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Around the Grounds with Hilly: Fresha Final Series, Week 3


South Warrnambool are the first team to book a ticket into the 2023 Hampden League Grand Final. The Roosters were sensational in their 2nd Semi Final clash against North Warrnambool at Ridley Recreation Reserve. North Warrnambool will now use their second chance this weekend, when they take on the exciting Terang Mortlake at the Reid Oval. The scenarios at the end of this weekends Preliminary Finals are exciting, with South Warrnambool and North Warrnambool potentially locking horns for the first time in a season decider, while if the Bloods are victorious, it will be the first in 27 years these two sides will battle for silverware.

Roosters Flying High

It was the best team we have seen on paper from South Warrnambool this year, and after half time, it looked like a collective unit that would be hard to stop. The Roosters were strong around the ball, having so much inside and outside talent to move the ball forward. Once South Warrnambool’s leading midfielders started getting their hands on the football (Youl, Stevens, Rantall, Saunders), they were hard to stop. The forward line of the red and white is talented. Star forward Shannon Beks marked everything and potentially could have had a day out with several goals but finished with three majors, well supported by the likes of White, Irving, Dye.The defensive unit of the Roosters is tight and hard to break – all six defenders are strong one on one players but their ability to zone off and create transitional movement from the back 50 is elite . Harry Lee and Issac Thomas were outstanding while Thompson and Mullen were very sound. They will be extremely hard to dethrone in a fortnight’s time at home of football. 

Maskell Medal

It could be one of the tightest Maskell Medal counts we have seen for some time, with a host of players in strong contention. A lot of the general public have identified the years of Mercovich, Sully, Arundell, Lewis, Beks, Hoy, Smith, Hutchins, Sinnott, Spence and O’Sullivan as first rate. Our Hampden League Live Player of the Year leaderboard was tight, with only a couple of votes separating first, second and third. 

So, who are my predictions for Sunday’s coveted award? Here is my top two and smoky;

Winner – Kaine Mercovich (Port Fairy): Port Fairy rebounded hard in the Hampden League this season, finishing just outside the top five. One of the main reasons why the Seagulls were strong and tough competition, was the form of star midfielder Kaine Mercovich. The number 48 is a ball-winning beast and uses it so effectively. He is extremely strong at winning the contested ball and he set-up a number of plays up forward for the Seagulls, building some nice synergy with forward Jason Rowan. Kaine, in my opinion, is one of the hardest working midfielders in the competition and is a very capable goal-kicker. 

Runner Up – Jarryd Lewis (North Warrnambool): What a year it has been for the experienced Eagle. He spent the first five rounds in his normal position in the forward line before a move into defence to cover the loss of Luke Wines. Jarryd has been given a licence to run and rebound at all costs and what a success story it has been. His disposal numbers have been high, his kicking efficiency is elite and he has been amongst the Eagles best players weekly for the second half of the season. The move has  been a master-stroke by Adam Dowie and I think if Chopper was to claim this year’s award, it would be celebrated amongst the competition, as he is one of the fairest players in the league.

Smoky – Ollie Bridgewater (South Warrnambool): Ollie has emerged as one of the premier big men of the competition in 2023. The Roosters star has had a terrific season, which included selection in the U23 Hampden League team. While Ollie’s ruck craft is continuing to develop, so is his ability to find the ball around the ground and use it effectively. He is going to be an important player in the Grand Final. I think Ollie will receive a number of votes, especially being so close to the umpires on the ground.

Preliminary Final Tip

If we have a replay of the Qualifying Final, this weekend’s game is certainly going to be a thriller. It was a tale of two halves a fortnight ago and again, it will be a battle of attrition on the wide expanses of the Reid Oval. After a strong start, Terang Mortlake had their run and go style blocked, making it harder to score, running the ball through the wings. North Warrnambool will need to make sure their midfield group is full of run and carry on the big ground, as the Bloods will flourish at the venue. The Eagles will welcome back Nathan Vardy, he was sound last weekend and will be better for the run. I expect he will play more ruck time, but if forward – he, Parish and Batten need to be better not crowding each other’s space, which was evident in the 2nd Semi Final. The Bloods were tough in the 1st Semi Final. The Kain Train was on fire, but this weekend he will need more help from another big target. I would love to see Alex Moloney play forward to try and stretch the Eagles defenders. A big game is coming up. North Warrnambool aiming for another Grand Final appearance in succession whilst Terang Mortlake haven’;t qualified for one since 2008.

I think Terang Mortlake will win by 7 points.

Hope you enjoy the footy


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Fresha Finals Series Week 2


The opening weekend of the Hampden Football Netball League Finals Series was an overwhelming success with beautiful weather and two exemplary games of football.

North Warrnambool and Terang Mortlake played out a thriller, with the Eagles prevailing by a point in front of a large crowd at the picturesque Leura Oval. The dominant premiership reign of the Koroit Saints came to an end on Sunday in the Elimination Final, with Cobden producing one of their best performances of the season to qualify for the 1st Semi Final. Whilst the Saints will be disappointed not to progress, we have to look back at their past seven seasons especially and just marvel at their heroics. An unbelievable football club and I don’t think they will be down for too long, watch them bounce back in a big way in 2024.

Hampden Junior Awards

On Monday night, the Hampden Football Netball League Junior Awards were staged. In front of a big crowd, young Oliver Turner from the Warrnambool Blues was crowned the 2014 Stuart Brunt Medallist for the U14 competition, while exciting South Warrnambool midfielder Sam Rhodes won the U16 Doug McConnell Medal. It was an exciting U14 count with Oliver winning on 28 votes in his first season with the Blues, he finished three votes ahead of South Warrnambool premiership captain Jimmy Stevens on 25 votes, while North Warrnambool leader Charlie Jellie capped off a dominant season with a third placing on 23 votes. It has been a whirlwind season for Sam at Roosterland, with the son of former South Warrnambool star and ex Western Bulldogs recruit Jacob Rhodes, making his senior debut in the final round of the season against Portland with two goals. Sam won the count on 30 votes, with his nearest rival Hugh Fitzgerald of the Hamilton Kangaroos the next best with 19 votes, following a terrific year in the midfield group. One of the biggest applause came for new Koroit cult-hero Archie Tepper, when he was announced as the leading goal-kicker with 50 goals for the season. An exciting talent and a name we should be watching out for in the years to come.

C-MAC is Back at the Saints

There are only a few more coaching positions that need to be confirmed in the Hampden League for 2024, and a familiar face will once again lead the powerful Koroit Saints. Club legend Chris McLaren will once again take the reins at Victoria Park, continuing on the job he has held from 2017. Chris, in my mind, is one of the modern great coaches, tactically he is one of the best in the competition but his biggest strength is the relationships he develops with his players and his ability to get the best out of his players. Despite being knocked out in Week 1 of the finals, he would have been absolutely rapt with the progression of his young team this season. There are a lot of positives that can be reflected on and that will hold the Saints in good stead for the next season. A terrific appointment and its great to have one of the best still having a strong passion for the coaching caper.

2nd Semi Final

A ticket to the Hampden Football Netball League Grand Final is on offer at the Ridley Recreation Reserve this weekend when minor premiers South Warrnambool take on North Warrnambool in the 2nd Semi Final. The Roosters enjoyed the first week of the finals off, which allowed a number of key players to rest some niggling injuries. The Roosters are expected to get quite a few big names back including Henderson, Anderson, Archie Stevens and Sam Thompson. We haven’t seen what South Warrnambool’s best 22 looks like this season, but we might see it on Saturday, a formidable team on paper. North Warrnambool, who have a good record against the Roosters, could welcome back some important players this weekend, with star big man Nathan Vardy likely to return along with small forward Felix Jones and defender Reece Scoble. The Eagles will be happy with the predicted rain and tightness of the Terang ground, allowing them to play their defensive brand of football, covering the corridor and causing stoppages don’t think we will witness a  high scoring affair and it will be a match determined by who can break through the oppositions defence and score. A huge match is coming up and I think South Warrnambool will narrowly win.

1st Semi Final

This is going to be an entertaining clash between two sides that love to use the football quickly, through the corridor and try to out-run teams. It is terrific to see two eastern clubs return to the finals, and last week both looked very impressive on how they moved the football so fluently. Cobden will welcome back Jesse Williamson to the line-up, returning after a hamstring injury last week and what flexibility it gives the Bombers up forward and potentially allowing captain Paul Pekin to play more midfield time. Big man Mark Marriott showed his importance last weekend, dominating the aerial battle and showing his versatility around the ground. Terang Mortlake were consistent all game last week, they just failed to capitalise some good looks up forward when the game mattered most.The Bloods need a little more help for Will Kain, he was dangerous with four goals, but there is a big reliance on the Kain Train to kick goals, that was evident last weekend. I would like to see a Lachie Wareham or Rhys Buck take more control in the forward line to help Kain, as well as Luke McConnell staying a little deeper forward, nipping at the heals of the star full-forward. It could be one of the best matches of the season at the Gardens Oval. I love the journey the Cobden Bombers are on and I believe they will win by 8 points.

Let’s hope for a brilliant second weekend of finals action.

See you at the Footy


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 18


After 20 weeks, we have hit the final round of the Hampden League season. Without doubt, it has been one of the most even and exciting years we’ve had for some time and the upcoming finals series is going to be something else. This weekend Port Fairy, Camperdown, Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland will end their 2023 campaigns, but all five clubs have plenty to look forward to in 2024. We farewell Jarrod Holt and Hamish Waldron from the coaching ranks this weekend, two unbelievable leaders from their respective teams, Portland and Hamilton. 

Swayn the Magpies Man

The Camperdown Magpies are the latest club to announce their coaching panel for 2024, with current leader Neville Swayn appointed for his 6th consecutive season. The Magpies have made significant inroads this season, especially off the back of a tough 2022 campaign with multiple senior players leaving for lifestyle changes in the northern states. Neville would be super proud of the efforts in 2023, a season that has netted 9 wins and has also unearthed some exciting young talent. Their list is building, there is noise that the likes of Fraser Lucas and Billy Arnold could be returning, which would complement the list even further. Some youngsters that have flourished even more in 2023 include Harry Sumner, Dom Absolom, Archie McBean and Myles Sinnott. A great appointment, Neville is passionate about the Camperdown Magpies and hopefully their rise up the ladder can continue and finals football is their next destination.

Chatfield State Draft Combine

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of media attention on local duo George Stevens and Luamon Lual potentially getting drafted into the AFL next season. Some welcoming news this week was that former Koroit premiership forward Josh Chatfield has been invited to the AFL Draft State Combine this year, following his standout season with Footscray in the VFL. Josh has been playing at both ends of the ground for the Bulldogs and will be an important piece of the jigsaw for the team when they play in this year’s VFL Finals Series. It’s inspiring to see a former Hampden League export performing well at the top level and potentially be given an opportunity to take his football to the next level.

Martin reaches 150

Reliable Koroit premiership defender Tim Martin will line up in his 150th senior match this weekend. Coincidently, Tim will play the milestone game against his old club in the Eagles. Tim has been an integral part of the Saints defence during their supreme reign in the Hampden League. He has the ability to play on the big forwards and smalls, and has a terrific football IQ and is very highly regarded for his leadership. Tim will play an important role in the team finals campaign this season, helping guide and mentor the next future champions of the Saints back six.

Round 18 Tips

South Warrnambool vs Portland – South Warrnambool will head into the match as overwhelming favourites and will be seeking a good hit-out before their 2nd semi final in the coming weeks. The Roosters have been outstanding this season and deserve the minor premiership. Portland, it has been a long season, but on reflection, one that has seen a number of youngsters given an opportunity to play senior football. It’s too hard to tip against the Roosters.

Cobden vs Warrnambool – Cobden will be eager to return to form ahead of the upcoming finals series while Warrnambool will be looking to take a casualty in their final match of the 2023 season. The Bombers were disappointing last weekend and will be attempting to move the footy more cleaner on their home deck. Warrnambool have shown great signs throughout the season and are not far away from building a finals team. I think it will be a tight match with Cobden running out victorious. 

Terang Mortlake vs Hamilton – Terang Mortlake have a big opportunity to make this year’s top 3, they can achieve this in two ways. The Bloods need to win against Hamilton and hope that Koroit falls short against the North Warrnambool Eagles, or the Bloods need to record a huge win in excess of 120 points if Koroit win, potentially surpassing North Warrnambool on the ladder by percentage. So many scenarios, but it will be a game that Terang Mortlake will win, and comfortably at that.

Port Fairy vs Camperdown – What a season it has been from both sides in 2023. Both the Seagulls and Magpies have made significant improvement and should be proud of their journey this year. With both squads locking in their coaches for next season, planning is well underway. A great match coming up with Port Fairy winning.

North Warrnambool vs Koroit (HLL Match of the Day) – What a way to finish the season with a blockbuster clash which has so much importance. The equation is simple for Koroit, win and book a spot inside the three. North Warrnambool are more than likely to stay inside the top few, the only hurdle is if Terang Mortlake winning by a huge margin against Hamilton and percentage could be in play. Both sides will be keen to play finals with a win under their belt. A close game coming up with the Eagles just getting the job done.

See You at the Footy


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 16


Trent Hill11:13 AM (1 hour ago)
to me

It’s hard not to think about finals, with the final month of Hampden League Football only a month away. The only sewn up position in my mind is the minor premiership, with South Warrnambool looking extremely unlikely to be dethroned. The race is still well and truly on for other positions, this weekend is huge for Port Fairy, a loss could end their finals aspirations. 

South Warrnambool Flag Favourites

The finals make-up of the Hampden League top five is going to come down to the wire, with six teams still in strong contention to play in the final month of the season. There is one certainty of the teams currently sitting inside the top five, South Warrnambool will be the minor premiers. The Roosters list is becoming the healthiest it’s been all season, with key personnel returning. South Warrnambool were unbelievable last round, they have no weaknesses on any of their lines. The defensive group is tight and hard-working, their midfield is deep and ultra talented with Saunders, Nicolson, Stevens, Mugavin, Gallichan, Beks, Youl, Maher and Anderson all running through. The Roosters forward line is strong, with a great variation of height, mobility and uncanniness.  

Former Bomber Hangs Up Boots

The AFL journey of Cobden export Ben Cunnington will come to an end this weekend, with the two-time Syd Barker Medallist retiring deciding to finish his 14 year association with North Melbourne. A former top 10 recruit, Ben made an immediate impact in the Kangaroos midfield, he was renowned for his hard contested work, strength and leadership. The 237 game veteran holds the AFL record for the most contested possessions in a game, accumulating 32 against Richmond in 2018. Ben, who made one of the most memorable Hampden League debuts in the modern era with 10 goals, will be remembered as one of the league’s greatest exports to play at the top level.

Liam Hoy 150th

Koroit skipper Liam Hoy will line up in his 150th senior Hampden League game this weekend against the Hamilton Kangaroos. Liam’s CV is ultra impressive, he is otherwise known as the ‘Grand Final’ man as he’s played in eight of the last nine Grand Finals, resulting in 6 premierships. Liam is one of the hardest working midfielders in the competition and is very much regarded in the competition. A terrific leader of the Saints, especially for the next generation of Saints coming through. Well Done on a great milestone Liam!

Round 16 Tips

Koroit vs Hamilton – An important match for Koroit as it could almost consolidate their position inside the top three and a double chance. The Saints will be hoping to record the win for club favourite Liam Hoy, who celebrates 150 games. Hamilton will be aiming to finish the season on a high, but it won’t be this week.

South Warrnambool vs North Warrnambool – Two of the competition heavyweights meet each other. South Warrnambool have all but locked up top spot whilst North Warrnambool are in a fight with Terang Mortlake, Koroit and Cobden for a top three position. The Eagles form has been sound over the past few weeks but I think it’s hard to overlook the Roosters, who are in strong form. South Warrnambool for the win.

Cobden vs Port Fairy – One of the biggest matches of the season, with repercussions for both sides. If Cobden win, they just about lock a finals berth and remain in contention for a double chance, if Port Fairy come out victorious, then their finals hopes remain alive, if they lose, it’s all over for 2023.  It was a draw last time, it should be a high quality match, with Cobden just edging out the Seagulls.

Camperdown vs Portland – Two sides that will be aiming to finish the season on a strong note. Camperdown have had some personnel issues over the past few weeks with injuries to key players whilst Portland almost pinched one last weekend. A real toss of the coin but I think the Magpies just narrowly over Portland.

Terang Mortlake vs Warrnambool – The Blues are back in form but take on a Terang Mortlake side that needs to win, as both top three and top five are still very much a real possibility. The Bloods welcome back two stars in Scott Carlin and Alex Moloney into the line-up which will really bolster. The game is being played at the DC Farran Oval. I expect Terang Mortlake to win.

Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 15


It is the second week of the split round and we have three terrific matches scheduled in the Hampden Football Netball League. All three fixtures can have a significant bearing on the make-up of the top five and even more importantly, the top three.

Blues Recommit

Whilst it  hasn’t been the season the Warrnambool Football Netball Club would have liked in regard to wins and losses, there is an excitement already heading into the 2024 season. A high volume of players have committed to next season already, including the leadership team of Sam Cowling, Mitch Bidmade, Jye Turland and Jackson Bell. It also appears that 2023 recruits Nick Hooker, Ryan Warfe, Heath Morgan-Morris and Steve Lampton look set to stay as well. The Blues have a good nucleus of experienced players as well as some emerging youth coming through but just lack a little bit of top-end talent. There is no doubt that coach Dan O’Keefe will tap into his extensive football network and try to entice some extra star-power to the club next season. A great start to the 2024 season for the Warrnambool Football Netball Club.

Hampden Rebels Star

It was terrific to welcome the Coates Hire League back to the Reid Oval on the weekend, with the Greater Western Victoria Rebels taking on the Geelong Falcons. For local football fans, it was a welcomed win, but the thing that was great to see was the dominance of the local Hampden players, with five out of the six best players from our region.

South Warrnambool’s George Stevens continued his outstanding form with best on ground honours, Koroit forward Connor Byrne led the Rebels with five goals, Rooster Luamon Lual continues to impress with his dash and poise off half back while Will Rantall and Rhys Unwin were also strong contributors. It is simply inspiring to see the amount of young guns stepping up on the next stage from the Hampden League.

Round 15 Tips

South Warrnambool vs Terang Mortlake (HLL Match of the Day) – South Warrnambool are starting to regain a full complement of players heading into the back end of the season, and going by their round 14 clash, they are building and building strongly. Terang Mortlake are likely to welcome some key personnel over the next few weeks in their pursuit of a top three finish. The Bloods got the job last time these two teams met but I think South Warrnambool will reverse this and take the four points. 

Port Fairy vs North Warrnambool – Wow, what a crucial match for both sides competing. North Warrnambool are holding a spot inside the top three whilst Port Fairy are bursting to get inside the top five. The Eagles are likely to welcome a few players back, no more important than skipper Adam Wines. Port Fairy are playing with great confidence and their list seems to be pretty healthy. This encounter could come down to the wire. I think the Seagulls can keep their finals dream alive and record a narrow victory.

Portland vs Cobden – Huge match for the Cobden Bombers with Port Fairy trying to overtake them inside the top five but also a win, could elevate them in top three territory as well. The Bombers are playing a great brand of football and I’ve loved the inclusion of Michael Koroneos for forward structure, allowing the likes Williamson, Pekin and Hammond to create more chaos. POrtland will be hoping the next four weeks can be strong and it helps build a platform for new coach Lachie Hupputz in 2024. I’d love to see Portland get another victory but Cobden will be too tough.

Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 15


It has been a big week in Hampden League Football, with a number of coaching appointments made and major milestones coming up. Hamilton is on the search for a new coach in 2024 while Portland and Cobden have locked in their leaders, with Lachie Hupputz and Brody Mahoney taking on the roles. Warrnambool stalwarts Sam Cowling and Damian McCorkell will this weekend play significant milestones, further etching their star status at the Blues.

Hamilton Kangaroos Coach Search

The Hamilton Kangaroos will be looking for a new leader in 2024 with current senior coach Hamish Waldron stepping down at season’s end. ‘Hammer’ has been at the helm for the past two seasons, and whilst the club has not won as many games as he would have liked, I think he would be proud of the amount of youngsters he has given a senior opportunity to. The Kangaroos have a wealth of great young players including Darcy Russell, Rory Gill, Hamish Cook, Ethan Knight, Deacon White and Lachie Urqhuart. 

Hopefully the club can find an outstanding replacement, continue to build on these kids as well as bring in some top end talent, to potentially see the club make a debut finals series appearance in the coming seasons. Well Done Hammer, a terrific Hamilton Kangaroos representative who will leave a special coaching legacy at the club.

Portland and Cobden 2024 Coaches

It has been a busy week on the coaching front with Portland and Cobden both locking away their leaders for next season. Lachie Hupputz will guide the fortunes of the Tigers whilst Brody Mahoney will lead the Bombers soley. Lachie, an excellent ball-winner, will be playing coach of Portland in 2024, replacing Jarrod Holt. Portland will be concentrating heavily on recruitment this coming pre-season to bolster their young list with experienced players, the addition of Hupputz already boosts their midfield and hopefully will be a drawcard for other players to return. A terrific appointment and hopefully it will enable the club to climb the ladder in 2024. Brody, who has shared the role with Dan Casey this season, will lead the Bombers by himself after Casey had to step aside next season due to family circumstances. It’s a loss for the Hampden League, as Dan has really helped the fortunes of the Bombers. What an opportunity for Brody and no doubt his experiences playing SANFL and GFL football will hold him in good stead for the position.

Cowling and McCorkell Milestones

The Warrnambool Football Netball Club will celebrate two major playing milestones this weekend with skipper Sam Cowling lining up in his 200th senior match, whilst tough midfielder Damian McCorkell will play his 150th game. Both have been outstanding stalwarts of the Blues, important cogs in the teams premiership years of 2012 and 2013, as well as being Hampden League representatives on numerous occasions. Sam is one of the most consistent key position players we have seen over the past decade. He has strong hands, is an outstanding contested mark and is equally reliable in the front and back halves of the ground. He has been the skipper for a number of seasons now and always leads from the front. Damian is an absolute beauty. A tough, uncompromising midfielder who always hits the contest with vigour as well as being a fine effective using of the football. His surname is synonymous with the Blues and this would be a very proud moment for his family. Congratulations to Moo and Damo, two great footballers but more importantly, two outstanding individuals.

Saints Reunite

One of the most famous Hampden League Grand Finals of the modern era is the Koroit premiership of 2003. The Saints at the start of that season had endured a long premiership drought, last winning one in 1973.This weekend, members of the premiership team will gather at Victoria Park to reminisce about one of the great premiership victories of all-time. On the last day of September, 20 years ago, Koroit met Camperdown in the Grand Final, it was a perfect sunny day, ideal season ending conditions. 

The Magpies were red-hot in the opening half, kicking 10 goals to four in the opening half, leading by 49 points and appearing to have one hand on the trophy. A rejuvenated Saints emerged from the changerooms after half time and changed their defensive mindset into an attacking one, eventually kicking 13 goals to five. 

Whilst there were some great contributors including Simon O’Keefes 31 disposal game, Brad Cassidy up forward with three majors and Chris McLaren in defence, the heroics of playing coach Jason Misfud were unmatched. An eight goal haul and some clutch finishes was a major reason behind the Saints victory. We think of the brilliance Gary Ablett produced in the 1989 VFL Grand Final, from a community football level, this performance is almost if not equivalent. I’ve got no doubt there will be many beverages consumed and memories of the famous win discussed long into the morning at Victoria Park this weekend.

Round 15 (Split Round – Week 1)

Warrnambool vs Hamilton (Reid Oval) – It would be fair to say both sides are coming off disappointing results from the last round. The Kangaroos were completely outclassed while Warrnambool are finding it very hard to score over the past month. Hamilton’s side is young, so expect their form to fluctuate from time to time, while Warrnambool’s best can be very hard to stop. I think the significance of the two milestones will be a motivating factor for the Blues, so I expect them to hold out Hamilton to honour the contributions of club favourites Sam Cowling and Damo McCorkell. 

Koroit vs Camperdown (Victoria Park) – A big day for Koroit with reunion celebrations, but also equally important on the field with a security of a top three up for grabs. Whilst Camperdown have won two of their last three and playing a nice brand of football, you can’t help feel that Koroit are building for an 8th consecutive flag, albeit with a young emerging list. It’s always a tough task at Victoria Park for opposition and I think Koroit will win at their home ground.

See you at the Footy


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 14


Five home and away season matches left and the make-up of the top five is still well and truly up in the air. The next two rounds could give supporters a clearer picture on what might occur but the way the competition has been, that could also be unlikely too. It appears the only near certainty is that South Warrnambool should take out the minor premiership if a win is achieved this weekend.

Portland Tigers Stay

It was terrific news received last week, with the announcement the Portland Tigers will be remaining in the Hampden League. 

Whilst it has been a tough year on-field for the Tigers, they have been a welcomed addition to the league since 2013, highlighted by their finals appearance in 2022 and the Maskell Medal win by Daniel Jackson. It was warming to read that a large portion of the decision to remain was player driven, especially to keep playing a higher level of football, in comparison dropping back in standard if they move had occurred. Moving forward, I would think Hanlon Park will host a final this year based on the leagues two year rotation system and no doubt, the search for a new senior coach is well and truly in action as Jarrod Holt will step aside at season’s end. It’s an important coaching decision coming up, as player development and recruiting will be at forefront in hopefully seeing Portland returning to finals action.

Goal-Kicking Chase

Whilst we have one tight race in relation to teams chasing positions inside the top five, we also are witnessing an intriguing battle in the goal-kicking ladder. After a slow start with his new side, Jason Rowan’s last six weeks have been strong, enabling to hold the lead currently after 13 rounds with 45 goals. The young emerging Bloods focal point, Will Kain, is only a sniff away with 43 goals while 2021 champion Sam Gordon is on 36. I think the winner will be one of the trio but also, you can’t underestimate Cobden’s Jesse Williamson, a proven goal-kicker with 33 on the board this year. 

Vic Country Acknowledgement 
Just a big shout out to our three Hampden League exports that represented Vic Country in the U19 National AFL Championships recently. George Stevens was a major contributor and leader with Vic Country, accumulating some great numbers during the carnival and hopefully exciting a lot of AFL recruiters. The dialogue written about Luamon Lual during the championships was extremely positive, with the running half back having a consistent championship. He was awarded the Team Spirit award for upholding the team’s values. And lastly Finn O’Sullivan, a bottom age player at this championships, also excited those who watched him. He is a beautiful mover and will obviously get another opportunity next season when it becomes his drafteable year.  

Round 14 Tips
South Warrnambool vs Hamilton – Both sides will be happy playing on the Reid Oval. South Warrnambool is building nicely with each week more personnel returning. The Kangaroos will have a dip but I think the Roosters have more experience and class in this clash.

Koroit vs Warrnambool – The Koroit Saints are building very nicely for September and again will be dangerous. If Warrnambool maintain game-style and improve goal-kicking, their chances of winning improve greatly. I think Koroit’s system is hard to break and I will stick with the Saints.

North Warrnambool vs Portland – A lot on the line for the North Warrnambool Eagles this weekend, they’ve dropped their last two games and need a win to stay in double chance calculations. Their absent list is significant, no Rodda, Wines x 2, Keast and Vardy. The Tigers can’t be underestimated, their best is pretty good and with Wilson and Jennings returning, the team looks far better. I think North Warrnambool will take the four points in a close game.

Camperdown vs Cobden – Wow, what an encounter coming up. Both are in good form, and like so many other matches, plenty at stake. Two sides that love to move the ball fast to place the opposition defence under pressure. The midfield battle will be great to watch, especially Marriott vs Rowbottom, two in-form ruckman. It’s a toss of the coin job here, but I’m going to stick with Camperdown at home.

Terang Mortlake vs Port Fairy (HLL Game of the Day) –  This match has some important outcomes for both sides. A win for the Bloods helps their top three aspirations while a loss keeps their nearest rivals close to the double chance. POrt Fairy need a win to stay in top five calculations while a loss makes it a little harder  for finals. It promises to be a great clash in Mortlake, with two young sides that play an exciting brand moving the ball forward on the wider ground. I think Port Fairy might take an unexpected win.

I hope to see you at the footy!


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 12


Most of the Hampden League competition will be refreshed and ready to go for a huge second half of the season, which commences this Saturday. The ladder positions are tight and the next few weeks will guide the local football community on who will be the teams close to pushing for finals this year. Interleague football returned last weekend and it was a real pleasure to see both the U23 and U17 teams acquit themselves strongly against the Ballarat Football Netball League at Mars Stadium.

U23 Interleague Football

Despite not returning home with the result we wanted, all of the players who represented the famous Bottle Green guernsey should be extremely proud of their efforts last weekend. The contest was first class, it was faced-paced, quick and slick and most importantly, it highlighted the exciting talent each league has.

A few highlights for me during the match included the form of Koroit young gun Mac Peterson. Mac was tough at the contest, skilful on the outside and penetrating with his ball use. He was well and truly deserving of the Richard Nixon Medal.

I loved the work of Mark Marriott in the ruck. Mark, who has only played a handful of games this year with the Bombers due to VFL duties with Geelong, was the dominant big man on Saturday. He gave his Bottle Green midfielders first use around the stoppages and his work around the ground was impressive.

And lastly, Hamish Sinnott was someone who caught my eye. I’ve watched quite a few games that have featured Hamish and he always continues to impress me. Hamish was a prime mover in the midfield, he took the game on and worked hard both ways up the ground. I would love to see this young fella get more opportunities at the Carlton Blues in the VFL. Hopefully this newly introduced concept is the way of the future and we might see some of our bright prospects lining up in the VFL and AFL competitions over the coming years.

Vardy the Man

The North Warrnambool Eagles will have a new leader in 2024 and it’s a familiar face, with Nathan Vardy stepping into the main role. The succession plan could have not been any smoother with the AFL premiership player stepping into the shoes of legendary HFNL coach Adam Dowie. It will be interesting on whether Vards has a dual role of playing coach next season or whether his latest knee injury allows him to coach from the sidelines. The Eagles have landed a ripper and no doubt his extensive football contact list would be used in trying to lure some role players to help the current batch of players keep progressing up the ladder.

Round 12 Tips

South Warrnambool vs Warrnambool – The Roosters have a host of big ins and will be looking for continuity with their list for the second half of the year. It’s a season-defining game for the Blues, dropping this one could make it hard to play finals. A good tussle between the arch-rivals coming up. I think South Warrnambool will win.

Koroit vs Port Fairy – Both squads are in impressive form and like most matches, the result impacts how the top five can be organised. Port Fairy have won their last four and are near full strength while Koroit in my eyes are building and have won their last three. A terrific game coming up and the result margin will be minimal in favour of Koroit.

Camperdown vs North Warrnambool – Camperdown is playing for their finals life, after a super start, they struggled in recent weeks. They need to make use of the absence of Nathan Vardy. The Eagles are well organised, they have momentum and their method is hard to play against. I think despite missing Vardy, they still win.

Hamilton vs Portland – The old Western Border foes will do battle, with the winner registering their second win. The Kangaroos will be better prepared compared to their last encounter whilst the Tigers have strengthened their list since their last meeting. If Hamilton can kick straight, I believe they win.

Cobden vs Terang Mortlake – Isn’t it great to see these two sides flying. Both have been impressive this season thus far and it would be terrific if both featured in the finals. The Bloods welcome back star power with Hobbs and Taylor returning while Cobden have a settled line-up at the moment. A great exhibition of Hampden Football coming up, I think Terang Mortlake will win.

See you at the Footy


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 10


Riley Arnold

The Camperdown Magpies will have another player join the 100 senior game club this weekend, with defender Riley Arnold reaching the milestone. Riley who received his first opportunity under Phil Carse in 2015 has been a key pillar in defence for the Magpies, especially in their Grand Final year of 2018. A former best and fairest winner, Riley has had a key impact into Camperdown’s pleasing start to the year and will continue to be one of the generals of the team. A terrific milestone and we wish Riley all the very best of luck.

Vic Country Reps

Six Hampden League young guns will and have had an opportunity to don the big white V in 2023. Last weekend, Cobden’s Archie Taylor, Warrnambool’s Sam Niklaus and North Warrnambool’s Charlie McKinnion helped the Vic Country U16 team register a surprise win over their metro counterparts, a feat that hasn’t been achieved for 18 years.This week, three players from the region were named in the U18 squad and a real live chances to play this weekend against South Australia. South Warrnambool duo George Stevens and Luamon Liam and Koroit star Finn O’Sullivan were named in the 31 man squad.The next two seasons we could see a number of these kids be drafted. I personally believe the three named in the U18 squad will be running around with AFL clubs in the next two years. George is a top 30 prospect, Luamon is a draft bolted and Finn with one more season in the Talent League comp will be a high draft pick.

Interleague Squads

This week, the Hampden League announced their U23 and U17 training squads for their July battle with Ballarat at Mars Stadium. The U23 squad is littered with A Grade talent and will be a hard one to whittle down to a game-day squad of 22-24. I’m rapt that players such as Portland’s Toby Jennings, Hamilton’s Rory Gill, Cobden’s Pat Smith and North Warrnambool’s Jackson Grundy have been named in the training squad, as they have been super players for their respective teams for a few seasons now and this could be a great pathway for something bigger in the seasons to come. A talented training squad and one that selectors will have many conversations about in regard to the best lineup for game day.

Round 10 Tips

These are some genuine eight point games this weekend with the ladder still staying so very tight. It’s a big week for Warrnambool, Camperdown and Cobden.

Camperdown vs Terang Mortlake – The Magpies have slumped a little in the past two weeks, dropping winnable games. Terang Mortlake are in form despite a narrow loss last week. It’ll be tight again, like round one, but I think Bloods can just hold out the home side.

Warrnambool vs Portland – A real danger game for the Blues as injuries continue to hurt them. No Sam Cowling this week is a major blow. Portland get Sharp and Malcolm back and this brings them into contention. Warrnambool by under a goal.

Koroit vs Cobden – Koroit will have momentum after a top win last round. They welcome three key players back including Alex Pulling. Cobden have lost Jesse Williamson to injury and will need to find a good goal-kick replacement. I think Koroit will win at home.

Hamilton vs North Warrnambool – The Kangaroos are on the board and the Eagles are flying. Nick Rodda was outstanding last week and I think he could be a real danger this week for a smaller Hamilton defence. North Warrnambool for the win.

South Warrnambool vs Port Fairy – A great contest coming up. South Warrnambool doing everything right at the moment whilst the Seagulls are in good form. A great test again for Dusty McCorkells boys but I think the Roosters have a little more strength across the ground.

See you at the Footy


Around the Grounds with Hilly: Round 9


We are at the half-way mark of the Hampden League season and the common conversation around the football traps is how competitive the year has been. South Warrnambool and Terang Mortlake are sitting nicely with a 7-1 record, but from 3rd to 8th, there are only 10 points that separate them. It would be fair to say the next couple of matches before the interleague bye are extremely important, because you don’t want to start having to chase hard in the final nine rounds to make the five. It’s been one hell of a season so far, I can’t wait what the second half brings.

Port Fairy Seagulls

Last weekend local football fans witnessed one of the best performances displayed by Port Fairy before the pandemic. The Seagulls defeated Camperdown by over 10 goals in a flawless four quarter performance, ending the Magpies five game winning streak. It’s hard not to admire the rapid improvement by Port Fairy, especially after completing the 2022 season winless. What has helped Port Fairy begin stronger? Well there are a few reasons in my mind. The first one is the appointment of Dustin McCorkell as coach. Dusty is a real people’s person and teacher, his football journey is highly credentialed and he knows the game well. There is a young core at the club and the guidance Dusty can provide the likes of Pollock, Myers, Mohan and Lucardie is significant. Secondly, the Seagulls recruiting method was well planned and executed – bringing back locals to the club in Gunning x 2, Forrest, Robinson and then filling some holes with some experienced and emerging players in Rowan, Hopper and McIllwain. And lastly, the Port Fairy Seagulls have had a change in leadership personnel and they’ve enticed Rob Evans as president. Rob is a highly successful business person, he loves local sport and is a very hard-worker. The professionalism he brings to the club and working alongside the already strong executive group is a great match.It’s important the Hampden League have a strong Port Fairy, it’s great for the competition and whilst they are coming from a long way back, this season in my mind is already a very successful one.

Vic Country Representatives

The Hampden League has been a great breeding ground for many great AFL/VFL careers. Three young guns will begin to throw their name in front of AFL recruiters, especially allowing them to follow their progress over the next couple of seasons when they become the right draft age, as they were selected in the Vic Country U16 team this week.

Warrnambool’s Sam Niklaus, North Warrnambool’s Charlie McKinnion and Cobden’s Archie Taylor will wear the Big V at the AFL U16 National Development Championships. 

A terrific opportunity for the trio who all were a part of the GWV Rebels U16 program this year. An exciting time for Sam, Charlie and Archie, and we wish them all the best. Hopefully we will see their names on the big stage in the coming years.

Round 9 Tips

Cobden vs South Warrnambool – Historically these two sides have had a great battle at the Cobden Recreation Reserve. Cobden are a slick moving unit that likes moving the ball fast and scoring fast, while South Warrnambool are a possession based team. The inclusion of Shannon Beks is a big one for the Roosters and while they still have a few players to return, I think they will be strong enough to register their 8th win of the year.

North Warrnambool vs Warrnambool (HLL Match of the Day) – The rivalry these two teams have had in the past has been a pleasure to watch. North Warrnambool despite their tough start to the season with injuries have been able to record wins and just sit outside the top three. Warrnambool have been in almost every game and their style has changed and I think in the back end of the season, their cohesion and confidence will be much better. A big game for both sides and I think North Warrnambool can narrowly get the job completed.

Portland vs Port Fairy – Port Fairy have found their mojo whilst the Portland Tigers are beginning to play with more continuity in their game. A big weekend for the Seagulls, with forward Jason Rowan needing only one goal to tie for the league record and two to become the new record holder. I think he does the latter and at the end of the  round will be our new league record holder. Despite this special occasion, I love the style of play from Port Fairy and will be tipping them to win. 

Terang Mortlake vs Koroit – In years gone by, everyone would have tipped Koroit to win this one but it’s the Bloods everyone is raving about. The Bloods are in a great position and most importantly, playing a great brand of football. Lewis Taylor is back in the line-up and adds so much to their entire outfit. Koroit are young and this is an 8 point game for them, in relation to keeping well and truly in touch with the five. I’m expecting a thriller but I think Terang Mortlake can maintain their good form.

Camperdown vs Hamilton – A winnable match for the luckless Hamilton Kangaroos. The Hamish Waldron led squad are missing some important personnel but importantly are getting games into their youth, it’s a similar position the Magpies were in last season and look at them currently flying. Camperdown were outplayed last round but I think they will bounce back as they have some great fire-power across the ground.

See You at the Footy


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