By Mitch op’t Hoog
The week’s break has provided us some time to reflect on Round 1 results and reconsider our tips and predictions for the season ahead; not to mention time for the players to recover from the tight battles and big wins of the opening round.
In what was the game of the week, Power House, opened their season in stellar fashion, recording an impressive come from behind victory over reigning Division 4 champions, Westbourne Grammarians at Ross Gregory Oval. Trailing by nine points at halftime, the House kicked seven goals to five in the second half and held off the Warriors by just 10 points. The defeat from Power House saw Westbourne inflicted with their first loss in over a year, having cruised through 2016 undefeated. Tim Kenneally (one) starred for the House alongside River Carroll’s with four goals. Westbourne’s Chris Hudson was awarded with a best on ground performance for the losing team, while Dale Collins and Ali Eqbal kicked eight between them.
Canterbury kick-started their 2017 campaign with a narrow win in another tight match for Division 3. The Cobras proved too strong for Richmond Central who went down by 11-points at Kevin Bartlett Reserve. The Cobras set up the victory in the first term, kicking five goals to Richmond’s two. Despite Richmond getting within two goals, Canterbury managed to hold them off at reasonable length for the most part of the day and always looked to be the victors. Big man Scott Fitzgerald dominated all day for the Cobras while Mitchell Szabo kicked three. After playing just six games last year, Jake Munro returned with a bag of six for Richmond and will look to be an important player in front of goal in 2017.
14 scoring shots to none in the first term set La Trobe University up for a barnstorming 123-point victory over South Melbourne Districts. The Swans made inroads in the second term, kicking four goals to three in the second term but another nine to one in the third put the result beyond all doubt as the Trobers flexed their goal scoring muscle. Mitch Gleeson backed up his 76 goals from 2016 with a bag of five alongside Jonathon Neville who also slotted home five. Harry Rothwell fought hard for the Swans to no avail as they struggled to contain the goal-kicking prowess of the opposing side. La Trobe, with the biggest winning margin of round one, have put out a strong warning sign to all other teams in division 3.
Despite the game being called off after just three-quarters due unsafe weather, UHS-VU still recorded a big winning margin of 73-points over Point Cook, kick-starting their year off on the right note. Point Cook looked to be lacking firepower up forward and the 2016 Division 4 grand finalists were held to just two goals while UHS-VU slammed through 13 of their own. Nicholas Ingleton starred in a best on ground performance for the Vultures while Mitch Sweeney kicked three of his own. Marcus Groves was a shining light for Point Cook, putting in a gallant performance and being deemed best afield for the losing side. While the game was called off at three quarter time, there’s no denying the Vultures were clearly the stronger side, and after deliberation by the VAFA board, the Vultures will hold on to all four premiership points.
In the final match of the round, Albert Park defeated Swinburne University by 24 points at Sportscover Arena. To Swinburne’s credit, they managed to hold the Falcons scoreless in the opening term. However, from then on, it was a flood in the Albert Park direction, and not just because of the heavy rainfall. The Falcons booted 11 of the next 15 goals to come from behind and win by four goals. Simon Hislop (three) and Jamie Vlahos (three) combined for six while Luke Childs was adjudged best afield for the Falcons. For the losing side, there were some admirable performances, including one from David Thwaites who fought bravely in the ruck all day for the Razorbacks.
As we turn our sights towards round two, all teams will be thankful for the break after fighting some hard-fought battles in round one. In round two, Power House come up against Albert Park in what should another tight match for both sides; I’m tipping the home team, Power House, to win by less than two goals. La Trobe will face UHS-VU away from home with both teams looking to build on emphatic round one wins; however, given La Trobe’s massive win over South Melbourne, I’m tipping them to back up and go 2-0 to start the season, though this time with a much smaller margin. Canterbury at home will take on South Melbourne, who will be looking to bounce back and get in the winner’s books for 2017. Unfortunately, I can only see this game going one way and that’s with home side. Point Cook will take on Westbourne Grammarians, and despite Point Cook’s home ground advantage, I’m tipping Westbourne to win by 60+ points. In the final match of round two, Richmond Central travel around the corner to take on Swinburne University at St James Park; this should be an exciting and intriguing match-up and I’m tipping Richmond to get their first win in over a year and defeat Swinburne at home by a slender margin.