Senior Men's State League: Season Summary

Season 2011 boasts what is probably the most even state league competition in recent memory.State League Shield Three time defending premiers Williamstown have come back into the pack during the season while Footscray and Surrey Park have taken some big leaps forward. Surrey Park go into the finals as the minor premier for the first time since the early 1990's and Footscray, led by coach Max Madonia and player/assistant coach former Eltham star Daniel Stiglich, are right in the mix as well. Perennial powerhouse, Eltham have dropped off the pace somewhat but are not without a glimmer of hope as they scraped into finals ahead of a fast finishing Malvern and will be buoyed by a season saving win two weeks ago against third placed Footscray. Before we analyse the finals scene lets run through the fortunes of the other State League teams from 2011 and see what they can take from 2011 into season 2012.

Chadstone - while some may see the club coming into State League and not registering a win as an ominous sign for the Redbacks, it is not all doom and gloom, in fact quite the opposite. The team that managed to win its first senior flag in Division 1 in a long time has been able to blood some young players into the State League ranks and with the Lee brothers, Hayden and Jarryd impressing at College and at recruiting camps in the US the club has a stable of players which with some canny recruiting and help from the U.S. Chaddy will make progress soon. 

Caulfield - the second last placing for the season does not reflect how competitive the Caulfield team was this season. With new playing jerseys and a new club logo brought in with the appointment of  attackman David Trizulnik as President, Caulfield played a high scoring brand of lacrosse which unfortunately was not supported at the other end of the field despite the efforts of Victorian team goalkeeper, Tim Forbes and stalwart John Tokarua. The Pride actually won more games than Camberwell but a lack of bonus points meant that they slipped under the 'Wells in the end.

Camberwell - the 'Wells were missing a couple of classy finishers and someone to help stalwart Clinton Lander who despite injury this year managed to power through and throw a lot of goals for the season. With Joel Eason, Oliver Casey and Matt Kerr Jr all developing as players Camberwell could make huge strides in the next few years but it will take a mountain of effort in recruiting and retention of players. 

MCC - Melbourne's story is not so different from Caulfield's. On wins alone they actually earned 4th spot and a chance at the finals with 9 wins which is more than Malvern and Eltham on 7 and 8 respectively. With gun forwards Jake Egan and Marty Hyde out of the country playing in the Australian Indoor team for a number of weeks it was always going to be hard yakka for MCC. Aided by South Australian import Clinton Barker in the goals MCC were extremely competitive, recording big wins over Eltham and Malvern towards the end of the season. 

Malvern - It was a tale of two seasons for Malvern. Having picked up former Surrey Park standout Nick LeGuen and keeping a solid core of local players the early season was strong but did not produce the wins required to stay in the hunt for finals. However, after picking up four quality American imports in key positions Malvern would go on to shape the season well and only miss out on finals but the barest margin. With better luck on the injury front season 2012 looms as a promising one for Malvern.
So now we can have a look at the finalists. The finals have the same teams as 2010 but this time Williamstown are not clear front runners. Indeed there is an argument to put them a clear third behind Surrey Park on Footscray given the way that the season has panned out.
Let's have a look at the teams.

Eltham - Over the last few seasons Eltham has slowly lost the services of Darren Nicholas, Keith Nyberg, Tim Fry, Ben Fleming, Jason Brammall, Daniel Stiglich, Scott Menze and Caleb Hall. Those names alone formed the nucleus of premierships, state teams and national teams and no club could be expected to lose those skills and experience and remain at the peak of its game. Thankfully for Eltham their depth and the injection of some American players has meant that the drop off has not been as sharp as it could have been. Steve Mackey, Wade Hammond and Lachlan Ross held down the fort allowing a bevy of youngsters to gain experience in State League. The Panthers are still in with a chance to shape the 2011 finals on the strength of beating Footscray recently and playing Williamstown to a close game but a thumping at the hands of Surrey Park makes it seem unlikely that they'll progress to the Grand Final.

Footscray - Five seasons ago Footscray were not even in State League so to the rise to the top in 2010 and again in 2011 is a monumental effort by the club in its 50th anniversary season. By bringing in former Australian Women's Team coach Max Madonia, imports Jack Mooney, Joe Thon and Adam Geier and former Eltham star, Daniel Stiglich the Bulldogs have been able to complement a solid crop of similarly aged players who have come up through the ranks together. Despite ending up third on the ladder only by percentage they spent much of the season in first spot and carry heavy expectations into this finals series. 

Williamstown -  Winning three premierships on the trot is no easy feat and this season Williamstown set out to win a fourth and thereby match the efforts of such powerhouse teams as  Eltham's team of the mid 2000s, Williamstown teams of the late 1990's and 1970's and Malvern teams of the 1950's. Defending the shield without the likes of Wes Green, Ben Newman and Ryan and Matt Garnsworthy is no easy task and despite three heavy in season losses to Surrey Park and Footscray the Fearon's have been able to claw their way into the second spot on the ladder and mount a challenge to Surrey Park on the back of even scoring performances and strong midfield work. The stable of older heads in Kyle Morlang, Darren Nicholas and Sam Marquard gives Williamstown a glut of experience in tough situations.

Surrey Park -  Although Footscray and Williamstown are equal on wins with Surrey Park, the fact that Surrey thumped the rest of the top four in recent outings suggests that they're the hot favourites and thoroughly earned the minor premiership. Picking up a couple of imports has plugged gaps for Surrey that have brought them undone in previous seasons. Especially with import face-off Evan Roberts who not only competes at the face but scores goals consistently too. Surrey's game is built around a stingy defence lead by goalkeeper Chris Tillotson and wiry defender Andrew Ham. They go into the finals as firm favourites in a bid to win their first State League flag in 18 years. 

Overall this has been a stellar season on the field we can only hope that the finals series brings as much interest as the home and away season! Well done to all and best of luck to all in the finals race.


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