Ladder intrigue: race for HFNL finals berths still wide open

Can anyone catch Warrnambool in the second half of the season? Travis Graham and his Blues have set the pace but Koroit, including Levi Nagorcka, is hot on their heels. The chasing pack is on the hunt too as the Hampden league enjoys one of its closest seasons in years.

Can anyone catch Warrnambool in the second half of the season? Travis Graham and his Blues have set the pace but Koroit, including Levi Nagorcka, is hot on their heels. The chasing pack is on the hunt too as the Hampden league enjoys one of its closest seasons in years.

THE footy cliché “one week at a time” is more appropriate this season than most.

Halfway in and the Hampden league ladder is a logjam.

Warrnambool and Koroit are entrenched in the top two and North Warrnambool Eagles look assured of a double chance, sitting two games clear in third spot.

Three teams — Portland, Port Fairy and South Warrnambool — have 4-5 win/loss records.

Terang Mortlake, Camperdown, Cobden and Hamilton Kangaroos sit equal with three wins apiece after nine rounds. Mathematically, every team is a chance to play finals.

The Roos, having knocked off ladder leader Warrnambool on Saturday, sit at the foot of the table, but are only one game outside the top five.

It is a remarkable ladder — one full of intrigue with the potential for many outcomes.

Percentage could play a big factor in the final make-up of the top five.

Warrnambool’s quest for a hat-trick of flags is on target.

In an even season, the Blues are regarded by most pundits as the team to beat.

A settled and healthy list coupled with a desire to earn a slice of history has helped the Blues to an 8-1 record after the first half of the season. Their only hiccup was a one-point loss to Hamilton Kangaroos on Saturday.

Jason Rowan — injury-free and a menace for opposition defences — will nudge 100 goals by season’s end with 55 goals already to his credit.

He’s produced bags of 10 and 12 against South Warrnambool and Koroit respectively and has kicked a goal in every game.

In an ominous sign for the competition, the Blues’ attack is one area they can improve in the second half of the season, having kicked more behinds than goals in all bar one of their games.

Warrnambool easily accounted for its nearest premiership threats, defeating North Warrnambool Eagles by 70 points in round three and demolishing Koroit by 64 points in round six.

Koroit is out for grand final redemption and has proven itself after off-season departures stripped its depth.

The Saints deserve to sit second — just one game behind the Blues.

Adam Dowie is getting every inch of talent out of his list and the results have followed.

The improvement of ruckman-forward Jeremy Hausler has been beneficial, giving Sam Dobson and Ethyn Zimmer help in attack.

North Warrnambool Eagles have experienced ups and downs but their best is exciting and dangerous.

The ability to move Tom Batten and Adam Wines between defence and attack gives them flexibility, while midfielder Dean Gavin had taken his game to another level before injury sidelined him.

South Warrnambool and Port Fairy are the league’s biggest improvers. The Roosters have shown resilience to fight back from a horror round-one loss to notch four wins, including three narrow triumphs which have highlighted their growing maturity.

The Seagulls’ form has ebbed and flowed but their best worries most teams and was good enough to secure a confidence-boosting win against North Warrnambool Eagles in round seven.

Of the rest, Portland has been inconsistent, Camperdown is building, Cobden is on the ropes after a blistering start, Terang Mortlake is yet to live up to the pre-season hype and Hamilton Kangaroos reignited their season against Warrnambool.

The race is on. 

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