Jason Bast – Division 4 Scribe
We’re on the verge of Round 1 and it’s shaping up to be a great year in Division 4.
To finish the 2016 season, we say goodbye to our two Grand Finalists from last year, Westbourne and Point Cook. Following a great season decider between the two top clubs, they will both do their best to make an impression on Division 3 in 2017. After a great start from Point Cook, Westbourne came out on top to bring home the flag. The Grammarians dug deep to win the last three quarters and the Bulldogs just didn’t have the legs to keep up. The undefeated Westbourne boys keeping their perfect record with a 17 point premiership victory. Grammarians gun Chris Hudson took home the A.K White Medal after an exceptional best on ground performance.
Also, Chadstone will be departing after a disappointing season that saw them finish without a win. The Synners accepted the offer from the VAFA to play in Club XVIII competition, hopefully this move will bring some more wins and we’ll see them moving back up in the future.
This year sees us greet four new teams with Aquinas, Elsternwick and Parkside coming down from Division 3, after finishing 10th, 11th and 12th , respectively; and St Francis Xavier OC have moved up from Club XVIII. We’re looking forward to seeing some hungry football from these teams eager to prove themselves.
Game 1: North Brunswick AFC vs St Francis Xavier OC
North Brunswick AFC
Last season wasn’t the worst-case scenario for the Bulls but they will be hoping for a much more consistent season in 2017 and a higher finish than their 6th place finish. They certainly have the ability for a better season as we saw some real potential throughout the year. Even coming within 3 goals of eventual Premiers. Hopefully the inconsistency that saw them go down to Box Hill North will disappear following a good preseason under new coach, Marcus Butera. Season prediction: 4th
St Francis Xavier OC
The big shock to start the 2017 season is the surprise return of St Francis Xavier to Division 4. After failing to fill enough spots, the “X-Men” were moved down to Club XVIII (2) at the start of 2015. Despite the disappointment, they went on to win the premiership by a massive 71 points. After being promoted to Club XVIII (1) last season, they managed to make the Grand Final once again but were unable to win back-to-back flags, falling to Hawthorn by 62 points. With a new look committee, president and senior coach from 2015, the X-Men look to make a strong return to the VAFA’s senior section this season. Season prediction: 8th
Game 2: Aquinas vs Mt Lilydale OC
Aquinas had a very disappointing season in 2016 and won’t have been happy at all, only winning 3 games after making it to a preliminary final in 2015. They will be looking for a return to that 2015 form to make a statement in their new division this year and a host of new recruits under new coach Ash Naulty could do the trick. Michael Connolly will be one to watch as he tries to make an impact for the Bloods again in 2017. Season prediction: 6th
Mt Lilydale OC
Going from Club XVIII to a preliminary final in just a couple of years will give the Rams some great hope for more improvement in the near future. Proving themselves with some wins over the top clubs last year, they’ll be looking to improve even further in 2017. With Westbourne and Point Cook both departing, don’t be surprised to see Mt Lilydale throwing their hat in the ring come the pointy end of the season. Season Prediction: 2nd
Game 3: Elsternwick vs Manningham Cobras AFC
Another hard year for Elsternwick, after a strong performance in round 8 last season they dropped 10 consecutive games to find themselves destined for Division 4. The Wickers will be eager for some early wins to set up a successful season and make a case for a return to Division 3. Keep an eye on Justin Hunter in the forward 50, the Wickers forward finished with an impressive 51 goals last year. Season prediction: 5th
Manningham Cobras AFC
Two seasons in a row now the Cobras have beaten all the teams below them and falling short against every higher placed club. Manningham will definitely be looking to shake off that “middle of the table” trend and push for a finals berth this season if they do manage to knock off those top clubs they will be going for a deep run. Season prediction: 3rd
Game 4: Eley Park Sharks vs Parkside Football Club
Eley Park Sharks
The Sharks by all accounts will go into this season as the team to beat. A horror run with injuries in 2016 hurt, but when they clicked they looked incredible. With Brent Christie, the O.J. Meehan medal winner alongside David Viola who booted 47 goals to finish 4th in the goal kicking standings, Eley Park will be planning to finish atop the ladder and make a serious play for the flag come the end of the year. Season prediction: 1st
A horror year for Parkside in 2016 that saw them letting through 126 points per game, the Red Devils only managing to come away with the one win for the season. It wasn’t all bad news with Shane McLaren finishing 3rd in the P. Hutchinson medal after claiming the OJ Meehan in Division 4 a year earlier. He will be hoping to have another good year alongside Darren Gresham, Thomas McKinlay and the rest of the Devils as they try to muster a much better season in Division 4. Season Prediction: 7th
BYE: Masala Football Club
Masala improved again last year, going from one win in 2015 to three last season, as well as an admirable showing against one of the top teams in Point Cook. They will be aiming for that trend to continue this season and surprise a few teams in 2017 with some more wins. Sam Freeman will be looking to build on a good season last year after finishing with 39 majors. Season prediction 9th
Round one tips: North Brunswick, Mt. Lilydale, Elsternwick, Eley Park Sharks
Top 4: Eley Park Sharks, Mt. Lilydale OC, Manningham Cobras, North Brunswick AFC
Premiership: Eley Park Sharks
Goalkicking: Justin Hunter, Elsternwick
OJ Meehan Medal: Shane McLaren, Parkside