northcote Park booted eight goals to race to a 31-point advantage. The margin remained at five goals at the next two breaks, before the Cougars extended their buffer in the last quarter to win by 44 points.
After two impressive away wins, Matt McLennan’s side will be looking to correct their form at Bill Lawry Oval, where they have been below their best in three outings in 2018 – including big losses to top-two sides Macleod and West Preston-Lakeside.
Greensborough faces an uncertain period, with the club entering the mid-season with a host of injuries, as well with some key players travelling overseas. The challenging period will give the Boro’s next wave the opportunity to cement their place in the senior side.
After looking set to move a game clear atop the ladder when leading Macleod in Round 6, the Boro’s place in the top-five is suddenly looking vulnerable – now equal on four wins with three other sides, including sixth-placed Northcote Park.
The loss to West Preston-Lakeside was a dour arm-wrestle, with only three goals kicked in the first half. The Roosters assumed the ascendancy after half time to win by 27 points, despite the best efforts of defenders Nick Riddle, Jack Johnston and Michael Croxford.
Heidelberg is on the rebound when it rolls out the welcome mat for West Preston-Lakeside. The sides enter the game at Warringal Park in fifth and second-place respectively.
The Tigers succumbed to their second loss in three weeks when they were overrun by North Heidelberg in Round 7, although their cause wasn’t helped by injuries to Jordan Treloar and Jacob Page in the first term – limiting interchange rotations throughout the day.
Trailing by just 13 points at the last change, the Tigers went goalless in the last quarter to fall to their heaviest defeat since Round 2 last year, with their percentage dropping from 117 to 101.
Following successive wins against 2017 finalists, the Roosters have well and truly established themselves as a legitimate contender in 2018. They sit a game clear in second place and boast the best percentage in the competition, having scored more points than any other side.
Ahmed Saad’s return sparked the Roosters to their fifth win of the season, with the mercurial forward kicking five goals in the low-scoring win at War Memorial Park. His one-on-one battle with Nick Riddle was outstanding, with both players starring on the day.
Recent outings between Heidelberg and West Preston-Lakeside have produced many thrillers, including their Round 2 encounter at J.E. Moore Park, where the Tigers prevailed by two points courtesy of a five-goal performance from Chaz Sargeant.
Whittlesea and Bundoora are both looking to revive their campaigns when they clash at the Whittlesea Showgrounds. The sides have combined for just three wins this year.
The Eagles were once again left to lament a shocking start in their Round 7 loss to Montmorency, kicking only one goal in the first half to head into the main break behind by 66 points. They outscored their visitors after the main break, but it was far too little, too late.
Xavier Dimasi and Matthew Coen were once again among their side’s best players in the 59-point defeat and continue to be shining lights for the Eagles, who have now lost their past six games – by an average margin of 57 points.
Bundoora suffered its fifth loss of the season in Round 7 but looked to have turned a corner in the grand final rematch against Macleod. It was a poor first quarter that proved costly, with the Bulls giving the Roos a 26-point head start.
Fielding their strongest side in weeks, the Bulls were well served by returning duo Josh Iaccobaccio and Damandeep Aujla, while Gary Moorcroft was a constant threat inside forward 50m and finished with a game-high five goals.
Despite finishing at opposite ends of the ladder in recent years, it is Whittlesea who takes the better head-to-head record into this match, having won their past three – including both outings during the Bulls’ 2017 premiership campaign.
Hurstbridge will be looking to stay in the finals race when it travels to Montmorency. The Magpies are looking to bank back-to-back wins for the first time since Round 3, however the Bridges have played their best footy on the road this year.
The Magpies have endured a wretched run with injuries across the opening seven rounds, with captain Jesse Donaldson, Ben Fennell and Danko Bzenic all set for extended periods on the sidelines.
Despite the absence of the trio and Tyrone Leonardis, Ben Walton and Jake Potter, the Magpies were able secure a convincing win at Whittlesea to push up into fourth place on the ladder.
Star recruits Matthew White and Ben Kennedy produced outstanding performances at the Whittlesea Showgrounds. Michael Fitz-gerald and Sam Binion also continued strong campaigns, while Pat Fitzgerald snared his second-consecutive six-goal haul to take his season tally to 27.
The Magpies will be wary of a Hurstbridge side that will be looking to respond following following a difficult fortnight prior to the long weekend. At 2-5, the Bridges must find form quickly in order to keep in touch with the top-five.
The positive for Hurstbridge has been its form on the road this year. They have scored solid wins at both Whittlesea and Heidelberg, with their only away loss coming at Bill Lawry Oval back in Round 2, when beaten by Northcote Park by a point.
Riley Reading and Tom Simpson both found form in the most recent loss to the Cougars, each booting two goals to cap strong individual games.