It has taken three weeks to complete Round 4 of the Hampden Football Netball League, but we have finally done it. South Warrnambool and Terang Mortlake are now the only two sides undefeated and playing a serious brand of football. Last weekend was a historical weekend with Jason Rowan passing the 1000 goal mark at Melville Oval, it was a great occasion in front of many supporters and family. Another great weekend of matches are coming up.
Rowan 1000 Goal Milestone
After great anticipation over the last few weeks, league superstar Jason Rowan became the second ever player in the Hampden League to kick 1000 career goals. Entering the 2023 season, Jason needed only 5 goals with his new side Port Fairy to pass the milestone and he was able to achieve it during the 7 minute mark of the second term last Saturday at Melville Oval. What a modern day great Jason Rowan is, he boasts an impressive CV which includes multiple premierships at the Warrnambool Blues, eight league goal-kicking awards and numerous Team of the Year accolades. The next big milestone on the horizon is the league record, with the Seagulls no.1 only needing 20 goals to pass the long standing record held by Tony Russell. Irrespective on whether he achieves it or not, Jason Rowan heroics last weekend will be spoken for a long long time.
Small Forwards Dominating
One of the elements of the game I have enjoyed calling and witnessing over the past few weeks is the energy and goal-kicking dominance provided by the small forwards. If you have a look at the Hampden League goal-kicking table after round four, there are a number of the crafty smalls that are leading the way, including South Warrnambool’s Will White (15 goals), Cobden skipper Paul Pekin (13 goals), exciting Port Fairy youngster Rodush Mohan (7 goals) and zippy Warrnambool crumber Cooper Hoffman (7 goals). It has been an award dominated by the competition’s key forwards for an extremely long time, especially the modern era (Rowan, Dobson. Gordon, Korewha and Ewing), so could we witness one of the smaller forward stars of the competition take over the mantle in 2023.
One of the clubs I have closely followed over the past month and been impressed by is the Camperdown Magpies.The Magpies were hit hard in 2022 with departures, all to key players and had no choice to blood a plethora of youngsters. Whilst it was a tough season which featured only 5 wins, the game-time given to the next generation will hopefully pay dividends in 2023 and beyond. Two wins against traditional top five sides already this year and a narrow six point loss to Terang Mortlake suggest Camperdown will be a side to showcase great improvements that has been not expected amongst the wider football community. The return of Will Rowbottom, Riley Arnold, Sid Bradshaw and Brendan Richardson can not be underestimated while Archie McBean, Dom Absolom and Myles Sinnott will get better as the season progresses. I am a huge fan of coach Neville Swayn and I’m rapt the Black and White hoops have started the season with much excitement and promise.
Round 5 Games
Port Fairy vs Terang Mortlake – The Port Fairy Seagulls will be on a high after their first win of the season. The Seagulls once again started the game slowly, to then again use their strong fitness to out-score their opposition in the second half. They will want to be on their game early against the undefeated Terang Mortlake, who have ripped shreds through some teams already this season. Mercovich vs Carlin will be the head to head contest in the midfield that will be a must watch. I think the Bloods make it 5 straight.
Hamilton vs South Warrnambool – Hamilton face a tough encounter against a very good and deep side South Warrnambool. The Kangaroos showed great glimpses last weekend across the ground and have some exciting young talent in White, Cook, Urqhuart and Gill. I think the experience of the Roosters will help them stay undefeated as well as their strong method. South Warrnambool to make it 5 on the trot.
Cobden vs Camperdown – The arch rivals clash under lights in what should be an intriguing battle. Both teams are sitting on two wins and have showcased some great football. Paul Pekin has been lively up forward and a very important player for the Bombers while Zach Sinnott has started the season on fire. I think Cobden will win by a goal.
Portland vs North Warrnambool – North Warrnambool looked sharp in their previous match, unearthing some great young talent in Duke and Jarvis Bermingham as well as Luke Kenna. The Eagles are hopeful of regaining some key personnel in Vardy, Rodda and Wines in the coming weeks. Portland are improving each week and play their home ground very well. I think North Warrnambool will record the win.
Warrnambool vs Koroit (HLL Match of the Day) – Two sides that I expect to be at the business end of the season and have relatively new playing groups. Warrnambool and Koroit are tinkering around to get the right mix for their forward line structures and as we’ve already seen, it’s still a work in progress. The midfield battle will be one of high quality, and it will be a determining factor in who wins this game. I expect the Blues to bounce back this week in a tight encounter.
If you love your Hampden League Football, don’t forget to tune into Hampden league Live on 94.5 3YB FM each Saturday afternoon from midday for all the action.
See you at the Footy!
A SCINTILATING preliminary final looms between North Warrnambool and South Warrnambool, with both clubs desperate for the chance to take on reigning premier Koroit next week.
The showdown at Gardens Oval will pit the two clubs against each other for the second time this final series, after the pair played out a thrilling drawn qualifying final which was eventually won by the Eagles in extra time.
It was the perfect start to a long-anticipated finals return for the competition, which hadn’t staged a post-season since 2019, and came after the two sides had produced entertaining affairs during the home and away campaign.
First-year Eagles big man Nathan Vardy has come to learn of the hype associated with the pair’s growing rivalry and is expecting another enthralling battle to play out.
“As the year has gone on I’ve slowly worked out what rivalries look like in the competition and have got a feel of how these opponents come each week,” he said.
“It’s definitely a big clash between the two clubs. We’re obviously one and one during the season, they touched us up pretty convincingly late in the year and the first final could have gone either way.
“It’s obviously going to be hard for you lot (the media) to pick a winner but we’re really looking forward to the contest.
“We know we’ve got a few things we’ve got to work on from last time and South we’ll be in the same boat but fingers crossed we can find ourselves in front at the final siren.”
The Eagles hopes of victory have also been boosted by the return of key players Dylan Parish and Billie Smedts for the contest, inclusions Vardy welcomed.
“Dylan’s obviously had a pretty tough year mentally I think with a lot of niggling injuries that have put him out for periods of time during the year,” he said.
“I think he’s pretty pumped to be back at this time of year and he’s a pretty pivotal part of our line-up, he straightens us up forward.
“Billie was a bit sore (last week) and given the second chance we thought we’d take the conservative approach, so he’ll be a definite starter this week.
“We missed them last week and have missed them both in patches during this year but it’s going to be great to have them back.”
The Roosters have added their own pair of playmakers, with Josh Saunders and Archie Stevens set to bolster Mat Battistello’s line-up.
Saturday’s clash will be broadcast live on 94.5 3YB FM and live-streamed to the 3YB Facebook page from 2pm.
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.
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.
Smokey: Paul 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!
MINOR premier Koroit’s quest for an eighth straight grand final berth kicks off this Saturday when the Saints take on North Warrnambool Eagles in the Hampden league’s second semi-final.
The Saints have become the competition’s most decorated team over the past decade, winning six successive flags in a stretch from 2014 to 2019, with a record seventh looming following another top-of-table finish to the home and away season.
The Chris McLaren-coached outfit is just two wins away from glory but will need to overcome its 2019 grand final opponent to earn a direct passage into the grand final.
The Saints have won both of the pair’s home and away clashes this year, but skipper Liam Hoy knows his side will face a much-stronger Eagles team this time around.
But the occasion is not set to faze him and his team-mates, who are eager to finally get its September campaign underway.
“We can’t wait,” Hoy said.
“It was a really tough game last week, North were very good for a long part of the game so it isn’t going to be easy.
“It’s finals footy so it’s going to go up a notch and as a team we need to step it up a bit to give it a good shake.
“We’re looking forward to it.”
Having won six straight flags and then endured two years interrupted by COVID, one could wonder if motivation may start to waver for the Saints.
But Hoy is quick to dismiss that notion, adding success was a dangling carrot the group craved for various reasons.
Change has been afoot at Victoria Park this year, with a host of younger players emerging through the ranks but the two-time Ron Hoy Medallist said their progression has only galvanised the group’s desire to win.
“There’s a lot of young lads coming through that have just bought into what has been built over the last seven years,” Hoy said.
“There’s a lot of individual reasons to share success with and motivation is certainly not lacking.
“I think the older boys are in a new phase of life, it was all footy in their younger life but now they’ve stepped into work life and are young fathers and sharing it with their families and creating memories.
“I think there is all those little things that have added up to another successful campaign and we just can’t wait to hopefully push for another one (flag).”
Meanwhile, South Warrnambool and Portland will look to keep their finals campaigns alive at Cobden Community Bank Recreation Reserve on Sunday.
The Roosters are looking to regroup quickly off the back of their elimination final loss to the Eagles but will take confidence into the contest having had the upperhand on the Tigers throughout the home and away rounds.
However, the boys from Portland are riding a wave of momentum after a historic first finals win in the elimination final and will be take belief into the contest against Mat Battistello’s group.
Both matches will start at 2pm and will be broadcast live on 3YB FM and live-streamed on the 3YB Facebook page.
The HFNL wishes to congratulate Tom Batten from the North Warrnambool Eagles who will line up for his 250th Senior Football Game this weekend in the Qualifying Final against South Warrnambool at Victoria Park.
This is an enormous achievement and will entitle him to automatic Life Membership of the HFNL.
Tom started his journey at the Eagles in 1995 in the Auskick program.
Key stats and achievements for Tom below:
Please join us in congratulating Tom and we wish him all the best in his 250th.
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.
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.
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.
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!