By Matt Fotia
A poor finals series, which saw just one win from four games across the two disciplines, put a dampener on an otherwise successful year for Pakenham, who gained promotion to the Premier Division at the first time of asking.
Here’s their 2019 Review.
Position : 1st (14-2) & Runner Up
For : 1360 (Ranked #3)
Against : 742 (Ranked #1)
Leading Goal Kicker : Darcy Hope (18)
Best and Fairest : Stephen Morey
What went well : The Lions spread was incredible all throughout the year.
With the ball in hand they were able to pull the strings with ease, often frustrating teams as they tore opposition set ups apart with their speed, (both leg speed and ball movement) precise kicking and constant movement. This was especially effective on their home track, as the massive surface at Toomuc Reserve gave them so much space to manipulate.
The Lions – at their best – made it hard for opponents to score by simply not allowing them to have the ball.
An effective tactic if you can pull it off.
What went wrong : Clearly their Finals Series was the down point of their year.
On wild and wet day at Woori Yallock they failed to adapt to the conditions quickly enough and fell to fair behind the eight ball against Doveton in the Second Semi Final, and against the same opponent a fortnight later in a nail biting Grand Final they failed to capitalise on the momentum they’d built in the second half of the game and went down once again.
They were the best side all year, but just couldn’t put it together throughout September. Even their win over Monbulk came from a fast start which gave them enough breathing space to hold the Hawks off, who might have gotten closer with some straight kicking.
What they need : The Lions need a focal point down forward for 2020.
At their best, they were an interchangeable unit in the forward half, with smalls, mid sizes and talls all floating through their fifty, popping up with a couple of majors, making it very difficult to stop them.
Unfortunately, when not at their best, the Lions don’t have a get out of jail kick. Whether it be one coming out defence up to the wing or someone to look to at the top of the square, they don’t have it.
Liam Tyrrell played that role to perfection in the Preliminary Final, but lacks the height and size necessary to do that consistently. Darcy Hope is promising, but kicked less than a goal a game in 2019 and Dermie Yawney – who is the best overhead mark they’ve got – is too important across half back.
Going up a division they’ll need a powerful option or two who can take on physical defenders and give the Lions a get out jail card.
Grade – A+
Similar to Berwick in the Premier Division, the Lions deserved to be crowned champions, but couldn’t put it together on the big day.
Position : 4th (9-7) & Semi Final
For : 618 (#5)
Against : 596 (#4)
Leading Goal Shooter : Kyra Esler (351)
Best and Fairest : Caitlin Cooke / Emma Jones
What went well : The fact that the Pakenham Lions finished the A Grade season with nine wins will have pleased their hierarchy immensely, considering their poor record in 2018.
Whilst player numbers have never been a problem for the Lions, winning games in the top grade will always be a boost for a club and 2019 will help the Lions massively in the long term.
What went wrong : Offensively the Lions struggled to put big scores on the board, scoring 40 plus goals on only seven occasions in 2019, and scoring 45 plus just four times.
This hurt them later in the year, as the quality of opposition improved and sides like Warburton Millgrove started to find their groove with ball in hand and were able to break down their defence with a little more ease.
This will no doubt occur more as they make the step up in 2020, so as low scoring affairs become harder to produce, the Lions best improve their firepower.
What they need : Whilst they definitely need to improve their scoring power, their number one need is some experience.
Youth is the number one motto for the Pakenham Lions, but if they are to compete in the Premier Division, not only will they need to improve their scoring, they’ll also need to add some extra steel via some experience.
Considering how big a step forward 2019 was, Pakenham can’t afford to take another one back by throwing their young stars to the wolves against the likes of Olinda Ferny Creek, Cranbourne, Beaconsfield and Woori Yallock.
Grade – B+
After 2018, being competitive on a consistent basis was their number one aim in 2019. So to finish up with nine wins in the home and away season and an appearance in finals, it was a pretty good year for the Lions.