The Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 action resumes following last weekend’s success against the WRFL.
With 23 of the NFL’s 24 representative players coming from sides in the top flight, friendships once again become rivalries as the league’s Division 1 clubs resume hostilities in an important round of football.
The opening month of football has shown that any side is capable of winning on their given day, as exemplified by Greensborough sitting bottom of the ladder despite a healthy percentage of 88.24 – the sixth-best in the competition.
This week Greensborough returns home to host fifth-placed West Preston-Lakeside at War Memorial Park. The Boro will be looking to end a four-game losing streak, while the Roosters are searching for their first win since Round 2.
The winless Boro have lost their opening four matches by an average margin of just 10 points, with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of Macleod by 14 points at De Winton Park.
While the Boro have been honourable in each of their defeats this year, a win this week is non-negotiable if they are going to contend for their fourth-straight finals series.
Despite losing to Macleod, there were many positives for Robert Hyde’s side – most notably the breakout performance from Mitch Merkel. In just his eighth senior match, the 20-year-old kicked a game-high four goals, taking his tally to seven majors in the past two matches.
Nick Riddle and Jack Johnston continue to play to at an elite level and featured among the Boro’s best. Both were also influential during the NFL’s 125-point win over the WRFL at Preston City Oval last week.
West Preston-Lakeside has slipped to fifth spot on the back of successive losses and will this week be looking to recapture the form that saw it win its opening three games of the season.
The Roosters were upset by Whittlesea in Round 4, going down by four points at J.E Moore Park. In a game that featured multiple momentum swings, the Roosters were made to pay for poor first and third terms, where they were outscored by 11 goals to four.
Jaylon Thorpe (three goals) and Joel McDonald were the Roosters’ best in defeat, while Mathew Stokes had an immediate impact in his first game since the come-from-behind win at Northcote Park on April 7.
Eltham will also be looking to arrest a form slump when it hosts fourth-placed Bundoora at Eltham Central Park.
The Panthers remain winless since downing Greensborough in the Good Friday thriller and have lost their past three matches by an average of 44 point. Of concern is they have averaged just six goals in each of the defeats.
Injuries have once again cruelled the club early this year, with a host of key players currently unavailable for selection or playing under duress, meaning the representative break came at a good time for the men in red and black.
Lewis Glasgow was the Panthers’ best player in the 45-point defeat to Northcote Park in Round 4, while James Reid impressed in his first senior game since 2015 following a knee injury.
Bundoora heads into the match with a 3-1 record after inflicting Montmorency’s first loss of the year in Round 4. The Bulls held on for a 10-point win in the twilight fixture to make it two wins on the trot.
Ricky Dyson’s side had to overcome the goal kicking yips early at Montmorency Park, registering 1.8 in the opening term to lead by just two points at the first change, despite having seven more scoring shots.
Their kicking straightened as the match continued, however the Bulls did have to contend with a late fightback from their host. Danny Younan played a big part in the win and slotted three goals, while Brendan Carlyon, David Mitchell and Nathan Thomas were also important.
This week’s match is the second in a string of four-consecutive away games for Bundoora. If it can maintain its strong away record it will be well placed for an assault on the top three in the back half of the year – with six of its final nine games to be played at Yulong Reserve.
Heidelberg returns to Warringal Park and will need to overcome its recent poor record against Montmorency to return to the winners’ list.
The Tigers’ record slipped to 1-4 following a shock 27-point defeat at Hurstbridge. The result left last year’s premiers two wins and percentage outside the top five at the representative break.
With key players to return to the senior side the Tigers’ season is certainly far from a lost cause, however they will be painfully aware that they need to get back to winning ways quickly to stay in finals contention.
Injuries meant the Tigers blooded another two debutants at Ben Frilay Oval, with 17-year-old Isaac Silic among the better players in his first game. Fellow youngster Will Goss was the best in defeat, while Jordan Treloar kicked four goals in his first game for the year.
With in-form recruit Mark Deaves sidelined, Montmorency suffered its first defeat, however the Magpies showed great resolve to fight back late against Bundoora when the game looked over early in the last quarter.
Kye Declase was a standout in his first Montmorency game of the season to be named his side’s best player. The 20-year-old continues to also impress in the Northern Blues’ development team and has also played a VFL game this year.
Luke Collins and Pat Fitzgerald each kicked three goals against the Bulls, while Stephen McCallum will look to this week carry on his good form after winning the medal as the NFL’s best player in the representative win over the WRFL.
The ladder suggests Northcote Park will head into its home game against Hurstbridge as favourite, however the form line suggests a close game awaits at Bill Lawry Oval.
The Cougars have been outstanding in the opening four rounds this year and now sit second on the ladder after making their best start to a campaign since 2013.
Matt McLennan’s side appeared untroubled after quarter time in the Round 4 win at Eltham, with a four-goal to zero second term allowing it to take 32-point lead into half time. The Cougars again outscored their host in the third and fourth quarters en route to a strong win.
Ash Close and Jordan Perry have enjoyed stellar 2017 campaigns to this point of the season and both were exceptional in both the win over Eltham and the NFL’s representative game last week.
Close has kicked 15 goals in four home and away games and added another five against the WRFL, while Perry sits second in the Coaches Player of the Year voting and put in a strong claim for the best on ground medal against the WRFL, named second-best behind McCallum.
The Cougars will be wary of Hurstbridge following its big win over Heidelberg at Ben Frilay Oval. The Bridges have been a winning chance in all four games this year, having also pushed three top-five sides to the wire in close defeats.
With their young kids impressing and Brayden Shaw and Jack Grimes still to return to the side, along with recruits Rhyce Shaw and Tom Derickx, the Bridges have quickly established themselves in the top flight.
It was their experienced group who showed the way against Heidelberg, with Robert Graham earning the maximum 10 votes from the coaches, while Troy and Trent Barbero and Micheal Farrelly also excelled.
It was a monumental victory for the club who went winless in its previous season in Division 1. It was also the first time in NFL history that a Division 2 premier has beaten the reigning Division 1 premier in their first match-up following promotion.
Whittlesea scored an upset win in Round 4 and will look to back it up when it hosts unbeaten ladder-leader Macleod.
The Eagles sit sixth on the ladder with a 2-2 record, with both their victories coming away from home. They will this week be looking for a better performance than their previous home game when they were well beaten by Northcote Park.
Their response to that loss was emphatic in Round 4, kicking five goals to two in the first quarter to lead West Preston-Lakeside by 20 points. They then held off two fierce challenges from the home side to record a stirring win.
Young defender Tom Falls continued his strong early season form and was best afield, with strong support from Andrew Fairchild, Jake Chatley and Nathan Stefanile. Justin Sherman’s six goals saw him close within three of Ahmed Saad at the top of the goal kicking table.
Macleod had to slog it out all the way against Greensborough to remain the competition’s only undefeated side. Once again it was Lucas Hobbs and Cathal Corr leading from the front, while Brad Leggett and Chris Long continued their good form.
The Roos’ versatile forward line continues to hit the scoreboard heavily. In Round 4 they managed nine second-half goals in tough conditions to help get past a desperate Greensborough.
The ladder-leader has already scored 451 points this year at an average of 113 points per game – three goals better than the competition’s second highest-scoring team Northcote Park, who has averaged 95 points per game.
The Roos had a league-high five players feature in last week’s representative win, with coach Garry Ramsay also at the helm of the NFL side.