The opening round of the ‘Fresha Fruit Juice’ Hampden Football Netball League Finals Series did not disappoint on the weekend, with two great games as well impressive crowd numbers both at Victoria Park and the Gardens Oval. It was a welcoming sight to see as we’ve missed the opportunity to host finals since 2019 due to the global pandemic. The atmosphere at both games was unbelievable, with all teams participating having their supporters full of voice. I’ve got no doubt it will be similar this weekend at the Friendlies Society’s Park and Cobden Recreation Reserve.
Week 1 Finals Take-Aways
North Warrnambool – A terrific hard fought win with a multitude of players standing up in tough final conditions. Tate Porter and Jett Bermingham were outstanding in the midfield, Joe McKinnion was outstanding down back and Adam Wines is a bloody good forward. Recovery is the key for the Eagles this week, when they try to gain entry into their 3rd ever Grand Final.
South Warrnambool – A sluggish opening half, but after some position changes, were back into the game. Archie Stevens is a bonafide midfield star, Ollie Bridgewater is the best young big-man in the competition and Harry Lee has the best defensive punch in the league. A lot of good learnings from this match will hold the Roosters in good stead this week.
Portland – Portland was one of the stories of the weekend, winning their first ever Hampden League Finals game. A see-sawing affair for the third three quarters but the Tigers’ impressive, quick midfield stepped up. Skipper Daniel Jackson is a real chance in the Maskell Medal, Lachie Hupputz will dominate this competition in the coming seasons, Ben Malcolm is impressive and Tom Sharp is so important to their deeper finals aspirations.
Warrnambool – Warrnambool were impressive for the first two and a half quarters before the Tigers were too strong. Blues forward Jason Rowan was looking dangerous with five goals and a few misses (only 5 goals away from 1000) and the likes of Howard, Boyd, Worden and Mast were extremely positive, with their future kids looking bright.
Seagulls New Coach
I mentioned in last week’s column that the impending coaching announcement for Port Fairy was one of the clubs most important decisions to make in the past 20 years and last weekend they announced their new leader in Dustin McCorkell, which in my mind is a brilliant choice. What does Dustin bring to the Seagulls? He’s coached senior football before at the Warrnambool Blues, he’s featured in multiple finals and played in premierships, so he knows what success looks and feels like. Dustin has played high level football in the VFL with North Ballarat and in Geelong, so he knows the features of a strong football program. His contact list book is extensive, so I have no doubt he can attract some quality players to the club. Lastly, Dustin is a Port Fairy local, he knows the importance the club plays in the local community and is committed to getting Seagulls competing hard in the competition again. I can’t speak highly enough of the appointment, the Port Fairy Seagulls are in terrific hands for 2023.
Koroit vs North Warrnambool
Last time these two magnificent clubs met in a final match was the 2019 HFNLGrand Final. It was a close match that day, and I’m expecting something almost similar. North Warrnambool have a strong midfield and will rely on their goals kicked between their forwards and ball-winners. Koroit will be fresh, almost full strength and ready to continue the dynasty. I love their experience, their motivation to get more premierships, especially for those who have yet to score one. Koroit by 22 points.
South Warrnambool vs Portland
The team’s second appearance against one another in three weeks, but on this occasion, a different venue. Once the Roosters got their method flowing last round, they were humming together better. No Archie Stevens this week will hurt but they could get Dye and Thomas from injury. Portland are riding the finals wave, outstanding last round and will believe in their chances. Jackson, Sharp, Haylock and Jennings need to all fire to win. I believe South Warrnambool will win!
Enjoy week two of the finals!