Analysis: Dons deserve to be flag favourites
After an exciting first nine rounds of the South West Football League season the premiership picture is starting to become clearer. Or is it?
After finishing sixth in the past two years, Donnybrook are a game clear on top of the ladder at the mid-way point of 2018, with Bunbury hot on their heels and five teams on 20 premiership points.
Surprisingly, pre-season premiership fancies the Collie Eagles and Harvey Bulls sit on the bottom of the table with just two wins.
At this point last season, Carey Park were without a win, the Magpies had just the four points and Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault were undefeated, albeit with two draws.
As they say, 12 months is a long time in football.
The surprise packet of 2018 has been Carey Park.
Last year their only joy was a draw, but this year they have shown they are a shot at the premiership.
Before the season started, coach Richard Barnard was still preaching development in his younger players.
“As long as we are moving forward I am happy,” he told the South Western Times back in April. “I haven’t changed my coaching philosophies from last year to this.”
Barnard’s ability to change the club’s culture has worked profoundly, with five wins from nine games.
At the other end we have the Eagles and the Bulls, who have struggled to have a real impact.
There was plenty of optimism around both camps this pre-season and I bought into it, believing both would be pushing for a premiership.
The Eagles have been destroyed by injuries to both local players and their big name recruits.
Key forward Joel Houghton has played just three games because of a serious hand injury, while former AFL star Ryan Crowley lasted just two games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
What is wrong with the Bulls? I cannot quite put my finger on it.
The loss of coach Paul Fimmano might have had an impact on the playing group, but I am sure they trust Brendon Jones to lead them well. As for the rest, well the next few weeks will decide their fate.
Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault are still playing good enough football to go deep into finals, but they need to find some consistency.
We may know a little bit more after the Lions clash with league-leaders Donnybrook this Sunday at VC Mitchell Park.
Bunbury brought back forward Matt Martin to help them increase their scoring and are still as dangerous as ever, while South Bunbury have plenty of young, exciting talent that is hungry to win.
The Eaton Boomers have recruited strongly and if it all clicks in the next nine rounds, they will be very dangerous.
The race for the competition’s top individual award, the Hayward Medal, is as tight as the one for the premiership.
Dual Hayward medallist Jesse Gribble is a chance to become just the third man to ever win a trifecta of awards, while Chris Atthowe could finally go from bridesmaid to the top.
South Bunbury’s Liam McKenna is a genuine star and could surprise many with a win in the count, while Boomers’ midfielder Michael Thompson is sure to catch the umpires’ eyes.
Then there is the ever-underrated Shane Cristaldi, who is still as consistent as ever.
The big question for the week is, will we be closer to any answers come Sunday afternoon?
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