Bloods earn high marks at mid season

Trafalgar sit atop the Mid Gippsland league table at the half-way mark of the season. file photograph
Trafalgar sit atop the Mid Gippsland league table at the half-way mark of the season. file photograph

FOOTBALL

MID GIPPSLAND

Trafalgar

The Bloods have enjoyed a magnificent start to the season and sit atop the Mid Gippsland league ladder after setting their season up prior to round one.

A carefully planned pre-season with an extra practice match had Trafalgar red-hot and ready to go from the opening match.

An Anzac Day win over Thorpdale is one of many highlights of their eight wins to date.

Coach:

Clint Eisendel wanted his team to get off to a fast start and be in control of their own destiny.

He has his team playing to a well-understood game plan and the disciplined, well structured side has opposition sides frustrated at the limited room they have to work with given the Bloods' coverage of space.

Only Yallourn/Yallourn North have managed to find a chink in the armour of Trafalgar to date, but one things for certain, there is no easy way to upset the league leaders and it takes four quarters of honest football.

Prediction:

It is hard to see Trafalgar missing a top three spot in the run home and hard to see them finishing anywhere other than where they are now – first.

Grade: A +

Yallourn/Yallourn North

Yallourn/Yallourn North opened the season with a loss before stringing together seven successive wins.

The Bombers have two of the best forwards in the business with both Dean Macdonald, the league's leading goal kicker, and Keenan Hughes in great form.

They are fast and talented and it would be no surprise to see them improve further in the second half of the season.

Coach:

Barrie Burnett leads his side from the front and is an experienced player who directs traffic well from within the contest and links many of his side's movements forward through the midfield.

The Bombers were probably one practice game short leading into the season but Burnett has control of one of the more exciting teams in the competition.

Only two losses to date – to Thorpdale in round one and last year's reigning premiers Mirboo North last week.

Prediction:

The Bombers are most likely to be the only team to challenge Trafalgar for top spot.

The unusually good weather this season has helped his side's silky skills and quick legs.

Only a very wet winter ahead might slow them down.

Grade: A

Yinnar

Yinnar are yet to hit the heights of form we have come to expect from them in recent seasons.

Injuries and unavailability of players have made the Magpies job of winning games of football tougher than it might have otherwise been.

The depth of club talent has carried them a long way to the half-way mark and there is no doubt with more than a handful of first choice players set to return that Yinnar's best football will come in the run towards the finals.

Coach:

Jaime Aitken is one of the most respected coaches in the league and his ability to control proceedings from defence makes his side's forward movement great to watch.

To date he has managed to orchestrate wins with a very thin talent pool and as his considerations increase, so too will Yinnar's performance.

Prediction:

Yinnar will be at their best when they need to be and that is at finals time.

If the Magpies are able to keep hold of a top-three spot they will be one hell of a hurdle for any side to get over for this year's premiership.

Grade: A -

Thorpdale

One of two only sides to have beaten Yallourn Yallourn North, Thorpdale are extraordinarily hard to defeat at home.

The Blues have a really good spread of contributors with some solid avenues to goal but have had to contend with injuries from early in the year which has started to test their depth. At this stage they have stood up well but any further injuries are likely to cause some concern.

Coach:

Josh Collie is cool and composed – a good mover on the field and a good thinker of the game.

To date he has managed to help his side win enough games of football to make them believe they can play a part in finals and avoid the straight sets exit they experienced last season.

Prediction:

Injuries are the absolute key for Thorpdale. Limited depth of talent at the club will have the Blues scratching to fill gaps if they experience any further bad luck.

They are likely to snag a post-season spot but it might be fifth.

Grade: A-

Mirboo North

The reigning premiers got off to their traditional slow start and lost their first four matches before turning it around.

At the half-way mark of the season things could have been different if not for their one-point loss to Thorpdale and three-point loss to Morwell East.

Make no mistake, the Tigers are likely to cause a few headaches for teams above them in the second half of the home and away season.

Coach:

Josh Taylor has gone from classy player to respected playing coach in the space of just nine weeks.

With the support of the bench taking some of the stress and pressure from the first-year coach, Taylor is back to doing what he does best - leading by example in game time and coaching during the breaks.

As a deep thinker of the game and a good communicator, further improvement is likely for the Tigers.

Prediction:

Almost the smiling assassins of the competition, the Tigers have bobbed their heads into the top five a little earlier than they did in 2017 and that spells danger for those above them.

Mirboo North are a big chance to finish top three at season's end.

Grade: B+

Morwell East

The Hawks spent time during their pre-season working with and against respected Gippsland League team Traralgon.

Early signs were that the Hawks might well be one of the big improvers during 2018 but mid-way through the year it appears there might be more work to do before they are considered a genuine top-five threat.

Coach:

Colin King has done all he can for his club to be performing at their best.

A largely uninterrupted pre-season and the acquisition of quality players had set the scene for a charge forward but the side was halted by some frustrating inconsistency and losses in games they were expected to win.

Prediction:

Unless the Hawks can give a more honest performance for longer periods of games the worst may be yet to come.

They have proven they can win games against quality opposition and can win games from almost impossible positions but they have also proven they can't be relied on when you really need them.

Grade: B

Yarragon

The Panthers recruited well in the off-season with hope the start of a club rebuild would begin to show its head towards the end of this season before a more genuine push in 2019.

A bit slow to find their feet, the Panthers hit the half-way mark with three wins to their name and two of those have come in the last fortnight.

A finals position might be a stretch but it wouldn't be impossible.

Coach:

Rob Cahill has finally got support to ease the pressure of shouldering a major part of the load each week and he and the club look so much more comfortable as a result.

Confidence is an invaluable part of success in sport and you get the feeling that confidence is growing for Cahill and his team.

Prediction:

From no hope to an outside chance is how Yarragon's fortunes have changed in the past two weeks.

If the Panthers can make it three in a row against Newborough when they return from the break and claim the scalp of a top-five side in the run to finals they will have themselves in a position to at least compete for fifth spot.

Grade: B-

Newborough

Even with the loss of some quality players in the off-season the Bulldogs were regarded as a chance to play a part at the business end of the season.

Lack of depth, especially in key positions, has proven to be a major contributor to their position at the lower end of the ladder at the half-way mark.

Coach:

Tom Hallinan is a likeable and honest coach who has the respect of the players and a game plan to bring out the best with what he's got.

He would love to have a 3D printer and make an extra Michael Gelagotis and one more Jared Risol, but with limited options, Newborough might find themselves with limited opportunities to win matches in the back end of the year.

Prediction:

The Bulldogs will be competitive in every game they play and they will be better prepared for another surge forward in 2019, but for now, a respectable sixth might be the best they could hope for.

Grade: B-

Hill End

Hill End have had very little luck for most of this season.

Injuries to key players will hurt every side but more so any team that struggles with depth on a week to week basis. The Rovers have showed patches of what they are capable of but its unlikely we will see them jump from their current position in 2018.

Coach:

Mike Santo is a crucial part of the side and when the playing coach went down with a season-ending knee injury so too did the Rovers' chances of success this year.

They are more than a one-man team but given the coach's presence up forward was so great Hill End will now spend time giving game time to juniors.

Prediction:

Will put this season down as one to forget for Hill End.

Better times are ahead but they won't come this season.

Grade: C+

Boolarra

The Demons made some decisions in the off-season with a view to improvement several years down the track.

At the moment it might be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but coach and administrators alike believe in the process.

Coach:

Tony Giardina has been there and done that all before but this time around it might be that bit more difficult.

His best work has been keeping the club edging forward week to week.

A positive, confident and focused coach, Giardina will also need the patience to stick to the plan with a view that he may have some testing years ahead.

Prediction:

Number one focus is keeping the club positive about the way forward and there appears no problems on that front with the off field support very high.

As much as the journey at the moment seems impossible, you might find the Demons gathering respect on the field as soon as 2019 but they won't be off the bottom of the ladder this year.

Grade: D

Content supplied by Mid Gippsland Football League

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