The second phase of the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 split round continues this weekend, with four games to conclude Round 8.
The round began with a draw between North Heidelberg and Macleod over the Queen’s Birthday weekend and the action continues this Saturday as we close in on the halfway point of the season.
Northcote Park and Greensborough meet at Bill Lawry Oval in the round’s only clash between two sides inside the top-five.
The two clubs are separated by only three positions on the ladder, however their form lines differ greatly in recent weeks – with the Cougars’ last win recorded on May 4, while Greensborough sits a game and percentage clear atop the ladder.
After starting the season in red-hot form, Northcote Park has lost its past three matches by an average of 67 points and the Cougars’ place inside the top-five is suddenly looking increasingly vulnerable.
Scoring has dried up heavily in recent weeks, with the Cougars booting just 145 points over the past three matches. By comparison, they averaged 102 points a game across the first four rounds – which coincides with the only matches both Ash Close and Jackson Starcevich have featured in the same side.
The club’s depth has been severely tested in recent matches, with Starcevich, Close, Jordan Perry, Bronik Davies, Lachlan Boscarini, Jake Mills and Tyson Old all missing at different times over the losing run.
However, there is no doubting the Cougars’ ability when their best side is on the park and the Queen’s Birthday weekend may have come at the perfect time for the club to reset following three heavy defeats.
Greensborough will be aiming to maintain its impeccable start to the season, with the Boro sitting pretty atop the ladder on the back of seven-straight wins, with an average margin of 62 points.
Their last-up win over North Heidelberg was perhaps their most impressive victory yet, with the Boro overcoming an early two-goal deficit to storm to a 38-point triumph at Shelley Reserve.
The club’s best players are all in superb form, with Nick Riddle, Tom Bell, Jack Johnston and Charlie Molyneux all enjoying outstanding starts to the 2019 season, with plenty of support around them.
The club’s scoring spread must be acknowledged and is proving to be one of the major reasons behind the successful start to the year. Despite averaging 115 points a game, the Boro don’t have one player among the top nine goal kickers in the competition. Brody Tickell leads the way with 14 majors.
The multiple avenues to goal make Greensborough near impossible to close down, with the likes of Andrew Stellas and Tynan Smith also reliable targets going forward – while most of the club’s midfielders also have the ability to kick multiple goals in a game.
West Preston-Lakeside has removed itself from the bottom of the ladder and will be hoping to back-up its last-up win when it hosts Montmorency at J.E. Moore Park.
The Roosters’ 93-point thrashing of Lower Plenty in Round 7 was the club’s first win since last year’s grand final and helped bolster their percentage from 61.70 to 78.24 – jumping the Bears on the ladder in the process.
While it was a long overdue win for the reigning premier – the club will now look to continue building as it aims to make something of its premiership defence. Four of the Roosters’ next six opponents are placed outside the top-five so it might be too early to put a ceiling on what the club can achieve if they are good enough.
Despite several of their VFL contingent not playing, the Roosters named arguably their best line-up of the season last round, which included premiership heroes Mark Kovacevic and Aidan Tilley. Tilley made an immediate impact with three majors as the Roosters notched 150 points – a great effort after kicking just 393 points in the opening six rounds.
Ahmed Saad was back to his best with seven goals against Lower Plenty. His match-up this week will be intriguing after missing both outings against the Magpies last year. He kicked eight in his most recent game against Montmorency in Round 12, 2017 – but was goalless in his first appearance against the club.
Montmorency missed an opportunity to move inside the top-five when it fell to Bundoora in a close lose in Round 7 and will now hope to emulate its 2018 effort at J.E. Moore Park – where it took home the four points in a thriller.
The Magpies booted the last three goals in their loss to Bundoora prior to the Queen’s Birthday weekend but fell short of a come-from-behind win by seven points. It could prove a decisive result come season’s end, with the win keeping the Bulls inside the top-five at the Magpies’ expense.
Just as Ahmed Saad looms as a massive presence at one end, Patrick Fitzgerald is likely to command plenty of attention at the other. Fitzgerald has booted 15 goals in the past two matches after also kicking five in the NFNL’s rep win at Geelong.
He isn’t the only key Magpie in good form, with Jesse Donaldson and Jai Robinson both performing exceptionally well this season, while Stephen McCallum appears set to return this week to bolster the midfield.
Bundoora and Hurstbridge are both chasing consecutive wins in their meeting at Yulong Reserve.
The Bulls’ win over Montmorency in Round 7 helped end a run of two-straight losses, while the Bridges’ upset triumph over Macleod helped them jump into eighth spot and a game clear of the bottom-two.
Bundoora will start favourite having won the past four outings between the sides since 2017, but it does loom as a danger game for the Bulls against a Hurstbridge side which has shown significant improvement over its past four matches.
To outline the importance of this week’s game for the home side, he Bulls can move within two points of the top-three with a win. Conversely, they could slip outside the top-five should they lose, and Montmorency scores an away win over West Preston-Lakeside.
The Bulls set up their win over Montmorency in the first quarter – racing to a 22-point leading and holding that advantage for much of the day, before staving off a late fightback from the home side.
Daniel Venditti once again led the way and now sits outright first on the Coaches MVP voting, having polled in all but two of the opening seven games. The veteran midfielder polled a perfect 10 votes against the Magpies – the second time this year he has achieved the feat.
Yulong Reserve won’t be too unfamiliar for many at Hurstbridge, given the large contingent of the club’s playing and coaching staff that have previously played at Bundoora.
The Bridges enter this week’s game having won two of their past three games, which includes a five-point win over Macleod in Round 7. The Bridges should have won by more, but for bad kicking – with the final score 9.16 to 10.5.
It was a mighty effort, particularly given key forwards Jack Donnelly and Bailey Jordan both missed the match. However, with Mitch Dale, Lachlan East and Ryan Jackson continuing their good form, the Bridges were able to notch a vital win.
Given its relatively low percentage, Hurstbridge must win this week to remain in the finals hunt heading into the back half of the year. A loss would leave it potentially three games and percentage from the top-five, meaning the relegation battle would be the sole focus in the second half of the year.
Heidelberg is on the road for the second consecutive match when it ventures to Montmorency Park South Oval to take on Lower Plenty.
The visitors will be fancied to notch a fourth-straight win. If they were to do so they will create a handy six-point buffer inside the top-two ahead of a return clash with third-placed North Heidelberg next week.
Heidelberg’s scoring power has been one of its major weapons this year, with only Greensborough averaging more points per game. The Tigers have kicked above 90 in all but one game – a scary proposition for a Lower Plenty outfit which has conceded triple-digit scores in all but two games.
Sam Grimley has been in superb touch in recent games and has slotted 16 goals in his past three matches, which includes bags of six in each of the past two wins. Chaz Sargeant is also continuing the form that saw him selected in last year’s Team of the Year and has kicked at least three goals in each of his past four games.
Lower Plenty produced its worst performance of the season prior to the split-round and was no match for West Preston-Lakeside in a result that consigned the Bears to the bottom of the ladder for the first time this year.
It was a disappointing display after showing good signs a week prior in a competitive loss to Macleod at De Winton Park – where the Bears were still a winning chance during the last term, before being overrun.
The likes of Josh Turner, Ben Paterson, Tom Blake, Cameron Elmore and Jordan Sacco continue to lead the way in what has been a tough return to the top-flight.
They will need plenty of support from their young teammates to cause a boil over against the Tigers, although it must be noted the Bears’ better performances this year have come at home.