Division 1 Review - Season 2023
Season 2023 is now in the books for the Southern Football Netball League with one of the more memorable Grand Finals capping off the season at RSEA Park.
The Rosellas, eventual premiers of season 2023, set out for redemption after dominating the 2022 seasaon, only to fall at the final hurdle against Cranbourne to the tune of just six points.
Fast forward, 12 months and it was Cheltenham that took the chocolates over the Eagles. Heading into the Grand Final, Des Ryan and his men knew they had a challenge on their hands as Cranbourne were the only team to cause headaches for the Rosellas in season 2023, handing them their only two losses for the year. And while all seemed lost at three quarter time for Cheltenham, they stormed home from four goals down to win by a measly three points.
It was obvious that the two best teams in the competition faced off in the Grand Final, but it was the next set of four teams that provided a real logjam on the ladder, that made the final month of the season and exhilarating one to say the least. Dingley, Port Melbourne Colts, Springvale Districts and St Paul's McKinnon all spent considerable amount of time inside the top five, with the Bulldogs the unlucky ones to miss the cut.
The off-season for these four teams especially is a crucial one. How do they get better to topple the likes of Cranbourne and reigning premiers Cheltenham? How do they make sure that those below them and the recently promoted Division Two premier East Brighton don't overtake them? How do they become "the hunted" rather than the "hunters"?
For the Dingoes, it's about finding a level of consistency, which is a weird thing to say given that they finished third on the ladder, however they showed at times that they can beat anyone on their day with wins over Cranbourne, as well as strong wins over those around them, but also fell heavily against those same sides.
The Colts showed in the finals that they are one serious team and if they can add another piece or two to their puzzle and keep the current group together, ten they may just be the team that rises to the challenge and knock the likes of Cranbourne and Cheltenham off the perch.
The Springvale Districts will only thrive further in 2024 after getting a taste for Division 1 finals, their first in their history in the Southern Football Netball League. But again, the off-season is crucial for the Districts to ensure that those below them, don't go past them.
Missing out on September action will burn for the men and women involved down at St Paul's McKinnon. The Bulldogs had some big scalps across the season, knocking off runners-up Cranbourne by five points, as well as the 99-point drubbing of Dingley in Round 17, however three losses by seven points of less throughout the season has been all the difference in the Dogs making the finals.
Bentleigh had an improved season from 2022, going from escaping relegation with just three wins, to five wins in season 2023 and with their Under 19's winning the premiership this season, don't be surprised to see the youth of the Demons rise up the ladder in season 2024.
It's a big off-season for the Mordialloc Football Club, as they search for a new coach, as well as new talent after the unfortunate recent departure of forward Mitch Brown. With just 13 wins over the last three seasons, it's make or break for the boys at Ben Kavanagh Reserve in season 2024.
The newly promoted Chelsea Heights struggled to find their feet throughout the 2023 season, however avoided relegation and will take time over the summer to address the needs that they require to jump further up the ladder next year and challenge for a top five spot.
And at this time of the year, the unfortunate thing is one side gets relegated and after a number of departures mid-season, St Kilda City will be doing their utmost to return to the top flight as soon as they can as most know how tough it is to return to Division 1, and with strong teams such as Murrumbeena, Doveton, Highett and recently promoted Endeavour Hills, it won't be easy for the Saints.
Another intriguing off-season awaits with a number of clubs looking to make the jump into finals or do their best to remain at the top of the mountain.