Rules, rulers and recovery

Hello to the Royal Family when you guys are reading this...

MARCUS: Well Jonty, we are a few days away from a long weekend with limited sport and a chance to refresh the batteries, while the workhorse that is Dave will continue to plough ahead with West Gippy playing this weekend. We’re reaching the halfway mark of our competitions and there’s a lot to unpack, but before we get into that, let’s start with our traditional opening segment. Jonty, what was your pick of the action this week?

JONTY: Yesterday I watched Tooradin’s Jehi Esler, playing for Gippsland Power; engage in an outstanding battle with Bendigo’s James Barrat in the Coates Talent League. Barrett is considered one of the best underage forwards in Victoria; he averages seven shots on goal per game. You might look at the stat sheet and think that Esler got smashed, because he only had three touches and Barrett kicked three goals, but one of the three goals came from a 50 metre penalty, and the other was in the game’s dying seconds. It was a really engaging battle, they would have had 15 or 16 one-on-ones and Esler’s ability to match Barrat for aggression and move him physically under the ball was really good to watch in his second game back from injury.

DAVE: There’s an old saying boys that in the last quarter of a football match, the ‘tall blokes don’t get any shorter.’ Well, I’m going to flex my authority as an editor, and add one to the footy vernacular – the strong blokes don’t get any weaker. Late in the final quarter on Saturday, the scores were level between Tooradin-Dalmore and Inverloch-Kongwak. The ball was kicked down to the goal square at Tooradin’s end and Piva Wright, who’s a man-mountain, pushed his opponent out the way to take a strong grab, and nailed the set shot from 30 metres out. He went down on his haunches with a big ‘double cobra’ (DAVE FLEXES HIS BICEPS) and the Seagulls grabbed their best win of the season against the reigning premier. He took two marks against Xavier Hughes in the final quarter, all due to his strength.

JONTY: It sounds like you envy him.

DAVE: He is a big teddy bear – when you talk to him, he’s the nicest, softly-spoken person, but he’s a beast on the footy field. The Seagulls kicked the first six goals against Inverloch on Saturday before the Sea Eagles came back and looked like they were going to run over the top of Tooradin. It was Jordan Kelly’s best win as Tooradin coach. Inverloch has fallen from first to fourth, which has put a different spin on West Gippsland footy this year.

MARCUS: My best action goes to a pair of Wandin players that revived some dying football arts. The first one, at the opening centre bounce, you had Macauley Beckwith lay a really crunching hip and shoulder on a Pakenham midfielder. It might not sound like much, but it stuck with me because you hardly see bumps and shepherds these days, such is the risk associated with head knocks, concussions and suspensions. It was a bit of a throwback. Later in the game, Aaron Mullett decided to let rip with a torpedo for no real reason, but he nailed it off only a couple of steps, which as we all know is such a difficult skill. These skills are a bit of a throwback to when you were a kid, Dave!

DAVE (Grumbles): We’re not going that far back…


MARCUS: On the subject of old people, next weekend we have the King’s Birthday long weekend.

DAVE: At least I’m not that old! I think this might be the first mention of the Monarchy in LTS, too.

MARCUS: And a big shout-out to them if they are reading this. No doubt this is going to be framed and hung somewhere inside the corridors of Buckingham Palace. Obviously, being a Royal comes with power, so I thought it would be a fun exercise to imagine what it would be like to have such power to administer our local footy leagues. What would be a rule change that you’d like to implement if you had the chance? King David, put away your rock and slingshot and kick us off.

DAVE: West Gippsland fixed up the number one thing that was wrong with the competition last year, when they did away with the three-player benches. They first had the rule to save money for clubs and reduce list sizes, but the club’s all wanted it changed, so the league listened and moved it to four, which is much better, especially if there are injuries early in the match and things like that. But one that I always go back to is, I don’t understand why, when the siren goes at the end of a quarter, you’re not allowed to kick goals in the same way that you would at any other stage of the match. At any other stage of the match, you can run around your opponent or snap round the corner and have a shot, but when the siren goes, and you see the umpire come up and tell them to run in a straight line. But why does it change? If I was in charge that would be the first thing I change. You should be able to snap one from the boundary rather than run in a straight line after the siren sounds.

JONTY: But how much do you allow them to move? It’s open to manipulation. They could run to directly in front.

DAVE: It would be the same as normal play – you can get tackled. Don’t change anything from how it would play out in-game.

JONTY: I would tinker with the protected zone 50-metre penalty, across all footy. I think a 50-metre penalty is too big for a very technical offence and can often lead to a goal, so that would be one thing I’d like to see altered. Maybe a 15/20 metre penalty would be more appropriate, and keep the 50 for major indiscretions.

MARCUS: One thing that copped a bit of flack when the AFL first implemented it, but I think is actually quite enjoyable now, is the 6-6-6 rule. I’d like to see it at local level, but have a caveat that it’s not enforced if the margin reaches a certain point, so that we don’t have ugly blowouts – no one wants to see those in local footy. The rule comes into its own in close games, and obviously coaches will manipulate it within an inch of its life, but I’ve heard some coaches lament the fact that you can stack players behind the ball and ‘park the bus’ when games are close. The other, which would be wonderful particularly for us on the sports desk, is jumper numbers on the front and back of Guernseys! Vermont does it in the Eastern Football League, and Coates Talent League sides do it too.

DAVE: I think I’ve written 20 times in Footy Shorts requesting clubs put numbers on the front of jumpers. Memo for all clubs: next time you have to buy new jumpers, set the trend and buy them with numbers on the front. It doesn’t cost any extra!


MARCUS: There are few feelings like checking in to an AirBNB or hotel and kicking up your feet for a few days over a long weekend. Which clubs need a break the most and could do with recharging the batteries over a beer, wine or something stronger?

DAVE: Clearly Inverloch-Kongwak needs it. They’re the reigning premiers and have been the favourites, alongside Nar Nar Goon, to win the flag this year. They’ve lost their last two, which no one saw coming, especially losing to Tooradin at home; that was a real shock. They play their home ground really well, but Tooradin jumped them and they couldn’t recover. There’s Tom Hams to come back and Will Hams got badly hurt against Phillip Island, so they could do with a break to reset their run for back-to-back flags. They need a trip to the city and a night at the Casino, those boys.

JONTY: Hampton Park sits 6-2 so far, but it’s a really ugly 6-2. I think that out of all the teams that I cover, and I’m pretty lucky with my teams that they’re all playing good footy at the moment, but Hampton Park will benefit the most from a week off. They’ve got some players away and it was a tough contest against Keysborough. They can take the week off to reassess where they’re at, because they do keep tempering their expectations, and can launch into the next half of the season. Murrumbeena is next up and they’re undefeated, so having an extra week to recover against them is going to assist them. In basketball, Pakenham’s Youth men side has six first-choice players out at the moment due to a combination of holidays and injuries. They’ll get a few of those players back for the next game.

MARCUS: I hate doing this, but Berwick Springs netball comes to mind for this topic. They lost by 94 goals on Saturday to Narre Warren and their average losing margin is 55.8 goals. For context, they finished fifth in Division One A Grade netball last season and have been dragged up to Premier on the back of the football team’s success and the Outer East restructure at the end of 2023. Unfortunately they’ve just shown that they’re not up to the standard of other sides. The other one is Pakenham footy club. They’ll be looking to put the first half of the year behind them, having under-delivered and sitting at 3-5. They’ve dropped a couple that a team with expectations like theirs should not have early in the year, like Officer, and didn’t play particularly well in wins against Berwick Springs or Monbulk. Jake Barclay’s done for the year, which really hurts, and hopefully Zac Stewart’s impending return will fill that breach to a degree, but hopefully they’ll be better for a week off.


MARCUS: Thinking about Pakenham’s predicament has me considering some of the other storylines to look forward to in the second half of the year. Sport is nothing without narratives and storylines; it just makes the action so much more compelling. Officer and Pakenham are now probably going to be going toe-to-toe in jostling for a spot in the bottom half of the top six, and Officer’s resurgence from mid-table in Division One to finals contender in Premier is really impressive. What will you guys be looking out for?

JONTY: In the Ellinbank league, there’s going to be lots of eyes on Lang Lang’s clash with Buln Buln. They’re the two undefeated teams thus far and it looks like they’re going to be facing off in the grand final. Lang Lang recruited really well, not just with Marc Holt, and looks really exciting, while Buln Buln is trying to go back-to-back. Then there’s Longwarry; making finals would be a really significant step for them. They had an important win on the weekend to consolidate their spot in the top five. In basketball, the Pakenham Warriors have every chance to do the double in the Youth League, and win the men’s and women’s.

DAVE: Of those four Warriors sides, where are they all on their respective ladders?

JONTY: The men and women Youth sides are both first, the women and men are fifth and sixth respectively. The young ones are leading the way at the moment and flying the flag.

DAVE: What’s been good is all the top teams have shown vulnerabilities in the West Gippsland competition. Nar Nar Goon, Phillip Island, Cora Lynn, Tooradin, Inverloch, they’ve all dropped games, and after this weekend, there looks like there could be five legitimate flag chances. Injuries are going to be really significant; if Jimmy Munro, Dermott Yawney, Trent Armour or Hayden Bruce go down, that’s going to have a big impact. Also, Nathan Gardiner had his first 100-goal season last year, and he’s already at 50 after eight games, with 10 to go. I’m declaring he will get there this season, because he’s kicking bags against the good sides, rather than really cashing in against the bad ones. He’ll join his hero Marc Holt with two 100-goal seasons when he gets there.

MARCUS: Does his consistency give him a chance of doing the unthinkable and winning the league medal?

DAVE: I don’t think so. Holt is the only key forward I’ve seen win one, back when he kicked 157 goals in a year, and even then he only won by one vote. It’s just that hard.

MARCUS: One to finish up – there’s a chance Narre Warren can go undefeated in both senior football and netball, but they’ve both got big tests after the bye, in Mt Evelyn (netball) and Woori Yallock (footy). Wouldn’t that be something? The footballers getting redemption for last year and netballers going back-to-back! We’ll have to wait and see. Thanks as ever, fellas, and we’ll reconvene next week.