At the start of the Warrnambool and District Football Netball League season The Standard’s sport journalists Nick Ansell and Sean Hardeman looked into the crystal ball and predicted how they thought the 2018 season would pan out. Most of their predictions were spot on with a just a few missing the mark.
Prediction: Nirranda premiers with Kolora-Noorat as runner up.
Ladder positions: Nirranda, Kolora-Noorat, Old Collegians, Timboon Demons, South Rovers, Dennington, Panmure, East Warrnambool, Allansford, Merrivale, Russells Creek.
Nick predicted Nirranda as clear favourites for the flag victory from early as April 4. In an opinion piece two days later he said “This season, it seems the stars have aligned for the Blues. All signs point to a Nirranda flag.”
The former journalist cited the Blues’ off-season recruiting and the forward line firepower as key areas to Nirranda’s premiership charge.
This season, it seems the stars have aligned for the Blues. All signs point to a Nirranda flag.Former Warrnambool Standard Journalist Nick Ansell on Nirranda's flag chances in April
Result: Nirranda lifted its second flag in three seasons with Old Collegians runner-up for a third time.
Ladder positions: Nirranda, Old Collegians, Kolora-Noorat, Timboon Demons, South Rovers, Merrivale, Allansford, Dennington, Russells Creek, East Warrnambool, Panmure.
As the season rolled on Nick’s prediction was starting to show signs of coming true as the Blues stamped their foot on the competition. But it was a combination of the off-season recruits, forward line power and team defence that drove Nirranda towards success.
The “Nirranda Press” shone on the big stage to deliver the Blues a 31-point grand final victory.
In 2018 the Blues’ defensive efforts conceded just 645 points across 18 games while the forward line power piled on 1907 points, which was the highest total since Old Collegians in 2016.
When it came to ladder positions Nick tipped the teams in the top five right, only missing the spots for the Power and Warriors, which switched places in the final result.
As for the rest of the ladder, Nick’s predictions were a bit off with Merrivale, Russells Creek and Panmure the three big movers.
The Tigers (10th) and Kangaroos (wooden spoon) were predicted to finish towards the lower end of the ladder, while the Bulldogs (seventh) were tipped for a place higher up the ladder.
In the end Panmure was wooden spooners, Merrivale (sixth) stormed home to fall just short of finals and a spirited late charge from Russells Creek lifted it to ninth.
Allanford (ninth) moved up two spots to fill the Bulldogs’ predicted finish, while East Warrnambool dropped into the Tigers place in 10th. Dennington dropped two spots to finish in eighth.
In a poll on the football prediction story 42 per cent of readers picked Nirranda to claim the premiership, while 17 per cent picked the Power to go back-to-back.
Prediction: Dennington premier with Nirranda runner-up.
Ladder positions: Dennington, Nirranda, Allansford, Timboon Demons, Old Collegians, South Rovers, Kolora-Noorat, Russells Creek, East Warrnambool, Panmure, Merrivale.
Sean picked the Dogs to create history and win their fourth consecutive premiership defeating their 2017 grand final opponent, Nirranda, in the process.
Result: Nirranda ended Dennington’s chances of going for four-in-a-row, breaking an 18-year drought in the process.
Ladder position: Nirranda, Dennington, Timboon Demons, Old Collegians, Russells Creek, South Rovers, Allansford, Kolora-Noorat, Merrivale, Panmure, East Warrnambool.
However, Sean was not entirely wrong with his prediction for the Blues when he said “expecting another big season from the Blues”. “Will be strong and will look to bounce back from last year’s grand final loss.”
Nirranda was able to secure redemption in 2018 defeating the Dogs by 13-goals in a thrilling end to the season. Dennington finished the season on top of the ladder and headed into the second semi-final as favourties only to be run over by a spirited Nirranda outfit.
The Blues were even across the court with the likes of Jo Couch, who was named best on court in the final, patrolling the mid court with Georgia Haberfield and Kristy Ludeman.
Kate Ryan and Lisa Anders combined to hold the defensive end together to let in just 548 goals, the fewest goals of any side for the whole season.
While at the other end the league’s leading goal shooter Steph Townsend (593) and emerging goalie Sophie Adams (401) worked wonders together to shoot a combined total of 994 goals across 18 games.
Sean was able to pick four of the top five sides but not their order. Dennington, Nirranda, Old Collegians and Timboon Demons featured in his prediction.
Allansford was the fifth team but it was Russells Creek which snuck its way into the top five with the Cats falling to seventh.
As for the bottom six, South Rovers was predicted to finish sixth and Sean’s vision came true in the final round as the Kangaroos held onto fifth spot with the Lions losing to Timboon Demons.
Kolora-Noorat was also picked correctly in its final ladder position of eighth.
Panmure (ninth), East Warrnambool (10th) and Merrivale (11th) were tipped to be near the bottom of the ladder but the order finished slightly different. The Bombers (wooden spoon) and Bulldogs (10th) swapped spots, while the Tigers shot up to finish ninth.