JUST AS the Warrnambool and District league trickles over the mid-way point of the season, the race for the premiership couldn’t be closer.
The Standard has assessed where each club is positioned for the run home.
THE VERDICT: Hit hard with several big exits in the off-season, but they’ve performed admirably. On the end of some thumpings, but otherwise competitive for at least two quarters per game, the young Cats are showing plenty of grit.
COACH SAYS: “It’s been a tough year as far as results go on the field but as a club, things are going well on the whole. We’re just in that cycle of building.” – Ben Holloway
THE VERDICT: The Jake Rhodes-coached side is the competition’s biggest puzzle. They’ve been capable of stringing brilliant football together, but will be asking more of senior players in the push for finals.
COACH SAYS: “Inconsistency has been the main problem for us – we’re obviously happy with the way we bounced back against Creek (round nine) – but we have work to do.” – Jake Rhodes
THE VERDICT: Hard-nosed and tough to beat, East Warrnambool epitomise tough footy in 2017. Has impressed opposition coaches with its grit, but is just lacking a bit of polish.
COACH SAYS: “It’s been okay. We’ve come close in a couple of games but we’ve just ran out of legs. If that’s from being down the bottom for so long, we want to improve it.” – Danny Chatfield
THE VERDICT: The ladder leaders are firing and look to be in red-hot touch. They’re better for the additions of Ben Fraser and Jason Moloney. Now, Danny Finn’s men look almost infallible. Genuine premiership threat.
COACH SAYS: “It’s been so far, so good without getting carried away. We have improvement in us, collectively and individually.” – Danny Finn
THE VERDICT: Started with a bang, but injuries are beginning to curtail the Tigers’ effectiveness. Star-studded forward line, and a competent midfield, but injuries and inconsistency are the biggest worry leading into September.
COACH SAYS: “We’re starting to get all of our boys back and we’re hoping that we'll carry some momentum into the last six rounds after our bye.” – Jason Rowan
THE VERDICT: Slow start, but the Blues have certainly hit their straps. Their main improvement has come through forward duo Gary Robinson and Robbie Gregg, who have booted 88 goals between them so far.
COACH SAYS: “We probably started slowly, but we’ve been building momentum through the year and we’re playing some very good football at the moment. Still have areas to improve on.” – Shane Threlfall
THE VERDICT: The Warriors are flying under the radar in second place, but are putting along in the same damaging form which lifted them to last year’s grand final. Will less pressure than last season be the boost the club needs to snap a 25-year premiership drought?
COACH SAYS: “We’re happy enough. There’s plenty of room for improvement but the pleasing thing is that we have some kids stepping into senior football. We’re pleased but there’s work to do.” – Josh Reichman
THE VERDICT: The Bulldogs are on the right track, but need to eliminate inconsistency. They’ve fought hard against some powerhouse sides, and are bridging the gap between their best and worse football, but finals looks just out of their reach this year.
COACH SAYS: “We’d have liked to be even with wins and losses at this stage. We can’t afford lapses if we want to get into fifth.” – Joe Kenna
THE VERDICT: Recruited heavily in the off-season and basically revamped its football department but hasn’t yet seen results on-field. The talent is there, but needs to better itself.
COACH SAYS: Unavailable for comment.
THE VERDICT: Probably lacking tall timber and key position players, but are still young. Have looked well-drilled under the guidance of Adam Matheson. Finals might be a stretch.
COACH SAYS: “We thought at the start of the season we’d like to be in touch with finals at this point. We’re probably one win off where we’d like to be.” – Adam Matheson
THE VERDICT: The league’s big improvers. Mick Hunt’s men are storming into form and have already claimed a big scalp in Merrivale. The question will be how far the Demons can go – can they pull off finals?
COACH SAYS: “We had a very disappointing loss to South Rovers early on in the season, but we’ve been competitive. We’re about where we deserve to be.” – Mick Hunt. GRADE: B+