By Hugh McLean
Round five is the first round of the season since the completion of the grading phase. Whilst divisions one and two remain unchanged, fourteen teams find new homes in either higher or lower divisions, which makes tipping down the grades a bit of a nightmare.
Division one sees winless Hampton Park given the hardest assignment in the SFNL as they take on a rampant Heatherton. The returning Maddie Hanlen gives the Redbacks more drive through the centre of the court, and sets up an intriguing battle in their circle between the unheralded Megan Egbers and champion defender Kirsten Daley. However I don’t feel that Hampton Park has the height to cover Nat Billings at the other end of the court, and Heatherton’s all court game should deliver it another four points.
Mordialloc matched Heatherton in many areas last week, but the Tunners’ stars at either end of the court carried the day as they fell to their heaviest defeat of the division one campaign. It gets no easier for the ladies in red this week as the Ladybears of Caulfield are beginning to sharpen their claws. If the likes of Jess de Garis, Emma Houghton and Sophie Durnan can win enough ball in mid-court to restrict supply to Beth Wilson and Sophie O’Shea the upset could be on, but I don’t see it. Caulfield too strong for me.
Dingley plays a St Kilda City side of whom little was expected from the season, but who have already delivered two wins and two other very competitive efforts. Dingley have always been far greater than the sum of their parts – here they come up against a side that follows much the same model. In Sarah Fischer and Laura Piper Dingley has an in-form shooting division. St Kilda City’s main defenders were hampered by injury last week and if they haven’t been able to recover it could be a long day for the Saints, but they too have the attacking game to hurt Dingley going the other way. Dingley to win, but not by any fancy score.
The form book suggests that St Pauls should dispose of the Keysborough threat, but the Burras have been far more competitive than their winless record suggests. Dingley were able to expose St Pauls’s mid-court through hard running and close checking last week, and against Megan Kennedy, Amy Burns and the improving Shana Bain they won’t have it any easier on Saturday. St Pauls’ main weapon will again be the deadly Grace Healey, although in Zoe Lythgo and Adele Gilmore they possess quality attacking options that need to be watched. I think Keysborough may kick start their season with a close and well-deserved win here.
First plays third in the division two match of the day as Caulfield takes on Dingley Gold. Caulfield has taken all before it so far this season, showing that last year’s grand final appearance has been no flash in the pan. Dingley are always strong at this level but Caulfield are going a little too well at this point and I don’t think they’ll drop this one. Fellow table-toppers Cheltenham play Keysborough and it’s hard to see the Burras troubling the hot Rosellas here. Murrumbeena will be keen to rejoin the winners’ list and in South Yarra will face a very competent opponent, but will have the big-game experience to prevail in a close
encounter. Dual premiers Heatherton have started their season in a strangely quiet manner. They face last year’s division three minor premiers Clayton who, like the Tunners, have one win in three starts. I think Heatherton may be a little too strong at this stage of the season. Also on one win is Mel Ades’s Dingley Red line-up. They take on a young Bentleigh side on the rebuild, and while they will be a match for many sides this year it’s hard to see Dingley giving up the points.
Dingley Gold have taken all before them in division four. Having been regraded to division three their first assignment is a Lyndale side that has given a lot of cheek but only has one win to show for it. I think Dingley will win this but with no great confidence. Likewise, Mordialloc has only one win but has conceded just seven more goals than they have scored. Here they play a slick and unbeaten St Kilda City that should prevail in another tight battle. The other unbeaten side is Dingley Yellow with a good mix of higher-division experience and young talent. They face a Black Rock side that will have felt they could have beaten Heatherton last week. Dingley for me, but only just. The last two encounters should also be very close affairs, with Heatherton to beat a Cheltenham side regraded from division four, and Caulfield to beat Bentleigh, just.
Mordialloc have shown themselves to be far too good for division five. They have the personnel to have a big say in division four having been reclassified by the handicappers, and could get off to a great start by beating Springvale Districts. Murrumbeena are the other promoted side – they have very much the tougher assignment, and may find the unbeaten Heatherton Black a little too good. Keysborough and Hampton Park play in the battle of the winless sides. Keysborough have looked the more impressive of the two and should get their campaign moving on Saturday. Heatherton White may be a little too strong for South Yarra in a game that could go either way, while CPL look to have a little more in their locker than St Kilda City. Finally the Caulfield derby looks a coin-toss affair. I’ll favour Yellow over Blue, but with no real confidence.
Dingley Gold sit atop division five, and look the goods to stay there with a win over Highett. Heading the chasing pack are the two promoted sides, Oakleigh District and Aspendale. The Oaks have the tougher game, and will struggle to beat Dingley Red, while I favour Aspendale, just, over St Kilda City. Lyndhurst and East Brighton, both vying for fourth spot on ten points with the aforementioned Dingley Red, will be confident of victories over Cheltenham and Heatherton respectively, while Black Rock might have just a slight edge over St Pauls in the final match.
Mordialloc Red join division join division six having run up cricket scores in the lower division in recent weeks. They start with mid-table Hallam, and with winning form being good form I favour them slightly here. Lyndale play a Bentleigh line-up that has had a difficult time of it in division five, and may continue to do so, at least this week. Third placed Keysborough should be strong enough to continue the winless sequence of similarly relegated Caulfield, while Doveton look to have too much scoring power for South Yarra to handle. Clayton look to have the solidity to defeat Dingley, while St Kilda City might have a little too much polish all over the court for Mordialloc White.
A free-scoring Dingley has been promoted from division eight to division seven. They play winless Mount Waverley and should win a game that may, however, be a lot closer than
some would imagine. Hampton and Aspendale are among the three sides within two points of the Dingoes – they play in the division’s match of the day. Hampton look to be going the better of the two at the moment and I’ll tip them. The other side in the chasing pack is Lyndhurst, who look to have too many guns for Heatherton. Murrumbeena look like they may be too strong for Cheltenham, Doveton look too strong for the relegated East Brighton, while I favour Springvale Districts in a close one against CPL.
Hallam Red look to maintain their spot on top of the division eight ladder. While Oakleigh District are as game as they come, they might find Hallam Red a bridge too far at this stage of their development. Level with Hallam Red is Lyndhurst, who have the bye this week. Highett and Lyndale are level on two wins each, and they play each other on Saturday. Lyndale appear to have the more potent attack while Highett’s defence looks their strong suit. Toss a coin – Lyndale. Keysborough and Hallam Yellow look to begin their climb of the ladder, both having been walloped in round four. Keysborough might be too strong but a Yellow win would not be a huge shock.
Heatherton and Dingley, combatants in so many big games, square off in round five in division eight. There appears to be a little distance between the two in this league, and Heatherton should win this one. Lyndhurst in third play a relegated Springvale Districts Blue side that won their last quarter in division eight, but I don’t think have quite what it takes to knock over a side that could go deep into August. Second placed Black Rock should be a little too good for Clayton, while South Yarra might just out last Springvale Districts Red.
Could be a little wet and wild on Saturday. Don’t forget your Clifton Umbrellas just in case – good luck to all…