Back to the freezing conditions of Victoria, I already missed the idea of watching games under the sun with a nice cold beverage. With the first run against all opponents in the bag, we now look to the future. Div 1 is starting to feel like Gridiron in SA, where so few teams are available to play in the division that monotony may start to become the curse for the back half of the season. With 9 teams in
With 9 teams in Queensland and 12 teams in NSW, I have to question the local voices claiming GV contains the best local product. Watching a team like the Sunshine Coast Spartans get a big win after suffering several years of hard losses makes you realise development was never meant to be an easy path.
Croydon Rangers 2nd (4 – 1) vs. Western Crusaders 1st (5 – 0)
Last Time: Crusaders won 32 – 13
Now that all teams have played each other, these 2 teams sit as the cream of the crop. The Crusaders continue down the path towards winning their 4th Vic Bowl and 10 years since their last one. This team is well placed to cruise through the season without a loss, but they face their “closest opponent” this week. The coaching staff would now have a solid base of film on every opponent, and they will be closely analysing patterns, flaws, and adjustments made since they last played. While Croydon may be sitting second on the ladder, I am not sure the Crusaders have felt troubled by any Croydon unit for quite some time. The Crusaders will be relishing the rainy conditions, which reduce output from their Offense, but also make their Defense just short of impenetrable. The Crusaders will be looking to muscle the ball down the field, tearing up everything green that attempts to stand in their way, be it a Ranger or a blade of grass.
Croydon will enter this game with an air of contained confidence to improve on their performance in Week 1. In hindsight, one might suggest that a loss by a mere 19 points against the Cru was not a bad start, it appears as though the Crusader’s Offense may have improved by a greater percentage than Croydon’s. Croydon will be buoyed by a return to their home ground until you recall that was the location of their only loss this season. Croydon does not historically handle the physicality of the Crusaders, and until they can get this monkey off their back, I do not see them worrying the Crusaders at any stage of this game. Croydon sits second, and well and truly deserve the title of the team most likely to lose against the Crusaders in the Vic Bowl, but this is the game where Croydon either prove they no longer fear the Cru, or they display just how large the gap is between 1st and 2nd in GV.
Prediction: Western Crusaders 38 – Croydon Rangers 7
South Eastern Predators 6th (0 – 5) vs. Geelong Buccaneers 4th (2 – 3)
Last Time: Geelong won 20 – 16
Let’s look back at Round 1, where we saw these teams as both in rebuild mode, with both teams possibly only having these games as an opportunity for a win. The Preds have managed a steady improvement from week to week, in spite of taking a few large losses. While scores may show how dominant one team was over the other, in the case of the Preds it shows lapses in concentration that are not uncommon with inexperienced teams. Putting up 12 points against the Rangers in last week’s game was a HUGE step-up for this squad. Not letting their opponents score 50 or more points, another HUGE step-up. Yes, it is possible the weather helped their Def on one hand, it would also have hampered their Offense making the 12 points an even greater achievement. To every player that turns up for every game, every training session and helps support off field efforts, you are the foundations this club will develop from. Losses are tough, but hiding from them makes you weak. Keep up the great work Preds.
Has the sleeping giant slowly started to stir down Corio way? Not likely, but it appears this team was far too proud to just hand over their playoff spot to the team from Parkville. While the result was not a shock to myself, I am sure it did cause a few ripples through a few teams. Geelong are the kings of the mud and have surely been doing rain dances as part of their warm ups. While 4th spot in the finals is likely to end up as roadkill in the Semi’s, do not question that it is a spot that will be fought for down to the last game of the season, incidentally in the rematch. Geelong must be taking the concept of playing finals seriously, as we appear to have lost Noonan’s “Power Rankings”. Geelong has improved much better than the Preds over the course of the first 5 games, but the Preds are a bit of a bogey team for Geelong. Hopefully, the Royals’ ground has not taken too much punishment to date and offers up conditions to give up a tight game.
Prediction: Geelong Buccaneers 25 – South Eastern Predators 6
Melbourne Uni Royals 5th (1 – 4) vs. Monash Warriors 3rd (3 – 2)
Last time: Monash won 32 – 7
Firstly we will look at Monash, and how it must be uneasy for this team to be sitting 3rd after almost 17 years of being looked upon as one of the top 2 teams. Monash has a chance to reboot this season, but that must come this week or they will not hit a steady rhythm prior to the finals. The Def needs to demonstrate they can close down both the run and pass game, while maximising chances for turnovers. The Offense must apply a balance of run/pass that adjusts to their opponent’s moves. No team can afford to bank all their Offense upon a single weapon, but are they slowly falling in this direction? Monash will need to turn up and take care of business in a very clinical fashion, otherwise, they will likely be questioned about becoming “too old and slow” to keep up with new kids on the block. I am not convinced they can get back that relevance tag, but with next week’s “League Bye”, there is plenty of time to rest up the old bones before their rematch against Croydon.
Melbourne Uni must be wondering what happened in the first half of the season. This was a club that got new uniforms and rebranded into one name for all three teams, with the expectation that they would enter Div 1 finals for the first time in the club’s history. So what has gone wrong? There is no doubt the team added talent on top of the 2016 team, but something is happening where the output from some has not matched the self-appraisal. This team has suffered injuries and unavailability to the wrong players, for the wrong games and too much is being carried by too few. This team still has some great talent, steady development of pride in themselves and I am still hopeful this team will start turning the corner before it is too late. The OL needs to get some of their starters back ASAP to support the run game and the Def must stop leaking TDs. But, the biggest issue for this team right now is the turnover rate which continues to haunt them every time their Offense takes control of the ball. Wet weather ball movement should work in well with the power run of the Royals, but will the wet weather just make the ball look more like a bar of soap as this game progresses.
Prediction: Monash Warriors 38 – Melbourne Uni Royals 13
Enjoy the games this weekend as we head into the League Bye to allow the players/coaches/fans to head north and watch the NCAA College Game. Let me leave you with this golden moment from Any Given Sunday
- “Luther ‘Shark’ Lavay: In football, you have the offense and the defense. You can’t have one without the other. Respect will be paid.”