Boots and All: Imperials are on the slide

Peter Dalwood previews round 14, 2021 in the River Murray Football League.

This post was contributed by Peter Dalwood, and is the author’s personal opinion.

The depth at Imperials will be tested this week.

They have slid to fourth spot and face a tough run home and I can’t see them regaining the double chance.

I’d say Scott McMahon is coaching for his life or a contract extension for next year, but facing Jervois – who take no prisoners – he has been backed into a corner with several key players sidelined with long-term injuries.

Imperials have been carrying a handful of players for a few weeks.

Some young players have plateaued and haven’t reached the natural improvement expected, and they are relying on the old firm.

Luke Harrowfield is still their best player, but last week they rolled out Daniel Girdham, who enlisted in the Boer War.

He has been a great old soldier for the club and reminds one of a coach in waiting.

God help Imperials if John the Boras goes down, as he is limping through the minor rounds but still averaging seven goals a game.

Dwayne Wilson has got the talent – he’s brilliant at times – but he misses more than he plays.

At the moment Imperials are the fourth best team in the competition and clubs are lining up to play them as they sense a soft target.

Ryan Farnham and Aiden Morrell have had their moments, but the big jobs are in front of James Clarke and Lui DeMichele, the big man Tony Gibson and gun forward Josh Scott, as Scott and Boras go head to head towards the 100-goal target.

The top end of talent at Jervois in coach Tate Silverlock, Adam Diamond, Zane Barry, Peter Zarantonello, plus Scott and Gibson gives them too much firepower going forward.

Imperials need to signal their intent early.

Plan A: win the game, first and foremost.

Start McMahon in the midfield and use his bulk, experience and football smarts; try to move the ball quickly; and try to isolate the Jervois defence one-on-one with John the Boras.

Jervois’ weakness is its defence, but can Imperials exploit it?

It’s better to win by one point than lose by 10 goals.

Plan B: start McMahon in defence, take on Josh Scott and limit the damage.

The coach’s position in the first five minutes will tell the mindset.

Jervois by 31 to 40 points.

Ramblers v Mannum

The review at Ramblers is underway.

A select committee of insiders has allegedly been formed to review the Reds’ performance, both on and off the field.

It will be interesting to see the outcome, as a couple of heavyweights at the club must be on thin ice.

But look at the positives: they have the best fence in SA country football.

The fence surrounding Le Messurier Oval wouldn’t be out of place at the Tokyo Olympics.

I’m not sure if the fence is to keep the Roosters in or the foxes out.

On the field, senior coach Alex Button must be feeling the pressure.

His team is made up of a few veterans and some young kids and it must be a privilege for them to play Mannum this week.

I hope the Reds show some respect and carry Mannum coach Wayne Knowles’ bags to the changerooms for him as he has the Roos in a rich vein of form, winning two in a row against teams below them on the ladder.

Mannum have slipped into the top three and with a kind draw they should hold the double chance.

Knowles gets very nervous approaching finals.

He must suffer from vertigo – he doesn’t like to get too high up the ladder, as he remembers 2020 and he also knows the club’s favorite son, Ben Quinn, is waiting in the wings.

Contracts mean nothing in this business.

Mannum showed enough last week with experienced pair Michael O’Malley and Zac Bullard, but they need a lift from the big man Tommy Lee Russo.

He started well but fell out of the game when confronted with stiff opposition.

The Roos are playing a heap of young kids in Chad Reschke, Brody Maloney and Declan Gladigau, along with a number of others who are still feeling their way, with the one common denominator being their fathers were all champions on and off the field.

The Reds will play finals because Mypolonga and Meningie have booked holidays in September.

They are a club that leaks goals and doesn’t kick big scores, and that is not a recipe for success.

They rely on Matt Hartman to lead the rucks and they wheeled out “Tickle Me Elmo” last week, which was a major selection shock.

Shannon Callery is coming along, Jacob Trevorrow gives them some pace but they will need to be at their best to knock the Roos off this week.

It’s at Mannum’s favorite ground, they love Le Messurier Oval and they just have to get the job done.

Nothing fancy, get the points, retain the double chance and go home.

Mannum by 11 to 20 points.

Meningie v Tailem Bend

Tailem Bend are coming off the bye and travel to Meningie to get a confidence boost before the major round.

Have Tailem improved or has the competition slipped?

I believe it’s the latter but it’s terrific to see the Eagles up and about.

The bloke they need up and about is the big forward, Connor Smelt.

He started the season in a blaze of glory but has dropped off in recent weeks, and rumour has it he is suffering an injury.

Nothing that a 100-pound note won’t fix but he has a fair way to go to knock his dad off as the greatest forward to ever set foot on Jaensch Park.

I know that’s correct, as he told me himself.

Ben Hansen coasted two weeks ago against Imperials and did what he had to do to get the points.

He would be pleased with the effort of Ben Rossi and Tom Geyer, and Nick Westoff was clearly the best on ground – his ruck work and around-the-ground effort was outstanding.

His brother Harry rejoins the Eagles this week, another 6’3” defender to add to the list.

They got the job done two weeks ago nearly off the back of the past players’ reunion, who had lubricated their throats with a cleansing ale or two, but I’m not convinced yet.

They remind me of Melbourne in the AFL.

Melbourne hasn’t won a big final since 1964.

Tailem Bend has hardly played a final since 2000.

They need to finish top to see if they can handle the expectations of finals pressure.

Don’t worry, it’s a very nervous president Tony Hughes who is trying to keep a lid on it despite some punters wanting to order the T-shirts.

Smelt and Jacob Wilson are firing and Jordan Bell gives them that third forward option.

Go to Meningie, enjoy the hospitality of the 123-year-old club but, most of all, be humble, as it wasn’t so long ago that amalgamation was in your thoughts.

Meningie have been brave this season but outclassed.

Adam Moller has done a fair job of keeping them together.

I have known Adam for a number of years; he has had some memorable moments as a player, some not-so-memorable, but he has developed into a healer with the players.

How about healing big forward Darcy Spinks?

He will never win a medal for sprinting.

Players such as Sam Sanders, Peter Reichelt, Brody Vandenbrink and Jimmy Lawson are blokes you want in the trenches with you.

If I was in a punch-up in the Meningie Hotel, Greg Saddlier would be the bloke you would want alongside you.

But this is football.

Tailem Bend will be looking for a boost in percentage and will get up by 100 points.


You can help keep local stories like this one free for everyone to read. Subscribe to Murray Bridge News today and support your independent, locally owned news service, plus get access to exclusive stories you won’t find anywhere else, for just $5.50 a month.