Clarke, comebacks and change

They boys look at which players are making an impact at their new clubs. 320081

JONTY: It was a traditional winter’s Saturday…

DAVE: Excuse me, it’s not winter yet.

JONTY: I’m going to ignore that interruption Dave…where you needed your coats on the weekend, but there was some good footy played across the region. I’ll start with you Marcus, what was your best action?

MARCUS: A few weeks back, Dave highlighted two screamers that Garfield took within five minutes of each other; well this week, we had the same thing with two Kangaroos leaping high.

DAVE: OHHHH, like it.

MARCUS: First we had Riley Perkins take a ‘Jesaulenko…you beauty’ hanger as far as getting your knee up on the shoulder of the opposition; good elevation, decent hang time and a heavy fall. And a few minutes later, his teammate Riley Wierzbicki came from four deep in a pack. He’s a tall fella so he got his arms up high and took it at the highest point. He went over the ruck for Gembrook-Cockatoo, Paddy Snoxell. Unfortunately, he missed the shot at goal but those two marks were definitely the high points at Officer.

DAVE: My best action this week goes to an old-fashioned ruck from Olinda Ferny Creek. He wears his socks up and looks like he’s come straight out of the 1960s. Olinda jumped Pakenham on the weekend and Josh Wallis, six minutes into the game, does a Tom Hawkins; he pushes his opponent out of the way, grabs the ball out of the ruck and snaps it over his shoulder. It was probably the highlight of his season. He’s not an overly skilled player but it was a skilful piece of play.

MARCUS: Who was in the ruck contest? Was it Cooper Riley?

DAVE: Not sure on that one, but it was a pretty good performance from him and Olinda Ferny Creek looked sharp; Pakenham poor for three quarters. And I’m going to the Pakenham women’s team – Ava Deszcz. She’s 16-years-old, has slotted straight into senior footy. Scores were level with about five minutes to play on Saturday night. Ball goes forward; she takes a mark, probably 35-40 metres out. No one else can kick that far but she showed composure beyond her years to kick it straight through the big sticks to give the Lions the win. It’s great to see those young players coming through in women’s football. Ava is a very exciting talent on the rise. The coach Rick Stalker said ‘the last time he saw an old head on young shoulders like that was a young Nathan Buckley coming through.’


DAVE: Not putting too much pressure on her (laughs)…but she’s got some talent the kid.

MARCUS: That’s the second mention of Ava in three weeks; approaching Joel Hillis territory?

DAVE: No, no, no. Jonty has photos of Joel Hillis on his wall.

JONTY: Um… (Tries to move on but know Dave is right).

MARCUS: No denial…interesting. (Everyone laughs).

DAVE: You boys know my favourite player; I share the same surname as her and her initials start with Chloe!

JONTY: Good call. I’ll go with two pieces of best action as well. I’ve talked a bit in the office about Matt Clarke’s Doveton debut. He was best on ground and it was party time in the last quarter when he took a big ‘speccy’ in the goal square and kicked his third. It showed his ability to play above his height and his classiness. His inclusion, among others, will certainly help Doveton once again challenge Murrumbeena for the flag I think.

DAVE: I was going to ask what impact a player like that has on Doveton. He’s been around for a while, but he’s a gun.

JONTY: It’s not just him: Benny O’Loughlin, Lochie Conboy. I would say four or five of their best weren’t there last year so the list has rejuvenated and is looking good. Also a shout out to Raiden Bergman from Berwick for the Dandenong Stingrays; he had a few big moments late in the game. He helped them get in front late and also hang on for a draw. That Dandenong draw, where they came from 29 points down at three-quarter-time to split the honours is a good segue to the next topic.


JONTY: I’m asking this question off the back of the Port Adelaide v Hawthorn clash yesterday where the Power kicked two goals in the last 30 seconds to clinch a one-point win. Dave I know, you have one you’re busting to say.

DAVE: Back in 2014, Cranbourne and Narre Warren played in a preliminary final after Narre Warren had been upset in the second semi by Beaconsfield. Narre was 42 points up midway through the third quarter, cruising to a grand final, before the big train, Marc Holt, kicked six in the last 45 minutes of play to get Cranbourne over the line. It was a freakish performance and included his 100th goal of the season. Chris Toner was in shock after the game that the big fella did that to them. I’m also going to a bit of golf. Jack Nicklaus, in 1986, shot six-under par on the back nine to break the heart of Greg Norman who was my hero at the time – he’s not now though.

JONTY: Marcus, what have you got for me?

MARCUS: I’m heading to a cricket theme. Buckley Ridges this year, their premiership identity will be characterised as being resilient and able to come back. In consecutive weeks, they chased 361 at Park Oval against Springvale South. The next week they faced Berwick at Park again and Berwick was 1/196 and looked like they would be cruising to potentially a 400+ total. 87 balls later, they were all out for 221. To tie them down like that after looking like they would chase an all-time total was hard to fathom. The 2017 Super Bowl; Atlanta led 28-3 midway through the last quarter before a Tom Brady masterclass saw the New England Patriots win 34-28 in extra time. To watch that after not really watching NFL before was pretty extraordinary. It’s hard to imagine an individual playing too many better games than that.

JONTY: My local one is Hampton Park v Highett last year at Tony Way Rec Reserve. The Redbacks trailed by 17 points at three-quarter-time and conceded the first of the last quarter and it looked a fait accompli what the result would be, but they kicked the last five of the game to level it up and won it with a behind after the siren. It seemed like it would be a character-defining win and momentum shifter in their season. It didn’t end up that way but it remains something I remember vividly. On an international stage, the one that comes to mind is Ben Stokes breaking Aussie hearts.


JONTY: I mentioned Matt Clarke before and what he’ll provide for Doveton, so, off the back of that – who are some recruits who will make a difference for their club?

DAVE: Kilcunda-Bass have picked up a series of players, many of which are from the Berwick/Narre Warren region. They added a gun hard-working midfielder in Jayden Goumas; a fullback in Jayden Graham; centre half back in Jo West; and a bloke who is a gun midfielder but spending 95 per cent of his time up forward and kicking goals in Travis Tuck. Its transformed Kilcunda Bass from a team which is seventh or eighth into a team which has beaten Tooradin and I would say a lock for finals. Those four players have made a big difference.

JONTY: It sounds like the backbone of the team.

DAVE: Basically. And they already had Dale Gawley who won the league medal last year; Nathan Foote is a gun midfielder, so they’ve got the components of a good footy team, they just need to get their bottom six up to scratch.

JONTY: Very good Dave…Marcus?

MARCUS: Anytime I speak to Daniel Charles, he’ll bring up Brenton Hillard’s impact at Officer. He gives them a steel and presence in the middle. The way he carries himself, you can tell the difference he has made. Peter Gentile is someone who wouldn’t quite be a recruit but is now full time at Narre Warren, not playing VFL anymore. He’s made a real difference in the midfield. Losing guys like Tom Miller, you’d think would leave a hole but Gentile’s big body has slotted straight in and his ball use is exceptional. And I’m shouting out a trio of guys who have come to Berwick Springs and if it wasn’t for them, they could be in real trouble: Brodie McConnell, Justin Markulija and Michael Misso. McConnell is holding down the fullback role well. Markulija and Misso in the middle; without Hayden Stagg and Chris Johnson now, you’d hate to think where they would be without those guys, a couple of experienced heads. They’ve bought into Berwick Springs and become key pillars.

JONTY: Yeah well summed up. I will park the Doveton talk because I touched on them before. At Cranbourne, Tyler Finn; he is more for the long term but as a teenager is already getting midfield minutes. He adds energy and is very accountable at centre clearance; if his direct opponent gets the footy, he’ll wear them like a glove. He might not give them immediate wins but can definitely hold his head high with his season so far. From a Devon Meadows point-of-view, I have praised their younger players but they have brought in some experienced heads whose communication on-field and calmness has been influential. ‘Baz’ Hermann has played a strong fortnight of footy and Dylan Gregson steers the ship in defence, alongside Dean Kent. I think those ingredients will help lift Devon.


JONTY: Last topic, which clubs from your point-of-view have had a significant shift in game plan, style, structure and improved off the back of it.

MARCUS: Narre Warren comes straight to mind. They weren’t slow last year but they have certainly got a noticeable focus on moving the ball quicker this year. Without Jake Richardson, they’ve got mid to smaller guys who will benefit from having space to work in where they can use their speed. They’re playing like a ‘Pagan’s Paddock’ with Will Howe as the deepest and guys like Hamish West and Sam Toner at his feet. Gembrook Cockatoo are a noticeably fitter outfit; having Mickey Harold take over their fitness department has worked wonders and they’re less reliant on just a few guys. Pakenham in the few times I’ve watched them, they’ve looked more direct and move the ball better with key targets ahead of the ball to kick to rather than having to manufacture and scrounge goals.

DAVE: They weren’t direct on Saturday, far from it, but I think Tom Gamble will straighten them up a bit. My significant shift: Nar Nar Goon. If there is ever a team that looks ready to win the premiership, it’s the Goon. They looked just a touch light in a couple of finals and they’ve picked up a couple of heavy bodies who move well. Max McGreal is a strong bloke; Ryan Bromley is another one off halfback. That extra strength makes a difference for Nar Nar Goon. The other one is Jimmy Munro going to Cora Lynn. They’ve got heaps of speed through the midfield and now they have a bloke to extract it to them. And I’m really enjoying Tooradin’s new style; Brent Macaffer and Hayden Bertoli-Simmons are gone and now you’re seeing young kids come through; 15 under-18s have come through this year. Logan Downe’s run and carry has given them more explosion on the wing and it’s really good to see.

JONTY: Very good. Dave, I’m going to ask you a question. When you think of Doveton, what is their reputation in the last decade or so?

DAVE: There is an old story of a Pakenham player walking into the Doveton change rooms and they were welcomed with a noose hanging around the rafters. That’s what Doveton used to be known for: come here and you’ll die.

JONTY: Ultra tough. And I don’t want to say they’ve sacrificed that but they’ve added dynamism in the midfield. The word that comes to mind when you think of Doveton now isn’t tough as much as powerful and athletic. It has made them more potent. Last year, they never scored over 100 points; they’ve done that four times already. They were getting out-marked too much up forward last year because they weren’t getting it in there quickly enough. Happy writing boys and we’ll reconvene next week!