Around the Grounds with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series – Week 3

Around the Grounds with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series – Week 3

8th September 2022

It was another successful weekend for the Hampden Football Netball League with two impressive victories and two big crowds. It has been unbelievable how much the local community has embraced this year’s final series, especially having been without them for the past two seasons. On Saturday, we witnessed one of the great clubs of Country Victoria continue their dominance with Koroit qualifying for their 8th consecutive Grand Final, meaning they will try to register their 7th straight premiership. It’s amazing how the Saints continue to produce the goods each season and there is no doubt, the motivation comes from wanting the younger members of the team to taste the success of premiership glory. It’s a credit to coach Chris McLaren and the whole club, it’s an amazing effort and they will certainly be hard to defeat on the Reid Oval in a week’s time.

Tigers Run Ends

It wasn’t the fairytale finish Portland were hoping to achieve on Sunday, but despite the scoreline in the 1st Semi Final, what a terrific season from the Tigers. The young Tigers outfit won their first seven games, qualified for the first finals appearance since joining the competition in 2013 and most importantly, unearthed some great talent. Skipper, Dan Jackson, had an excellent season in the midfield alongside Lachie Hupputz and Toby Jennings, Josh Jenner was a revelation across half-back, Nathan Haylock was dominant at centre-half-back, Ben Malcolm starred again and Tom Sharp was the ultimate focal point up forward with over 80 majors for the season. Portland will certainly use this season as a stepping stone for the future seasons ahead, they have a great bunch of young talent coming through and look to be a Hampden League force in 2023 and beyond.

Maskell Medal

One of my favourite days of the year, recognising the best and fairest player of the Hampden League competition. It has been one hell of a season in 2022 and extremely difficult to tip a winner. Below are my top three tips along with one smokey:

Daniel Jackson (Portland) – What a season for the Portland Tigers skipper and in my opinion will win this year’s medal. Daniel has featured in the Tigers best players 17 times, is a proven ball-winner, can kick goals and was a huge reason behind his team’s emergence in 2022. A career best season from ‘Jacko’ and will be leading the tally-board early. 

Shannon Beks (South Warrnambool) – Shannon has had a terrific season in 2022, with the pressure of being the number one forward taken away. Shannon has predominantly spent a large chunk of game-time up forward, but has been able to push up the ground causing opposition coaches plenty of head-aches. Shannon is a match-winner and his finish to the home and away season was first class. He will poll extremely well.

Sam Dobson (Koroit) – Sam is arguably the best player in the competition and has yet again dominated in the forward half of the ground. Sam kicked over 80 goals this season to narrowly win the goal-kicking title, but it’s not just that aspect of the game that defines him. He is one of the hardest workers in the Saints line-up, orchestrates a lot of play up the ground, plays an unselfish brand of football and overall, is a match-winner. Generally forwards don’t ever poll well in the award, but  I think this year will be an exception for Sam Dobson.

SmokeyPaul Pekin (Cobden) –  One of the great stories of the season this year has been the outstanding form of Cobden midfielder Paul Pekin. Paul was one of the Bombers joint captains this season and it would be fair to say, the leadership role has brought out the best of him on the ground. Paul has been able to withdraw himself from the necessary physical activities on the field, which has allowed him to concentrate on what he does best, find the football and set it up for team-mates. I think Paul will poll well and finish relatively high on the leaderboard.

Preliminary Final Tip

After a heart-stopping Qualifying Final, South Warrnambool and North Warrnambool battle each other for the final spot in next week’s Hampden Football Netball League Grand Final. The Roosters were impressive against Portland last Sunday, while after a slow start, the Eagles were so close to defeating Koroit in the 2nd Semi Final. It appears both teams could be bolstered with key players returning such as Josh Saunders, Archie Stevens, Dylan Parish and Billie Smedts. Whilst the North Warrnambool Eagles were impressive last weekend, I still believe South Warrnambool will be hard to beat. Defensively the Roosters set up well, and in my opinion have more forward goal-kicking options which include Dye, Beks, White, Hussey. Nathan Vardy looms as the major player for the Eagles, his work around the ball was nothing less than first class last week and his team will rely on that service. A terrific clash is coming up again.

See you at the footy!

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