By Matt Fotia
A massive weekend of football in the Outer East, as the race for fifth heats up in the Premier Division, two premiership favourites are thumped and the rise of the ruckman continues.
Check it all out in the Football Review.
The 2018 AFL season saw Melbourne’s Max Gawn and Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy bring the ruckman back into vogue, as the two big men propelled their respective sides deep into the finals series. Grundy was mere minutes away from becoming a premiership ruckman and Gawn was perceived as a genuine Brownlow contender.
2019 has seen the rise of the ruckman continue into the Outer East. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best around.
Zach Monkhorst (Woori Yallock)
The Tigers number 20 has been enormous this season. After a season plugging holes at either end of the ground, Monkhorst has welcomed some consistency in his role to become the competitions number one ruckman.
He’s booted 15 goals this season for the Tigers as a mobile marking option who can also sit a kick behind the play. He’s been in the Tigers best players nine times out of ten and has been best on ground on three occasions, against Wandin, Beaconsfield and Cranbourne. Like Gawn in 2018, Monkhorst is a genuine contender for the Best and Fairest.
Michael Wenn (Cranbourne)
Wenn might not be as mobile as Monkhorst but he’s as strong as an ox and reminds many of Hawthorn big man Ben McEvoy. A VFL Listed player with Port Melbourne, Wenn often gives the Cranbourne on-ballers first use of the football and played out an epic ruck battle with Monkhorst back in round three.
Michael Langworthy (Monbulk)
Langworthy has transformed himself in 2019, from a deep forward to one of the best ruck-forwards in Division One. Fitter and stronger this season, Langworthy has found himself in the Hawks best players on six occasions and provides a marking option around the ground who can use the ball well.
He still finds the goals as well – he’s got 14 goals for the year with a best of six.
Michael Sikora (Doveton)
The Doves most prized recruit has been impressive in his first year at AJ Robinson Oval. He’s got VFL experience and was one of the better ruckman in the Eastern Football League prior to crossing over.
Whilst he’s not the quickest across the turf, he’s one of the best exponents of tap-work in the Outer East, with a long reach and an extra few centimetres on most of his opponents. He’s been best on ground twice this season and if he can sneak forward and kick a couple he could be the Doves ace in hole.
Ryan Fooks (Mount Evelyn)
Fooks mightn’t be as tall as Sikora or as potent as Langworthy but he probably has the biggest heart in the division.
Constantly coming up against players bigger than him, Fooks has been more than admirable this season, with his impressive aerobic ability making him a key player for the Rovers. Has been in the best players on eight occasions this season and was best on ground once.
Troy Armstrong (Yarra Junction)
A monster of a man who steps up when needed. Might not possess a great leap but he’s able to make up for that with his use of body and nous. Collects a fair bit of the football for the Eagles and dominated on the biggest stage last season, winning the best on ground medal in Yarra Junction’s premiership.
Colin Bastow (Gembrook-Cockatoo)
The Gembrook big man has come into form when his side has needed him. He’s been their best player in two of their last three outings, giving him a total of three best on grounds for the season. With ex-North Melbourne and Geelong ruckman Hamish McIntosh running around with him on occasion as well Bastow has every opportunity to learn from one of the best and improve exponentially.
Could be a big player come finals time.
2. Premier Pushover
Heading into this weekend Yarra Junction and Monbulk would’ve been short priced favourites for their respective premierships. The Hawks were undefeated having taken all before them and the Eagles had just one loss to their name and had also beaten every side in their division on at least one occasion.
Come 5:00pm all of that had changed as both teams were on the end of some big losses.
Monbulk traveled to Pakenham looking to become the first side to come away from Toomuc Reserve with a win to their name. By quarter time that looked nigh on impossible as the Lions led by 34 points. The Hawks kicked just one goal to three quarter time as Jordan Stewart (four goals) and Darcy Hope (three) run amok down forward for the Lions.
Throughout their 68 point win Pakenham were simultaneously able to strengthen their home fortress, instil some more belief amongst their own group and also give the rest of the chasing pack a boost as they dismantled the previously invincible Hawks.
Monbulk were hit by injuries and will say it was the loss they had to have. Maybe it was, but not by that much.
Out at Seville, the Blues were out to put some demons to bed with a win over the Eagles.
Not only did they put those Demons to bed, they tucked them in, turned the lights off and closed the door, winning by 69 points, 16.16(106) to 5.7(37).
Josh Fraser booted four majors and Justin Meyers ran the show as Seville took the first step towards premiership favouritism. Like the Lions it would’ve given the Blues a massive mental boost to defeat Junction as it validated their recent form.
There’s no need to panic for the Eagles, but like the Hawks it won’t be the loss that hurts, rather the way it happened.
3. Start Your Engines
The race for fifth place in the Premier Division starts now as Cranbourne, Wandin and Olinda Ferny Creek all eye off the remaining spot in finals following a big weekend in the top division.
Wandin grabbed a massive 15 point win over Beaconsfield to move just two points behind Cranbourne on the ladder after the Eagles could only manage a draw against Woori Yallock thanks to a goal after the siren from Tiger’s skipper Jake Matthews.
Meanwhile Olinda Ferny Creek continued to sneak under the radar with a comfortable win over Healesville.
With just six weeks left in the season and just six points between fifth and seventh lets take a closer look at their run home.
Cranbourne – 5th (4 – 5 – 1 – 2 – 26pts – 133%)
Form – LLWLD
Run Home – Wandin (A), Healesville (H), Berwick (A), Narre Warren (H), Olinda Ferny Creek (H), Upwey-Tecoma (A)
The Eagles opened this all up in round eight when they unexpectedly lost to Olinda Ferny Creek, as they gave Wandin a real boost ahead of the Dogs favourable run home and let Olinda Ferny Creek right back into the race.
The draw at weekend is the first time a side from the Yarra Ranges has taken points when playing in the South East, showing their vulnerability. However – a win this weekend could put it all to bed with their – much – superior percentage.
Wandin – 6th (5 – 6 – 0 – 1 – 24pts – 75%)
Form – WWLLW
Run Home – Cranbourne (H), Narre Warren (H), Upwey-Tecoma (A), Bye, Healesville (A), Olinda Ferny Creek (A)
The Dogs are starting to look the goods, especially after this weekend. Not only did they win over a premiership contender – completing a 125 point swing in the process – their closest rivals for the final spot dropped points.
They’re starting to get players back and are edging closer to full strength, they have two crucial games on their home deck and they don’t travel outside familiar territory for the remainder of the season.
A win this weekend puts them in prime position and it could all come down to their round 18 game with Olinda Ferny Creek.
Olinda Ferny Creek – 7th (4 – 7 – 0 – 1 – 20pts – 83%)
Form – WLLWW
Run Home – Woori Yallock (A), Bye, Beaconsfield (H), Berwick (H), Cranbourne (A), Wandin (H)
The Bloods, like the Dogs, are beginning to get back to full strength and it shows in their recent form. They have a better percentage then the Dogs and that could come in handy if it comes down to their round 18 meeting.
They do however have the toughest run home in terms of opposition, with every side currently above them on the ladder. They’ll take confidence from their home win over Cranbourne and the fact that Wandin have used home ground advantage to grab wins against Beaconsfield and Berwick.
If the Bloods do make the finals they’ll be coming in off the back of some wins against fellow finalists on a massive wave of momentum.