DIVISION 3 MID YEAR REPORT

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Division 3: MID YEAR REPORT
By William Balme
1st Kew (9 – 2) – 151.03%
What’s gone right?
Kew’s improvement over the past three seasons has been considerable and this year they appear to have finally got the mixture right as they charge toward September. Thrilling wins against contenders UHS-VU and Richmond Central prove that they are capable against the best sides and they’ve shown strength in all areas of the ground. Andrew Brazzale has been solid up forward with support from Tim ‘BWS’ Allman and Brandon Droessler whilst Paul Brough has been one of the league’s best ruckman with a very solid engine room and a firm defence to boot. Their win over Aquinas on the weekend is a strong indicator of how a combination of the young and the (sort of) old is a pivotal factor for sustained success. 
What’s gone wrong?
Kew has started poorly in a number of games that has seen them have to fight harder than expected for longer periods. They also have not been able to put away sides such as Power House and South Mornington until later in the contest, perhaps illustrating a lack of a killer instinct. Their loss to Swinburne was an aberration however the concerns raised by the loss to battle-hardened Elsternwick would be more worrying. Like UHS-VU, destiny is in their hands.  
Predicted end of regular season ladder position: 2nd 
2nd UHS-VU (8 wins – 3 losses) – 182.80% 
What’s gone right?
Last season, UHS-VU outlasted Aquinas and Kew in the finals to finish 3rd behind the insurmountable Yarra Valley and Ivanhoe. It begs the question of what could have been if Yarra Valley had beaten Ivanhoe in the first final. Potentially, UHS-VU could have already been Division 2. At 8-3 after 11 games, there is no doubt that UHS-VU are out to right the wrong of last season and they have barely put a foot wrong. Minus a 5 point loss to Kew in their epic encounter earlier in the year, 1 point loss to the much improved St Francis Xavier and a surprising loss to huge improvers Elsternwick, UHS-VU have comfortably handled every team they’ve come up against. Players such as Michael Gaite, Nick Rowland, Dean Benstead, Asher Kirk and youngster Nicholas Devereux have all flourished in a strong outfit across the board.  
What’s gone wrong?
Until the weekend just passed I would have said that only the absence of Captain Rhys Kirk has hurt the team. His absence appeared to be a factor in their loss to Kew but since then it has barely raised a mention. Their loss to Elsternwick at Sportscover Arena has raised a couple of questions in regard to their side holding up against physically stronger midfields as the defeats have been to the 3 of the other 4 teams in the top 5. Richmond Central at Victoria Park and the rejuvenated Aquinas over the next two rounds could make or break their season. 
Predicted finish: 1st
3rd St Francis Xavier (8 – 3) – 145.19% 
What’s gone right?
One of the bigger surprises this year, St Francis Xavier started the season poorly with a huge loss to Richmond Central in Round 2. Since then, the lads from Beaconsfield have played some polished football, beating UHS-VU and Swinburne in consecutive weeks. Dimitri Dimakopolous, Christopher Smith and Sam Burns have been sensational for the X’s but it is their spread of goalkickers that is particularly notable. Troy Farrell (33 goals), Dwayne Scott and Dimakopolous (both 26) is a clear indication of how capable they are of kicking a winning score. 
What’s gone wrong?
Barring the historic win over UHS-VU at home, they have struggled against the sides who will contend for the flag this season. Richmond Central demolished them at home whilst Elsternwick smashed them in the last quarter after SFX led for much of the game. It may appear to be pulling teeth, but their ability to finish games against quality sides is a worry however they are in a rich vein of form currently. They appear to have a tough run home with clashes against the likes of Kew, UHS-VU and Elsternwick. 
Predicted finish: 5th
4th Richmond Central (7 – 4) – 137.02%
What’s gone right?
Great recruiting, plenty of depth (like the three teams above them) and an impressive style of play, Richmond Central have powered their way into contention after a patchy season in 2012. Glimpses of brilliance appeared in 2012 however they are a far more consistent and formidable opponent in 2013. The return of Sam Brown and Sean O’Connor combined with the recruitment of Luke Carland and Sam Demeo has been pivotal for their dramatic improvement. They are the highest scoring team in the Division with a widespread of goal kickers. They are very hard to stop when on a roll.
What’s gone wrong?
Shootouts in their losses to Aquinas, Elsternwick and now South Mornington have demonstrated their weakness when facing quality attacks, highlighting a key concern for the coaching panel. To kick 17+ goals in each of those contests and still lose shows that it is not an anomaly. They’ve played a number of games away from Kevin Bartlett Reserve so it will be interesting to see if playing on the bigger Victoria Park will condition them for the bigger games in September. 
Predicted finish: 4th
5th Elsternwick* (7 – 3) – 136.19%
What’s gone right?
Quite simply their recent wins against Kew and UHS-VU were a combination of grit and poise and stamp the side as a genuine contender. Aaron Thornton and Justin Hunter make up the most dominant forward combination in the league and they have plenty of contributors through the midfield such as Andrew Oldfield and Craig Mahony. Their backline is usually steady, led by the big Irishman, Declan Healy. They are certainly capable of kicking winning scores against most sides in the competition on their day. These lads are the Russell Morris approved ‘Real Thing’. 
What’s gone wrong?
Not a lot. Their loss to Kew at home showed what can occur if their forward line is shut down. Nonetheless, they were very competitive against both Aquinas and UHS-VU during their defeats and turned around the UHS-VU result during their return fixture. Their depth is their biggest worry. Injuries could see them fall farther than other competitors as their reserves have had some very ordinary results. Predicted finish: 3rd
6th Aquinas (6 – 5) – 88.79% 
What’s gone right?
A few weeks ago I would have said nothing. Williams was injured, key players were heading to Europe or other clubs and they had been smashed by Kew, Richmond Central and even Power House in consecutive weeks. However, minus an aberration against Albert Park, they’ve muscled their way to key wins against Elsternwick and amazingly turned around a 120 point loss to beat Richmond in their return fixture. Sam Williams has kicked 19 goals in 3 weeks since returning and Philip Jurkovsky and Leigh Toomey are in excellent form through the midfield. A phenomenal turn around but still not the position many expected them to be in after 11 games. 
What’s gone wrong?
As I previously mentioned, their horror 3 week patch had us all rushing to write off the 4th placed 2012 team. The Jess brothers and Michael Niezen were amongst the departures, leaving gaping holes in their line up. Sam Williams got injured and they appeared to be headed for a listless finish in the mid regions of the table. This has changed to a reasonable extent although their second loss to Kew this year makes a top 4 finish nigh on impossible. However, wins against SFX and UHS-VU over the next two weeks would keep the flame alight.  Predicted finish: 6th
7th La Trobe* (5 – 5) – 89.31%
What’s gone right?
Their midfield featuring Rupert Sangster and David Hacker is extremely capable and their side is supported by one of the better swingmen in the comp, Jack McMeel. Their ability to be competitive has not resulted in many wins but it has certainly kept them in games for long stretches. This was shown in their clashes against Richmond Central and Kew. They have only conceded more than 100 points once this season, a commendable effort. They also certainly have the wood over rivals Swinburne University. A win in their game against Power House and they will be in the 6 after 11 games. 
What’s gone wrong?
An inability to score is their fundamental problem. They have not put away any sides convincingly and lack the firepower to compete with the top sides. Inject a power forward and a quality crumber and La Trobe are a side that is capable of matching it with much of the division on their huge home ground. 
Predicted finish: 7th
8th Swinburne (4 – 6 – 1) – 112.80% 
What’s gone right?
Their round 2 win against Kew was stunning as they outplayed the Kew boys from start until finish. However, since then they have been unpredictable at best. Big wins against the sides below them have featured telling performances from Jackson Manning, Richard Lugg and League B&F smoky Ryan Keeley. They play an exciting brand of footy and are definitely capable of improvement in seasons to come, however after their draw with Power House, finals footy is almost certainly beyond them in 2013. 
What’s gone wrong?
Frankly, Swinburne’s inability to win close games equates to them missing out on making the finals. Two losses to La Trobe by a total of 6 points, a draw against Power House despite leading for most of the contest and a 7 point loss to cellar dweller South Mornington coalescing with their unconvincing record against the top 6 (minus the win over Kew) is an indication of how this season has broken away from the uni boys.
Predicted finish: 8th
9th Albert Park* (4 – 6) – 79.27%
What’s gone right?
I predicted Albert Park to be around the 7-9 mark this season and it has panned out pretty much the way I expected it. They have the most challenging task to recruit players to their team with a home ground that is brutally destroyed year in, year out by the Grand Prix as well as residing in a very competitive area for football teams. I don’t envy the job that they have but I cannot fault their endeavour. A season defining win against Aquinas justifies that statement. I’ve been particularly impressed with Dylan Muscat, a fine player for the lakeside boys and new recruit Hayden Turner. 
What’s gone wrong?
Their pulling power has just denied them any chance of recruiting a team that can lead them up to the higher divisions which is unfortunate. They’ve been beaten convincingly by UHS-VU, Richmond Central and Swinburne but they won’t be relegated. If they can bottle the spirit they have played with over the past couple of weeks, they may be the best of the non-finals participants and a 2014 finalist. 
Predicted finish: 9th
10th Power House* (3 – 6 – 1) – 75.17%
What’s gone right?
The Webbs, Ricky and Michael, have been terrific for Power House and have provided significant grunt for a side that was absolutely putrid last season. They have made considerable improvement from last season and although they are still a long way off becoming a good side, they are definitely heading in the right direction. Their win against Aquinas is likely to remain their best of the year. An outstanding effort from 2012’s wooden-spooner.
What’s gone wrong?
They are a developing side and obviously there are going to be periods of prolonged frustration for Power House supporters. They simply do not have enough stamina to compete with the quicker and fitter sides on bigger grounds which has seen competitive first halves turn into large defeats. They also need to fix their siren, it sounds like a demented whale. 
Predicted finish: 10th
11th South Mornington (2 – 9) – 55.40%
What’s gone right?
Their first round win against Swinburne was a tremendous effort following on from their premiership last season in Division 4. Until the weekend, there hadn’t been a lot to cheer about for the Tigers, only off the bottom due to Old Westbourne’s own destitute situation. However, their shock win against top 4 side Richmond Central was truly one to savour. So good was the win that it has reignited their hopes of slaying the relegation beast, something most thought was completely unattainable two weeks ago.   
What’s gone wrong? 
A new coach, a new president and basically a whole new senior team sums up the issues that have surrounded South Mornington. It is a sad story for a side who dominated Division 4 last season. They have been convincingly beaten by all bar Swinburne, La Trobe and now Richmond Central and their run home is extremely difficult. They are still red-hot favourites to be relegated alongside Old Westbourne but their win over Richmond Central was emphatic.   
Predicted finish: 11th
12th Old Westbourne (0 – 11) – 38.64%
What’s gone right?
This is where my job gets really hard. There is little to talk about here. A competitive game against Richmond Central was pleasing and Jesse Humphries is an exciting talent but bar that it has been a pretty dismal story. They would have been bitterly disappointed to drop a very winnable game against Power House despite leading for much of the contest. 
What’s gone wrong?
Like South Mornington, Old Westbourne has lost a lot of good players in the past couple of seasons to clubs in the area who have fallen for the pull of good pay and soulless football. The administration must be commended for their continued support of an ailing club and again I reiterate how hopeful I am that they continue to develop their youth and hang onto their kids because VAFA clubs should stick together. Most onlookers may have already conceded that they will be playing in Division 4 next season. 
Predicted finish: 12th
*Played 10 games due to postponement.

Mid-season team of the year
B: D Healey (Elsternwick) T Leeds (Kew) S. Burns (SFX)
HB: P. Morrison-Stacey (Aquinas) A. Kirk (UHS-VU) L. Woolrich (Kew)
C: M. Fitzclarence (UHS-VU) D. Dimakopolous (SFX) R. Keeley (Swinburne)
HF: D. Muscat (Albert Park) A. Brazzale (Kew) J. McMeel (La Trobe)
F: A. Thornton (Elsternwick) S. Williams (Aquinas) D. Scott (SFX)
Foll: M. Gaite (UHS-VU) D. Hacker (La Trobe) S. Brown (RC)
Int: C. Smith (SFX) P. Brough (Kew) L. Carland (RC) D. Benstead (UHS-VU)
EMER: P. Jurkovsky (Aquinas) N. Rowland (UHS-VU) B. Price (SM)

And a quick look at Division 3 Reserve:
Kew sit on top with a ridiculous percentage of 595.52 and just one loss however that came at the hands of 2nd place UHS-VU in a titanic battle. Richmond Central and La Trobe make up the top 4 with Albert Park and Power House two games clear of Aquinas who also have a very poor percentage. The top 6 will likely remain the same however judging on percentage and ladder position, the top 4 will be fighting for the premiership.