By Hugh Maclean
Season 2017 is now two-thirds over. Whilst the top of the Division one ladder is populated by the usual suspects, the battle to be considered the main challenger to the crown is more fascinating than previous years has shown.
Caulfield have long been considered the main danger to the established order, and have thrown down the gauntlet in recent weeks with several impressive displays. Here they took on Dingley, and though by no means disgraced they were shown that the league leaders had no intentions of relinquishing the crown any time soon. Jess Payne returned to the goal circle for Dingley, and wasted no time in combining well with Bridgette Furphy in converting the opportunities provided by their talented and experienced mid-court. At the other end Caulfield scored enough to stay in touch, with Sophie O’Shea providing her usual nuisance and Georgia Heenan fighting an engaging battle with the composed Chloe Sinclair. In the end Dingley created enough openings to win all four quarters and emerge victorious by 57-41.
Heatherton Black played Heatherton White in an intra-club derby that at times showed the lower level of intensity that often goes with such fixtures. The absence of the Riddell sisters and Maggie Carlon did not help the White cause, and while Taylor Butterworth and Sophie Clark were strong in attack they had their hands full with the settled Black defence. Both sides had their moments of slick passing movements and clever ball use, but it was Black’s bookends, Rahni Samason in attack and Kirsten Daley in defence that were the decisive factors in a 54-37 victory.
This meant that the winner of the St Kilda City v Keysborough clash would draw level with Heatherton White in fourth place, and this spot would be assumed by a City side that took the initiative from the early exchanges. Both sides combined well with the ball, but City began to do the Borough considerable damage by providing the short option for their ball carriers rather than allowing Keysborough to pick off the long pass. A four goal first quarter advantage was parlayed into a 24-15 half time lead as Keysborough struggled to hold the scoring power of the Joneses. A 15-goal deficit at the last change was always going to be near-impossible to make up, and though Sam Downie and Lesina Lalotoa made numerous fine interceptions and Shana Bain was a particularly good link player, the likes of rebounding defender Tash Petroff and clever midfielder Louise Moetu gave St Kilda City enough opportunities to close out a 48-34 win.
St Pauls played Bentleigh in a game of sometimes manic pace where defence seemed not to be a priority. Bentleigh started the match in a rather profligate mood, turning over three centre passes in the first quarter through basic errors and allowing St Pauls to skip to a 22-11 lead. A heavy fall in the second quarter, causing a hip injury to star goaler Grace Healey rattled St Pauls and threatened to let Bentleigh back into the match as they went into oranges only six goals down. However, Healey returned to the fray in the third term and as if chastened by the impudence of the hard Dingley surface, refused to miss as she put on a shooting clinic. The hard running of Eliza Barnes formed the partnership that took St Pauls to last year’s Division 2 grand final – here again this partnership was too much for Bentleigh to handle, and despite the efforts of consistent goal keeper Ky Brown and excellent inclusions from division two Katie Lamb and Jayde Hildegard St Pauls had a comfortable 61-45 margin by game’s end.
Division 2 once more reverted to type with all the favourites scoring comfortable victories. South Yarra made life difficult for second-placed Dingley before falling to defeat by 32-22. Dingley, however, could make no impression on the leaders as Heatherton maintained their unbeaten record. Heatherton are averaging a whopping 60 goals per match. Here they exceeded this impressive average, taking St Kilda City to the cleaners in a 71-26 walloping. Elsewhere Caulfield retained third place through having little trouble brushing aside the Mordialloc challenge. A scoreline of 55-33 formed a fitting reflection of the superiority of the girls from the Bear Cave. Whilst the top three appear set in stone, South Yarra in fourth place could yet be vulnerable to a challenge from either City, Mordialloc or Bentleigh should they lose form, holding an eight-point advantage over the chasing pack.
Division 3 saw the hard-working CPL side achieve their first win for the season, claiming the scalp of Lyndale by 36-34. This win had been coming – CPL has been improving and, rested after the bye the previous week, this was the game in which they took the points. Just above them, Caulfield pinched a four-point break on Black Rock with a 30-28 win. Higher up the ladder, third-placed Heatherton’s 42-32 defeat of Dingley and Clayton’s 34-24 win over Keysborough meant that Clayton replaced Dingley at the top of the tree, with fourth placed St Kilda City having the bye. This sets the scene for another top-of-the-table face-off at mid-day this Saturday as a stung Dingley unit does battle with Clayton in an attempt to regain their crown.
Last week the two Dingley teams held the first two places on the Division 4 ladder, while the two Heatherton sides rested third and fourth. At the end of this round the roles were reversed. Heatherton Black beat Dingley Gold by 45-42, eighth placed Mordialloc tasted top four blood for the second week running by beating Dingley Red by 35-34, and Heatherton White had a comfortable 59-42 win over Keysborough. This gives Heatherton White the competition lead over Heatherton Black, with Dingley Gold and Dingley Red in close pursuit. Elsewhere Black Rock 35 defeated Caulfield 26, and St Kilda City 41 beat South Yarra 22. Heatherton White play Heatherton Black this week, and it would take a brave (or foolish) forecaster to try and work out how this division will finish.
Division 5 is no clearer. Caulfield’s 55-18 demolition of East Brighton means that they only have one defeat for the season. Dingley and Lyndhurst played each other having been similarly invincible – it was Dingley emerged with their record intact, winning a 35-33 cliff-hanger. Heatherton’s 49-18 win over Highett means that they hold down fourth spot, a win clear of Skye (51-46 winners over St Kilda City) and Cheltenham (who beat Dandenong by 51-26). Elsewhere St Pauls claimed their first points of the season in the beyondblue Cup battle, beating Bentleigh by 27-18. In another finals preview, Caulfield take on Dingley in Round 11.
Doveton’s narrow 38-36 over a tenacious Mordialloc allows them to hold the top spot in Division 6, while Dingley Gold (39-16 over Lyndale), Heatherton (46-35 over St Kilda City), and Dingley Red (64-26 over Clayton), all had important wins which increase their level of comfort in the top four. Mount Waverley joined Mordialloc in missing the opportunity to put pressure on Dingley Red in fourth by going down by 39-37 to Hallam, while Aspendale recorded their second win in as many games, by 37-35 over South Yarra to cling onto their faint finals hopes.
Division 7 sees Dingley still unbeaten, retaining their 100% record with a 38-21 win over Hampton. Oakleigh District overcame a slow start by beating Doveton by 34-27 to hold second spot, while Lyndhurst (who beat Murrumbeena on forfeit) and Lyndhurst (38-25 victors over Cheltenham), make up the four. East Brighton beat Heatherton by 32-26 to draw level on points with Lyndhurst in their chase for a maiden finals berth, while St Kilda City just outlasted Chelsea Heights by 23-20. Round 11 could be vital to the final standings, with East Brighton facing Dingley as CPL and Lyndhurst do battle.
Keysborough made it nine wins from nine in Division 8 by thumping South Yarra by 41-7. Mordialloc claimed their ninth scalp in ten by avenging their Round 1 defeat and defeating Lyndhurst by 50-22. Dingley overtake Lyndhurst and move into third spot with a narrow 32-30 win over fifth placed Hallam. Elsewhere Heatherton 61 beat Dandenong 16, Lyndale 34 beat Caulfield 20, while Mount Waverley consigned Black Rock to the foot of the table with their 25-19 win.