MIDFIELDER Ryan Dorling suggested Port Fairy should adopt a new name — Fort Fairy — in recognition of the club’s impressive home-ground strike rate this season. On social media, a fan referred to Gardens Oval as the Portress.
All puns aside, a home-ground advantage is golden in the Hampden football league this season.
A couple of results last Saturday highlighted the advantage. Bottom side Hamilton Kangaroos stunned the previously-unbeaten Warrnambool at their home ground, while Port Fairy scored its first win against Cobden at Gardens Oval since 2009.
Port Fairy has won four matches this season, all at home. The Kangaroos have won three games, all at home.
Their impressive strike rates are part of a growing trend of home- ground victories. The competition’s top three sides, Warrnambool, Koroit and North Warrnambool Eagles, have perfect records on their own turf.
Across the competition 29 of the 45 matches, or 64 per cent, have been won by the home side, compared with 51 per cent at the same time last season.
Hamilton Kangaroos coach Jarrod Holt is getting a reputation as a home-ground specialist. He coached Portland for three seasons, when it lost a total of four games in that period at Hanlon Park.
So far this season, the Kangaroos have beaten Warrnambool and second-placed Koroit at Melville Oval.
“The competition is so even, that little bit of an edge playing at home makes all the difference,” Holt said.
“When I coached at Portland and we hadn’t lost there for two-and-a-half years everyone wondered what I did special. I can tell you I did nothing.
“At Hamilton, it’s nothing significant either.”
He conceded the Kangaroos had a game plan for Melville Oval but the changes were small.
“I think the advantage of playing at home is because people are in their comfort zone. They feel comfort, they’re familiar with the surroundings, the size of the ground.”
Port Fairy coach Sam Rudolph said after the Seagulls’ win over Cobden he was pleased his side was making Gardens Oval a fortress.
He’s not alone.
Cobden coach Stephen Hammond spoke about the importance of winning on the road after his side’s loss to Port Fairy.
But he knows wins away from home will be increasingly tough if the trend continues.