As far as rounds go, this weekend of footy will tell us a lot about what MC Labour Division 2 has in store for us in season 2021.
All matches pit teams on similar points against each other, creating some do-or-die clashes for sides at either end of the ladder as the chips continue to fall in the competition.
After claiming the scalp of Eltham last week, Lower Plenty must now conquer Thomastown at Montmorency Park South Oval if they are to surge into the top-five.
The Bears were impressive under lights last week when they outlasted the Panthers in an exhausting six-point win.
The 2018 Division 2 Grand Final rematch had all the drama of the previous instalment, with Eltham coming from 22 points behind at quarter time to poke their heads in front by 11 points at the final break.
But Lower Plenty, off the back of excellent performances from Darcy Barden, Thomas Blake and Josh Turner, came home with a wet sail to run over the top and claim a crucial victory – ironically, by the same winning margin as the 2018 premiership decider.
Lower now sits in sixth spot with two wins, as their shared goal scoring has started to flow in recent weeks.
But the challenges continue to roll in, with Ben Turner’s side to host Thomastown, who rebounded from a surprise loss to St Mary’s superbly, with a crushing 77-point Anzac Day win over Fitzroy Stars.
The day belonged to Michael Tang, who booted seven goals and snared seven votes in the Coaches’ MVP Award. The haul helped cover the loss of star forward Anthony Capeci – who unfortunately has been sidelined with injury after a magical start to the year.
Shannon Ball was another star for the Bears, while Tyrone Leonardis continued his sparkling start to the season with yet another commanding performance.
Four goals each to Brayden Plant and Marcus Fox was a welcome sight for Thomastown, who will be hoping for another even spread of goal kickers in this much-anticipated match-up between two of the competition’s leading contenders.
In an exciting spectacle, red-hot St Mary’s will travel to Banyule looking to knock the undefeated reigning grand finalists off their perch.
Ever since they upset Thomastown a fortnight ago, the Burra have been one of the surprise packets of MC Labour Division 2.
Fab Carelli’s side continued their fine form last Saturday, bursting out of the blocks against Panton Hill in a rematch of the 2018 Division 3 grand final, and going with the job in a 105-point demolition.
21-year-old Rory Hanlon was once again best afield, commanding the maximum ten votes in the Coaches’ MVP Award. The young gun now leads the voting, having polled 23 votes across the opening month.
Tane Cotter once again popped up with three goals, with the emerging pack of younger players fuelling St Mary’s in a dominant performance, which included an eight-goal to none second half.
Despite their strong form, the Burra will not find it so easy when they travel to Beverley Road Oval to take on Banyule in a twilight match, commencing 4:10pm.
The Bears remain well and truly on of the leading flag fancies after extending their undefeated streak to three games to sit at the top of the ladder with Diamond Creek.
Ruckman Tim Martin had a massive day out in Banyule’s 49-point win at Watsonia and was a dominant force in the middle of the ground to lead the Bears to victory – which was fuelled by a six-goal to one final term.
Forwards Luke Joyce (four goals) and Reuben Blackmore-Moore gained plenty of attention for their eye-catching performances too, while defenders Nick Mayne and Nick Biscontin rebounded superbly all day.
Banyule are a tantalising prospect, with a bunch of new recruits combining well with their seasoned bodies.
With early bragging rights on the line, Banyule will have a big task ahead of them if they are to knock the Burra back down the ladder.
If Diamond Creek are to continue their blissful undefeated start under Andrew Tranquilli, they are going to have to be at their best when they host an Eltham side on the rebound at Coventry Oval.
The Creekers have built form well in the past month, culminating in a big 72-point win over Epping on Anzac Day.
The usual suspects were up to their tricks, with Tyler Barnes and the Marchbank brothers leading proceedings over the ground.
But some new heroes are starting to pop up at Diamond Creek, with defender Joel Randall bringing home seven Coaches’ MVP Award votes in a superb marking display.
Goal kickers Ewan Macpherson (five goals) and Ryan Pingree (six goals) also filled their boots in the 109-37 victory, with Macpherson producing a stunning debut performance at senior level.
But challenges do not come much bigger than an Eltham side on the hunt for revenge.
The Panthers would have been justified in thinking they were in the box seat when they went to three quarter time last Saturday with a two-goal lead over rivals Lower Plenty.
But the Bears produced a mammoth final term to upset the Panthers and send them crashing to two losses within four games. Now at 2-2, Eltham must rebound quickly before they fall behind the leading pack.
The form of Bronson Glasgow, Darcy Vallance and Michael Still will leave the Panthers confident they can hand Diamond Creek their first loss for the season, but it will take a four-quarter performance to knock the Creekers off their perch.
With wins proving hard to come by for both teams, it is a telling weekend for the fortunes of Epping and Panton Hill when they face off at Epping Recreation Reserve.
Other than a gripping one-point win over Watsonia, Epping has struggled to finish games strongly in 2021 – which is a by-product of fielding a relatively young side, which is still adjusting to the demands of senior football.
The Blues were no match for a more advanced Diamond Creek in a 72-point loss on Anzac Day in front of an optimistic crowd.
Other than Sage Dicello (four goals), Epping looked bare up forward, with their only other goal coming from Stefan Balassopoulos.
Leigh Judd and Jhye Baddeley-Kelly continue to work hard for their team, but Epping will need more players to stand up if they are to separate themselves from Panton Hill on the ladder.
The Redbacks are yet to register a win in 2021 but may have fancied their chances of an upset last week at home to St Mary’s, given how close they pushed Diamond Creek in their Round 1 encounter at the same venue.
However, it proved to be a humbling result, with the home side registering only a single goal, which came via Jake Maher in the opening quarter.
Daniel Freeman was good in his return to the club, while Jackson Grimble and Samuel Montanaro also tried hard in what was a trying game for their club.
Wins may be hard to come by for both teams this year, so this contest shapes as a telling one in regard to ladder positions come season’s end.
To close out the round, Fitzroy Stars and Watsonia will both be hoping to break through for a maiden win in 2021 when they meet at Sir Doug Nicholls Oval.
Despite seeing the margin blow out to 77 points in the second half, Fitzroy Stars would have received a confidence boost when they managed to keep with Thomastown throughout the first half on Anzac Day.
Four goals to Ryan Livingstone kept the Stars in the contest, as they managed to score consistently throughout the opening half to enter the main break only 22 points down.
But a poor second half fadeout meant they paid the full price, with Thomastown piling on 12 goals to three in the second half.
Rivva Karpany was the only other Star to join Livingstone in the Coaches’ MVP Award votes, while John Hayes (three goals) also did his best up forward.
Watsonia, also winless, will be entering Saturday’s clash with fire in their belly.
After successive losses by less than a goal to start the year, the Saints held their own in periods against Banyule last weekend – staying within 20 points for most of the day before being blown out in the last quarter.
Young guns Riley Taylor, Lachlan Potter and Adrian Saccuzzo were all stand outs for the Saints, with Robert Todd and Kobe Van Zwienen both slotting two majors apiece to give Banyule defenders some headaches.
Much like Panton Hill and Epping, these two teams will be eyeing off a win to get away from the foot of the ladder and make charge in the 2021 season before it is too late.