Local Footy: Race for Eastern league flag is wide open

Eastern FL  Division 1
club wins losses percentage points
Scoresby 11 2 166.48 44
Noble Park 9 4 159.83 36
Balwyn 9 4 151.64 36
Norwood 8 5 109.85 32
Croydon 8 5 108.72 32
Blackburn 7 6 108.05 28
Vermont 7 6 91.17 28
East Burwood 6 7 86.60 24
South Croydon 4 9 73.01 16
East Ringwood 3 10 72.99 12
Lilydale 3 10 64.77 12
Knox 3 10 64.44 12
Goulburn Valley FL
club wins losses percentage points
Kyabram 10 3 170.47 40
Shepparton United 10 3 149.55 40
Mooroopna 10 3 140.82 40
Echuca 10 3 140.62 40
Rochester 8 5 115.64 32
Shepparton Swans 7 6 114.89 28
Mansfield 6 7 101.86 24
Tatura 6 7 92.72 24
Seymour 6 7 86.68 24
Benalla 2 11 63.72 8
Euroa 2 11 51.08 8
Shepparton 1 12 55.73 4

Melbourne’s Eastern Football League is renowned as one of the strongest competitions in Australia. Its stocks have risen again this year because of the evenness of its first division.

Reigning premier Vermont has twice been beaten by more than 100 points, while slow-starting teams like Croydon and East Burwood are just finding their feet.

With five rounds to go, eight teams have strong claims to make the final five and the other four teams are in a relegation battle. (One goes down.) On Saturday seventh-placed Vermont defeated top team Scoresby by two points.

Vermont last year won only one of its opening six games before knuckling down. Its eventual premiership was testament to a strong club that knows how to succeed.

The Eagles this year are struggling to move up the ladder. The problem is a midfield that lacks depth. The recent return from injury Grant McCarthy and Dean Waller has provided ballast in the backline, while Saturday’s victory can only lend hope.

East Burwood was on the bottom of the ladder six weeks ago, only to win five of its past six games. Its young list has gelled. On Saturday midfielder Steve Henshaw kicked five goals in a best-on-ground performance as the Rams defeated topsy-turvy Blackburn by 33 points.

Croydon looked nowhere near the team that lost last year’s grand final to Vermont before striking a rich vein of form. Brad Kelleher, last year’s leading goalkicker, has been a revelation playing up the ground while Luke Barker has settled in at full-forward.  On Saturday Barker kicked five goals as Croydon saw off the traditionally powerful East Ringwood by 43 points.

Lilydale last year made the finals. On Friday it sacked its coach, former Collingwood player Tyson Lake, and on Saturday it climbed off the bottom of the ladder with a 34-point win over South Croydon. The Breese brothers, Ryan and Daniel, made a huge difference in their return to the Lilydale line-up.

The story of the Eastern league season is Norwood. A decade ago the Norsemen (yes, that’s their nickname) were in division four. This year they’re on target to play in their first finals series in division one.

The Norsemen’s revelation has been Leigh Williams. Williams was unable to play with TAC Cup club Eastern Ranges because of injury. Last year he played in Norwood’s defence.

This year the 20-year-old started in defence, but he’s dominated since becoming a key forward. On Saturday he kicked seven goals and was best on ground as the Norsemen defeated lowly Knox by 96 points. At a spindly 188 centimetres, he’s attracting attention from AFL scouts.

Country competitions can be consistently lop-sided, in part because they don’t have promotion and relegation. The Goulburn Valley league, however, often features teams climbing and sliding from year to year. With five round to go this season, nine teams are in with a chance to make the Goulburn Valley’s top six.

Two weeks ago Echuca slid from first to fourth after being thrashed by Shepparton United. On Saturday Echuca responded to an old-fashioned tongue-lashing from coach Brett Henderson to defeat Tatura by 61 points. Former North Melbourne player Joel Perry kicked 10 for the winners.

Shepparton United was four goals ahead with five minutes to go in its clash against Mooroopna. Mooroopna kicked three late goals to go down by only six points and set up a tantalising possible clash in the finals.

The wild card is Shepparton Swans, who can strut one week and stumble the next. On Saturday the Swans held sixth spot by defeating Euroa by 51 points. Former Melbourne high-flyer Russell Robertson kicked nine to take his tally to 82.

Comments

  1. Damian Watson says:

    Great article Daff,

    As an avid fan of the Eastern Footy Laegue I’m certainly looking forward to the season winding down in dramatic fashion.

    Scoresby are going to be extremely difficult to beat, but I have a feeling Balwyn may prove to be a team to be reckoned with as we head into the finals. After all, the Tigers have had the experience in recent seasons.

    Your words on Vermont’s season certainly ring true, althougth as you mentioned there still is hope for the eagles.

    I’m not 100% sure but I believe it was former Collingood player and Knox coach Tyson Lane who decided to part company with the club on Friday.

  2. Phantom says:

    Adam Bester’s (is he still with Balwyn?)was a member of the great Burnie Dockers team (five straight flags, the first one coached by Mick McGuane)

    His father Phil, was a very tough customer with Cooee in the ’70’s.

    He now owns the motel / restaurant down near the wharf at Stanley.

    Nice spot. Just up the road from Rocky Cape. Nicer spot.

  3. Damian Watson says:

    Phantom,

    I happen to be good friends with Adam Bester and he has always told me about his success at the Burnie Dockers, of course he also played under McGuane for one season at Balwyn.

    Too bad he didn’t have a longer career at the Tassie Devils.

    He is currently now Captain Coach for the Doncaster Sharks in Division 3 of the EF:

  4. Damian Watson says:

    *EFL

  5. pauldaffey says:

    Thanks Damian,

    The thing is, the Eastern league and the Goulburn Valley league are full of interest every season.

    Not so sure about Balwyn. They’ve had some inexplicable losses.

    Phantom,

    Did you mention Tasmania?

  6. Well Daff,

    that’s where Melbourne was settled from.

    And that’s where all the good players come from:

    Roach, Stewart, Richardson, Hart, Reiwoldt.

Leave a Comment

*