Around the Ground with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series Week 1

Around the Ground with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series Week 1

1st September 2023

It feels like the opening round of the Hampden Football Netball League was just yesterday, and now our major focus is the upcoming Fresha Fruit Juice Finals Series. It has been a tremendous season with so many great storylines, and now it’s down to five teams who can take home the premiership cup. 

Minor premiers South Warrnambool, who have had a dominant season, will be searching for their first premiership since 2011, whilst second placed North Warrnambool will be chasing their first ever flag. The 2023 season has seen the emergence of Terang Mortlake, they will be looking to break a 15 year drought with their last coming in 2008 under the tutelage of Matthew Irving. Fourth placed Koroit have had a terrific season with a new and youthful list, they have won the last seven premierships and remain a strong chance to add an eight consecutive flag while Cobden is looking to break one of the longest droughts, with their last premiership coming in 1998.

I’m predicting it will be one of the hotly contested finals series in the last 10 years and to be honest, anyone of these five teams can take home the major prize. 

Hampden Junior Grand Finals

I have seen a lot of football played this year, whether it is the Hampden League, WDFNL or AFL and I can honestly say, last weekend’s U16 Grand Final clash between Koroit and Cobden is one of the best matches I’ve witnessed this season. The match, which was decided by a shot on goal seconds before the final siren, had absolutely everything – fast exciting ball movement, fair contested play, high flying marks and impressive goals. 

The final two minutes was exhilarating for the neutral football supporter. Koroit were a couple of points up before an Archie Taylor grab and goal gave Cobden a three point buffer with 90 seconds to go. A Talor Bryne free-kick, followed by a well executed pass to Archie Tepper, allowed the key forward to live out every footballer’s dream, kicking a match winning goal just before or after the siren. Archie had the community of Koroit on his shoulders when approaching from 35m out. He executed the kick beautifully, giving the Saints a long awaited premiership win.

It was an awesome game to call and view, the talent is bright in the Hampden League. Watch out for names such as Tepper, Byrne, Grayland, Taylor, Baker and Hutchins. 

Koroit and Cobden should be extremely proud of their young stars. 

Taylor to lead Bloods

The coaching landscape is almost complete in the Hampden League for 2024, with the latest appointment being Lewy Taylor, who will guide the fortunes of Terang Mortlake for the next two seasons. Lewy, who is an assistant coach at the Bloods this season, will step into the main role, replacing Ben Kenna after five seasons in the role. It is terrific that a person like Lewy wants to come back to his home team and coach after a 100 plus career in the AFL. Terang Mortlake is one of the major players in this year’s finals series and I’ve got no doubt they will be a force for a few years to come with Lewy at the helm.

Qualifying Final

The opening match of the Fresha Fruit Juice Finals Series will see perennial finalists North Warrnambool take on the competition’s big improvers Terang Mortlake. The ledger is one all this season, with the Eagles winning the teams last encounter at Eagle Park. The Eagles will go into the match with strong form, winning their last five including last week’s nail-biter with Koroit. 

There has been a lot to like about North Warrnambool this season, including; the positional changes of Tom Batten and Jarryd Lewis, the emergence of Angus Noske after coming from Hamilton, Bailey Jenkinson and Reece Scoble’s reliability in the defensive half and the year of Felix Jones. On the other side, Terang Mortlake have impressed the football community with their style of play, their multiple targets up forward and flawless adjustment of three players recruited from the WDFNL.

Some of the key elements of the game that I believe will be important in deciding a winner will be North Warrnambool’s finals experience, collectively – Adam and Luke Wines, Jarryd Lewis, Tom Batten, Ben Mugavin have a lot of experience and that will be important on the younger group of players. Terang Mortlake have ultimate flexibility in the ruck with Arundell, Buck, Hobbs and Moloney able to run through there. This places a lot of pressure on Mugavin and Bermingham. 

Overall, it should be a great encounter and I think with Terang Mortlake adding several first choice players into their team over the past three games, they are primed and will get the chance to play in the 2nd semi final next weekend.

Elimination Final

Sunday’s Hampden League Final will be a little unfamiliar territory for the reigning premiers Koroit, with the Saints playing their first Elimination Final since 2012. It’s been six seasons since Cobden have played in a finals series, with their transformation over the past 18 months significant. The Saints have had the perfect path into the finals, albeit, dropping the past two games by a total of 18 points. They were able to take on two top three teams and push them all the way, missing a couple of key players. Cobden’s form in the final weeks has been a little inconsistent but they will welcome back six major players, none bigger than ruckman Mark Marriott and key defender Christian Koroneos.

The contest will be intriguing, Koroit likes to control the game through maintaining possession and enter the forward 50 when the timing is right. Saints forwards Will and Tom Couch and Jyron Neave have looked dangerous the past fortnight and could be ready to explode. The interesting coaching move will be the breakdown of minutes in the midfield for Paddy O’Sullivan, he spent most of last round up-forward and we know what impact he can have in both areas of the ground. The hallmark of Cobden’s game this season has been fast fluent ball movement and unpredictability up forward. The Bombers will be relying on the likes of Pekin, Williamson, Mahoney, Watson to gain an edge in the midfield. Cobden’s game style is exciting and when it’s up and running well, it’s very hard to beat. 

The do-or-die encounter is going to be high quality, with two home and away season fixtures this season having produced quality encounters. I would love to see the emerging Cobden take another step up the ladder this season but I think Koroit’s experience will prevail in a game that could be decided by a kick.

Let’s hope we see two quality crowds this weekend at Camperdown and Portland to kick off the finals. 

See you at the Footy. 


Get the HFNL Record