THREE teams in the new look Mid Gippsland Football Netball League’s seniors’ competition remain undefeated after five rounds.
But this week’s round of matches will go a long way to settling early favouritism for the flag when second and third teams, Mirboo North and Fish Creek, meet in the match of the round.
Meanwhile, the other undefeated team, Hill End, will be tested when they host MDU for the first time, a match that looms as a danger game for them despite their relative positions on the ladder.
Mid Gippsland Publicity Officer Rob Popplestone provides his analysis of Round Five:
Mirboo North v Fish Creek
There were whispers even prior to the start of the 2021 MGFNL season, that Fish Creek had been quietly going about their business securing the “right” players to bolster their squad for a tilt at the crown in the newly formed and now much stronger league.
The six former Alberton league clubs have certainly lifted the quality of the league, even beyond that of recent years, and Fish Creek is responsible for a key role in that improvement.
The Kangaroos demolition of Morwell East last week was vindication that their first three wins against “traditional” opposition represented stronger form than they were credited for by some.
Another test comes this week, when Fish Creek clashes with Mirboo North on the Tigers’ home deck. The ground as many would know is somewhat “unique” in the competition and when taken to by a very good side like Mirboo North, the task of winning is a big one.
Injuries have caused the Tigers some concerns in recent weeks, but somehow, they have managed to be in front when the final siren has sounded, in fact a fortnight ago they even managed to win when they were behind as the final siren sounded. The point is the Mirboo North side is a competitive beast, and as good as that is, they will also need the class within the starting squad to maintain their winning streak and stop that of Fish Creek.
Hill End v MDU
In football as in most sports, you can have all the skill, ability, fitness, game plans, camaraderie and support in the world, but guess what, you still need luck and at this point Hill End’s luck is being well and truly tested.
The Rovers have been decimated by injuries in the opening four weeks of the season and all of the players affected have been first choice selections.
The talk at the Rovers has even included coach Mike Santo putting on the boots again, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it does highlight how bad luck can force a hand you would rather not play.
MDU would be well aware of the Rover’s reputation as a very good side, but the one mistake they could make is to believe the test is too tough before they even arrive at the ground. Many games are won or lost before a ball is bounced, and the Demons need to have their mind set on believing they can win, rather than making a good fist of competing.
A small lack of concentration, a minor easing of pressure at any time can cost a team dearly against Hill End, and that’s the exact problem MDU have been having in recent time, small periods of a match when opposition sides can take advantage.
Expect Hill End, even with a side short of their best to look for that opportunity.
Morwell East v Stony Creek
There is an old sporting saying that “you’re only ever as good as your last game” and for both Morwell East and Stony Creek, that should be enough to send a shutter down the back of every player from both clubs.
There have been some worrying signs at the Hawks for a number of weeks now, the most obvious being their slow starts, but even that has been masked by the fact they have still managed to manufacture a win, both from some real mental toughness and some astute coaching on the sidelines.
For Stony Creek a win in whatever form would gladly be taken just at the moment. The Lions have shown patches of what they capable of, in each of their first three matches of the season, but in this new competition, patches of good football are not good enough to win matches.
With all that being said, it won’t be any easier for the Maroons this week as they travel to the home of the Hawks, who will be desperate to make Stony Creek pay for their own disappointing performance last week.
There has been some “shadow boxing” between clubs in the opening month of the 2021 season as sides familiarise themselves against new opposition, but around about now is the time to deliver some knock out punches.
Newborough v Boolarra
There is no question whatsoever that Newborough will want what Boolarra just recently got, and that’s four premiership points after their Demon’s strong performance against Thorpdale last week.
The Bulldogs have been good for patches against better teams than they face this week, however, they will also need to find something greater than they have shown, and at the same time show it for longer periods of time.
Newborough’s depth will be tested after losing another couple of players last week, but the return to their home ground and the belief “that we can actually win this game” expect the round five clash to be a hard fought one.
Boolarra’s first win came after clashes with two of the leagues best, but now they actually have the chance to string two wins together, which would have them well placed not only on the league ladder but also with the mindset three in a row would be possible the following week against MDU.
What they cannot do is get ahead of themselves like I just did and be thinking any further than the Bulldogs this week.
Thorpdale v Tarwin
It was a massive disappointment to Thorpdale last week when they fell short to Boolarra that they couldn’t get their first premiership points of the season,
Coach Ray Pickering would have thought they were a genuine chance given their lead up competitive form against some of the better teams in the competition.
The loss was a sobering one for the coach and his Blues players, and verification that unless you come to play, you will wish you didn’t after just a couple of hours.
Now back on their home deck and with a week with which they have had to deal with how things went wrong, there will be no excuses for Thorpdale to dish up an effort similar to that of last week.
The problem for the Blues is that Tarwin will also see this as a chance to secure their second win of the season and in doing so put themselves back into the frame of serious conversation.
There are no easy wins, and no where for either side to hide if things don’t go their way this week.
Yinnar v Foster
Foster have quickly shaken off their opening round loss to Hill End and bounced back with a vengeance, easily accounting for Tarwin, before making light work of Newborough last week.
You would expect that Yinnar might be somewhat of a bigger hurdle for the menacing Tigers, but given this is a Magpies home game, you wouldn’t be writing the home side off too quickly.
Yinnar could be seen as unlucky not to have beaten Mirboo North a fortnight ago, when a goal after the siren by another team of Tigers broke their hearts.
To the Magpies credit they bounced with a decisive win over Stony Creek, the victory pleasing the coach and putting them back into the right frame of mind for the massive task that Foster poses.
Foster have the talent and have called on the depth of youngsters the club has to record successive wins over the past weeks, those wins however might not have been against the quality of side they meet this week.
This round five match looms as a defining one for these two clubs, a win puts you in the top six mix, a loss pit you in the middle of the ladder with a bit of work to do.