Around the Grounds with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series – Week 1

Around the Grounds with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series – Week 1

25th August 2022

After a three year wait, we have finally reached the finals period in the Hampden Football Netball League. It feels like such a long-time ago when Koroit held up the premiership cup aloft for the sixth consecutive time. The Saints are well in contention to make it seven in a row, but will have strong competition against South Warrnambool, North Warrnambool, Portland and Warrnambool. It’s the beginning of a huge four weeks and I know every team involved is looking forward to the possibilities. 

Saints and Seagulls Coaching

Over the past fortnight, Koroit and Port Fairy have announced their coaching intentions for 2023. Saints mentor Chris McLaren will continue in the role, whilst Port Fairy leader Winis Imbi will step down from the role.

Firstly, a great coup again for Koroit with the reappointment of Chris McLaren. The Saints favourite son has to be regarded one of the best coaches the competition has seen over the past 20 years with his ability to keep his team playing at a consistent high level, as well as strong tactical nous and unbelievable ability to develop youth. We speak about the successes of Adam Dowie regularly, this fella is approaching if not at the same level in my mind.

As for Port Fairy, they will be seeking a new coach in 2023. You have to feel for outgoing leader Winis Imbi, half a season in 2021 and the difficulties he endured in 2022. Despite the lack of success, I believe Winis would leave the Gardens Oval satisfied with the development of players such as Oscar Pollock, Segdae Lucardie, Ollie Myers and many more, which hopefully are the future of the Seagulls in the coming years. It will be interesting to see Port Fairy’s next move, the upgoing coaching appointment could be one of the clubs most important decisions they’ve had to make in the past 10-15 years. 

Batten Milestone

He’s been one of the main-stays of the North Warrnambool Eagles defensive end for the past decade and this weekend Tom Batten will line up in his 250th senior match in the blue and yellow. One of the league’s good guys, Tom has been a pivotal player for the Eagles and the Bottle Greens for many seasons and is just rewarded with Hampden League Life Membership this weekend. A feature of Tom Batten is his flexibility, he can play on the talls, smalls and rebound dangerously off half back. When I think of Tom Batten, this is what enters my mind – loyal, composure, adaptive and caring. A great milestone for a great person, congratulations Tommy Batten on 250 games.

Qualifying Final

What a great encounter to kick off the 2022 Fresha Fruit Juice Finals Series. South Warrnambool have been one of the yardsticks of the competition all season whilst after a slow and inconsistent start, North Warrnambool have finished the season extremely well. Hopefully both squads will have near full strength teams heading into the game as both were missing key personnel. I really like South Warrnambool in this game. They have a deep midfield and revamped forward line but it’s the team’s defensive structures that impress me. The names of Thomas, Lee, Mullen and Thompson have dour defenders that are hard to score against but they are well supported by their midfield by rolling back and plugging holes. I don’t believe the margin will be great but Roosters can score but also defend as well as anyone and just in my mind move into the 2nd Semi Final.

Elimination Final

What a week for the Portland Tigers, playing their first ever finals match in the Hampden league since joining in 2013. Portland have dominated both of their games against Warrnambool this season, outclassing them with their quick ball use through the corridor and multiple goal-kicking options. The Blues are almost back at full strength, they have blooded some exciting youth, holding them in good stead for the seasons to come. In regards to this week, I like Portland. The Tigers’ brand against the top two teams in recent weeks have been promising, with their forward half and defence standing up for much of those encounters. I believe one of the big advantages for the Tigers is their ruckman Ben Malcolm, an absolute monster and one of the best big guys in the competition. He will battle against the exciting Ben Howard who has been impressive since the season ending injury of Daniel Weymouth. Looking forward to this game, let’s hope it comes down to the wire. 

Congratulations to all teams competing and let’s hope it’s one of the best finals series for some years.

See you at the footy!


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