CHFL’s post-lockdown post season
FOLLOWING the latest COVID lockdown, finals have been confirmed for the Central Highlands Football League.
The early end to the season means Bungaree, Newlyn and Clunes have missed out.
The Demons left there run too late, despite winning their last four games, a horrid start to the season was just too detrimental to their finals ambitions.
The Cats had their fair share of injury concerns with Marcus Darmondy only managing the two games and the s Sewell Brothers running on for six combined. Credit to first year coach, Chris Banwell, for keeping his side in contention with limited talent.
Finally, the fairytale story of the Magpies has come to an end with only one win out of their last five not enough to keep them in finals hunt after a remarkable start.
However, the year must go on (or so we hope) so let’s take an in-depth look into the sides that will feature in September.
2021 record: 7-0-3 (fifth)
CHFL premierships: 2002
Keys to Success: Derrick Micallef, Geoffrey Lovett, Jack Robertson
It has been an indifferent year for the 2019 minor premiers. An up and down season has highlighted their ‘Hollywood’ style of play meaning the Bombers’ good and bad is pretty far in-between. They are heavily reliant on veteran Derrick Micallef who is still chasing that elusive CHFL premiership since jumping across from North Ballarat. Fellow Ballarat Football League alumnus Geoffrey Lovett was a high-profile recruit and had a wonderful finals campaign in 2019, so we know he loves the big stage. Jack Robertson has been named the Bombers best three times this season so watch him be a focal point.
2021 record: 8-0-3 (fourth)
CHFL premierships: 1994, 1998, 1999
Keys to success: Will Henderson, Matthew Bulluss, Jack Leonard
Giant killers now giant contenders? A return to finals for the Towners for the first time since 2018 has been a joy to behold with the defensive structure implemented by Glenn Wilkins a key factor. Will Henderson has taken his game to a whole new level with the defender now one of the very best in the competition. To be any chance they’ll need Matthew Bulluss to kick multiple majors and rely on Jack Leonard to continue to be one of their best.
2021 record: 10-0-0 (first)
CHFL premierships: 1988
Keys to success: Adam Toohey, James Kelly, Shannon Byrnes
This year’s best side by a long way, the Eagles are firm favourites to take it out and win their first CHFL premiership in over 30 years. Captain Adam Toohey is always a forward headache for opposition coaches with his mix of speed and power too much to handle for small or key defenders. Ex-Geelong premiership players Shannon Byrnes and James Kelly have featured in four games with the duo knowing how to get it done in the big time.
2021 record: 8-1-1 (second)
CHFL premierships: 1985, 1986, 1989, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2017
Keys to success: Sam Dunstan, Andy McKay, Shylo Smith
The competition’s most successful team ever, the Burra are no strangers to finals footy. Sam Dunstan’s 73 goals in ten games will obviously make him a serious factor, Andy McKays speed always a danger, and a guy like Shylo Smith having the best season of his career. Gordon taught them a lesson earlier in the season, but their finals experience and just pure talent might give them an edge.
2021 record: 8-0-3 (third)
CHFL premierships: none
Keys to success: Luke Philp, Hamish Everett, Cam Richardson
An even spread of talent and an ability to generate plenty of shots on goal, the Hoppers know if they can take their chances, they can go all the way. Luke Philp has featured in his side’s best seven out of eleven times. Hamish Everett has only played the three games but the big man’s ruck craft is a huge weapon. Ex-AFL footballer Cam Richardson may be the x-factor with his ability to kick goals as a forward but also take game saving marks at the other end of the field an important catalyst.
2021 record: 7-0-4 (eighth)
CHFL premierships: None.
Keys to success: Andrew Pitson, Mitch Gilbert, Josh Draffin
Everyone’s dark horse this season has been the Emu, with their young talent list capable of rolling any side anywhere. A loss to Springbank in round 15 has seen them drop to eighth which is obviously not ideal but don’t let that fool you, they are going to be competitive in September.
2021 record: 7-0-4 (seventh)
CHFL Premierships: 1990, 2000, 2001, 2015, 2016
Keys to success: Billy Driscoll, Joel Mahar, Chris Quinlan
After winning their last five games, the Tigers go in as another smoky to do some damage. Billy Driscoll and Joel Mahar have been there before with the duo key parts of Springbank’s back-to-back premierships five years ago. With just nine goals in eleven games and named best in three, Chris Quinlan is an interesting case, however teams will be cautious of his racking left foot given that he is such a damaging big game player.
2021 record: 7-0-3 (sixth)
CHFL premierships: 1982, 2006, 2011, 2019
Keys to success: Lincoln Barnes, Austin Murphy, Tom Nash
Can the reigning premiers shock the footy world and go back-to-back? It is no secret the Roos haven’t been their dynamic best this season. But they have re-established the outsiders tag that was so successful for them one season ago. Lincoln Barnes is a favourite for this year’s league best and fairest and the ball magnet is set to have a big September. Austin Murphy booted 16 goals in seven games, highlighting issues in kicking winning scores week after week. Tom Nash is referred to as the glue of Matt James defence and they’ll be reliant on him to control things down back if they are any chance of surviving what is set to be a terrific finals series.