The 2017 A Plus Solutions Division 2 season could not have got off to a better start, with a string of impressive performances highlighting a historic weekend for the league.
Round 2 looks to be another cracking weekend, with an early season top of the table clash headlining a big weekend of football. The top two sides meet this week at Main Street Reserve, when Thomastown host Watsonia.
Under new coach, Ben Chapman, the Bears fought off a second quarter comeback by Lalor to win by 39 points. It was the fifth-straight year the Bears have won their first match of the season and the second-consecutive year they have beaten Lalor by 39 points in Round 1.
The Bears were led by Matthew Dirkx and the new midfield pairing of Daniel Chadwick and Matthew Vasilevski. Up forward, Jacob Osei-Duro recaptured his early 2016 form by booting five goals, the same amount he kicked in the opening round last year.
Watsonia marked its return to Division 2 football with a 27-point victory over Panton Hill. The Saints carried the momentum from winning last year’s Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 premiership and were well led by recruit Ben Anderson and defender Ben Sutherland.
The main aim for Watsonia this year is to fend off relegation and remain in Division 2. A win first up provides a strong platform for the Saints and another win against Thomastown would give them further confidence they can compete against their rivals in the competition.
A big game takes place at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval, as the Fitzroy Stars host the star-studded North Heidelberg.
The Stars can take a lot of positives out of their Round 1 defeat to Lower Plenty, knowing even without last year’s goal kicking maestro Daniel Francis, they still have enough firepower to compete with the best teams in the competition.
Former Heidelberg West player Nathan Walsh was impressive on debut and kicked three goals, while fellow recruit Hedley Smith was instrumental in midfield.
North Heidelberg kick-started its campaign with a 29-point victory over Diamond Creek. The Bulldogs struggled in the opening half but were able to turn it around after half time.
The talk heading into the match was the debut of Brent Harvey and the AFL games record holder didn’t disappoint, racking up 29 disposals and kicking three goals. Adam Braendler shined on debut and the Tardio brothers look set to take their game to another level in 2017.
Panton Hill faces an up hill battle when it hosts Lower Plenty on Saturday.
The Redbacks were overrun by Watsonia in Round 1 and may be set to face another year fighting to avoid the wooden spoon. Last season the Redbacks averaged only 11 goals a game and after managing just six majors in Round 1, it appears they could again struggle to score winning totals.
The loss of Tyler Scarce will be felt by the Redbacks as he has been one of the club’s most consistent players over the past four years.
Lower Plenty marked its return to Division 2 with an 18-point win over the Fitzroy Stars. The Bears showed they will be one of the premiership favourites this year and are aided by being able to retain most of their playing list from last season.
Dale Nolan was superb, booting six goals, while Darcy Barden kicked three goals and was voted best on ground.
The final match of the weekend will see Lalor travel to Diamond Creek on ANZAC Day.
Diamond Creek will be disappointed by the way it was overpowered in the second half against North Heidelberg after leading for the first two quarters.
However, the Creekers will take a lot of positives out of the way they started the game and handled the underdog status. Jess Cosaitis looks a gem up forward and is exactly what the Demons lacked last season, while Josh Marchbank looks set to debut this week.
Lalor could face an uphill battle to avoid the wooden spoon this season if Round 1 is anything to go by. Aside from a second quarter fight back, the Bloods were well kept at bay by Thomastown.
Without Todd Hughes up forward, the Bloods managed just nine majors and will need to find a new spearhead if they are to push up the ladder this year.
Diamond Creek held the edge over Lalor last year, winning the last two encounters between the sides by an average of 72 points.