Reporting from BrizVegas this week, this is just an old fart’s view on what he feels might happen this week. I dropped in standings as they have more relevance leading into the mid-mark of the season. So before I head down to watch Round 1 of GQ, let’s see what dribble I can drop this week.
South Eastern Predators 6th (0-4) vs. Croydon Rangers 2nd (3-1)
Boom went the Rangers as they signalled their intent to take the #2 spot in GV, holding the spot due to beating the Warriors in Round 2. The Rangers continue to make the quiet strides, lulling most of their opponents into a false sense of security. By all accounts, the score against the Royals was somewhat flattering for their opposition, although few of them would publicly declare this to be the fact. Croydon analyses their opponents “mentally”, looking for the cracks to appear so that they can strike. Knowing the Royals can be somewhat of a confidence team, they took to the air quickly and deflated much of their hope from the start. Then they handed the reigns to a Def that contains enough experience to know how to control and protect a lead. Every year I look at Croydon to drop a notch down the rankings, and each year their gameplay proves me wrong. This week will see Croydon score at will, rotate players needing game time and do all possible to avoid injuries. The Rangers will use the Preds as a guide to see how prepared for the following week.
The Preds continue to concentrate on growth and development, but this week they face the onslaught of Croydon. This will not be a Homecoming of victory, but much can still be gained by those players who show they have the character that it takes to build a solid unit. The players need to remain positive with each other, understanding that no-one is above mistakes on the field. The Preds only need to look through the history of the competition’s stronger units, where the best have come from teams that took 83-0 losses and built a strong future in the process. Although, if the weather drops moisture on the ground, it will keep the score much closer than I am expecting. This will be tough on the scoreboard, but another step forward if they remain committed to the program.
Prediction: Croydon Rangers 58 – South Eastern Predators 0
Western Crusaders 1st (4-0) vs. Monash Warriors 3rd (3-1)
Match of the Round many are saying. The return of the VicBowl combatants. The heavyweights finally get a chance to slug it out. This will be a great game, but something worries me about whether Monash is ready for the Cru. The Cru has gone from strength to strength. If you look at many past seasons, we have watched the lower teams making small gains towards the top teams. 2017 is a completely different case. The Cru is demonstrating a tsunami like an approach to their game, opening up scores that are not derogatory to their opponents, they are merely indicative as to what has been built just over the bridge. Will this game signal the changing of the guard? In my opinion, it was already signalled, but this game could be the icing on the cake. They have recruited the perfect pieces to fill the gaps of 2016, offering up an array of weapons on every line. Like most teams, they too have players they can’t afford to be watching from the sidelines, but they have been able to maintain the higher healthy contingent from week to week. This is a team I’d pay to watch play against the champions of the other states, but for now, they happily settle for their forthcoming championship.
Monash is completely the reverse story of the Cru. After their Round 1 dominance over the Royals, they have been rather “meh”, to coin the expression. Sure they had a good win over the Preds, but they are a rebuilding team that would rather lose against the best than to beat the worse. The Rangers beat them in what becomes a defining result, and they scrapped past Geelong. Geelong? Geelong! I understand that some key injuries were in play for the Warriors, but that is simply too significant of a drop in standard to even suggest to me that the Cru have any teams likely to push them. The Warriors are a proud unit, and some of their club may be offended by my observations, but the time is now when this unit must stand up and stop riding on the coat tails of past successes. Every week you write a new chapter in your playing history, a new chapter of your team’s history and a new chapter in the club’s history. Let’s see what chapter they are prepared to write this week, for so far this season the story is just above average.
Prediction: Western Crusaders 32 – Monash Warriors 20
Melbourne University Royals 4th (1-3) vs. Geelong Buccaneers 5th (1-3)
“Match of the Round”
These 2 teams both appeared to reverse their 2018 directions last week. After one of the most hyped pre-seasons, the Royals have failed to impress against any opponent thus far. Sure, they managed to manhandle a rebuilding Preds, but in a rather unspectacular manner. My expectations and hopes for the Royals have not been met yet, but I am sure much of this has been already addressed in-house. The Offense has no firepower, with poor support for the running game coming from their OL. A few plays here and there are not sufficient if they want to be in the finals. The Def also needs a consistent contribution of 11 players on the field. TDs are leaking through too easily for any Offense to fear coming up against them, and they must start the game switched on or they will get scored on quickly again. I flagged my concern with the Royals coming into this game as I believe the Royal’s bogey side is the mud kings from Geelong. This game will either set-up a great run towards the finals, or it will become a shattering letdown for many.
Like a spider waiting in its web, Geelong finally struck an almost caused the upset of the season. Geelong had no right to even be in that game, and yet it took a few errors for Monash to fall into the win. So the question is whether I believe Geelong have really improved that much or managed a closer game by their opposition underestimating them. I am just not sure, as we know Noonan et al will always play their cards close to their chest. Geelong’s DBs received almost as many passes as the Warrior’s WRs did, and they must be relishing coming up against a diminished OL that may force too many erratic throws. If this turns out to be the case, I would expect Geelong to unleash a series of blitzes that may not be containable once momentum sways to Geelong. This game has the potential to be a shootout, but the weather may have something to say about that. Playing for the 4th place in the Finals, potentially a game that could confirm the changing of guards in GV, this game is my Match of the Round. “Run, run and then run some more” will be the theme of this game, so it will be the better passing game or better LB corps that determine the winner in this game. Sorry Noonan, despite all the pleading, the pressure in your squad to back it up and potentially set-up a “back to back wins” scenario.
Prediction: Geelong Buccaneers 22 – Melbourne University Royals 21
So now I shall wander over to my Mexican friend, slap a slice of lime down its neck, and we shall enjoy the history altering stories that come out when some old ghosts of the game get together for a beer or 30.