Photo: Barend van den Hoek
Gridiron Victoria Division 1 – Week 7 (or Week 3 of Div 1)
I have omitted standings next to records, as they are useless in my eyes until each time has played the other, but that is just my opinion.
South Eastern Predators (0-2) vs. Monash Warriors (1-1)
Watching the Preds last week, I could see many positives and negatives for them. On a positive note, they are not as far back in the pack as I was expecting them to be. Their opening series showed some nice runs, and a preparedness to try and pass all over the field. Their TD was earned through hard work and utilising their strengths against perceived weaknesses in the Royal’s Def. The negative would be what they did in the other 50 minutes of play. Offensively, it did not feel as though the attack was prepared to “take the chance” enough for a team that is developing. Experience is learned through making mistakes and understanding how to come back from them. On the Defensive side, the Preds did a good job against the run, allowing very few long runs. Against the pass, the Preds would surely have had a greater loss if the Royals could hold onto their passes. Their Def is going to be tested this week against Monash, but I have hope that the Preds will show resilience and come out of this season with a strong base from which to build.
Monash comes off a loss against their bogey team, and for many, this was not a surprise. Monash will use their “brains to beat brawn” against teams coming out to “smash them up”, but against the Rangers, they get a team that is prepared to outwit their moves. I do not see the Preds troubling the Warriors in such a manner, in fact, I would expect them to use this game as a chance to try a few of those “other plays”, for Div 1 will not offer many of these chances in this brief season.
Prediction: Monash Warriors 44 – South Eastern Predators 0
Geelong Buccaneers (1-1) vs Croydon Rangers (1-1)
Many might say I do not show enough respect for the Rangers, but it is quite the opposite case. This is a team that many others will “pick to fall”, but they keep on pressing their case to be taken seriously. The Rangers did what they do best, beat Monash. In the past 4 years, they have proven to be the thorn in their side. Through slow and steady football, Croydon is able to wear down many of their opponents. Croydon’s Offense continues to be solid, not fanciful with a bag of tricks, but a work ethic that demonstrates a “let’s do what we do best” attitude. This week we have 2 teams facing off with exact win/loss records, but I see them as polar opposites. Croydon will make the playoffs again, but they still have work to do if they are going to match it against the more physical sides in GV.
Geelong will not be the team to match Croydon, and they should not be expected to in this year of rebuilding. I would expect Geelong to put up a better result than last week, but even the Homecoming will not offer any great solace for them. I imagine Geelong have taken a note of the playbook of the ‘80s Saints, and have been watering their field for the past 3 weeks. Geelong have had to leave their comfort zone as well and start to consider the benefits of getting players in who would be able to offer positional coaching and show support for their existing coaches. I know how hard it can be to attract experience outside Metro Melbourne, and this is a team that could benefit from exploring this avenue to ensure they do not reduce Div 1 to 5 teams, again.
Prediction: Croydon Rangers 37 – Geelong Buccaneers 6
Melbourne University Royals (1-1) vs. Western Crusaders (2-0)
After watching the Royals play what I would describe as an “average game”, I would imagine they would have to go home knowing they had a lot of work to do if they wanted to be considered a serious contender for the finals. Will they play in them? Yes, but this looks due to Geelong falling so far downward. Were there a few faces missing last weekend, indeed there were. The Royal’s Def was good, but far from great. The Royals struggled against some inside runs, with the DL offering very little resistance against the OL of the Preds, and not often troubling the QB when dropping back for the pass. The Def did well, but they will need to really step up this week or they will be dragged up and down the field all day. As for the Off, the run game was good, and teams should note if you don’t stuff the run close to the line of scrimmage, they rumble for an extra few yards every time. As for the passing game, they should be glad at least 1 receiver brought his hands North. It felt as though the RB has as many catches in the flats as the other 3 receivers had combined, even if that is not the actual case. But if there is one game you can expect the Royals to “stand up”, this is the game.
The Western Crusaders have sent a message to the rest of GV, in just 2 games so far, this is the year of their atonement. What is the Cru not doing well? Off, Def, Special Teams and off field promotion continue to just add momentum to this juggernaut. On current form, it appears that only Monash can match them this year, and that may be the area of concern. Most would agree the Cru are unstoppable, but their coaching staff must continue to emphasise how championships are not won by a good game here or there. This team must keep their heads in the game and not let silly penalties cost them, as these will become game killers in close games. This week they face that “annoying neighbour” who can match up to the physicality of the Cru. The Cru will want to get out to a strong lead early and kill the Royal’s spirit early, as the close score lines do not always fall the way of the Cru. While an upset would not surprise me here, I play the odds and expect to see the Cru continue their unbeaten record towards the Vic Bowl rematch on Saturday, the 12th of August.
Prediction: Western Crusaders 37 – Melbourne University Royals 10