Boots and All: Round one will be season-defining for RMFL clubs

Veteran football writer Peter Dalwood resurrects his provocative column for Murray Bridge News with a preview of the 2021 River Murray Football League season.

This post was contributed by Peter Dalwood. Murray Bridge News is publishing Boots and All on a trial basis. Send your feedback to peri@murraybridge.news.

Tailem Bend v Meningie

It may appear ridiculous to define a round one game as season-defining, but only one of Tailem Bend or Meningie will play finals.

Tailem Bend are the traditional March champions.

They traditionally boast 35 on the track but they never tell you about the quality.

If the Eagles lose in round one, coach Corey Smelt will be scouring the “positions vacant” in next week’s Sunday Mail as he is starting to run out of time.

He may be an acquaintance of mine, but it’s a results-driven game and I – like most Tailem Bend followers – am sick of excuses; just give me results.

Meningie, everybody’s second-favorite club, just want to be competitive.

If they can run the Eagles deep into the last term and score an honorable loss, they will be happy.

The biggest challenge Meningie face is figuring out whether the good folk of this village want their football club to survive as, let’s be honest, they are on life support, like many others in similar positions.

The Bears have a new coach in Adam Moller, and alongside him in spirit is his best friend, “the greatest”, Tim Richards.

Richards is the most decorated coach in the River Murray Football League and he saves his best for grand final day, where his record at Meningie and Jervois is unequalled.

It’s hard to gauge the recruits for every club, as the RMFL has placed a complete ban on publication of all transfers in and out of the competition (editor’s note: I understand this ban has since been lifted).

I will hereafter refer to the RMFL as the “Kremlin” – obviously they feel that the clubs and the punters are not mature enough to digest this information and, in their wisdom, have censored it.

So it’s off to the FOI (Freedom of Information) office to uncover this information, which is obviously a danger to the state and the nation.

It’s wonderful to see Sam Sanders back with the Bears.

His father was a gun and his grandfather was an absolute champion and to see Sam return from the jam and scones league, the YPFL, is a boost for the Bears.

Tailem Bend have regained Westoff, and Finnie looked good at times last year, but for the Eagles to progress they need Ben Hansen to fire.

He is injury prone but when he is up and about he is among the best in the competition.

Big forward Connor Smelt, however, has to add another string to his bow – he can’t expect to sit at full forward and look like Popeye.

He has to become a more rounded player, not a one-trick pony, as he has some ability; maybe a run in defence would sharpen him up.

All things taken into consideration, I am tipping Tailem Bend by 31 to 40 points.

Mypolonga v Imperials

Going, going, gone: new coach Matt Lindner has inherited a broken outfit at Mypolonga.

His strength is in youth coaching but he has inherited a club that didn’t want to play in 2020.

They had a pretty good list in 2020 after winning the 2017-19 grand final, but in 2020 a sooky la la attitude seeped through every facet of this club.

Moss, Taggert, Butler, Davis, Gogel, Diment and Hooper are allegedly gone; these players are household names in this humble league, and that’s only those we know of. 

Imperials are just ticking over nicely.

They have picked up the general, Harley Montgomery, obviously a grandson of the famed WWII leader Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery.

They will have a dual-pronged attack led by Johnny Boras and Sam DeMichele, although DeMichele copped an injury out of last week’s trial game which is of some concern.

The Blues will be looking to Dwayne Wilson for a lift, but he has a habit of missing more than he plays.

The key to Imperials’ success lies with Sean Samblich and Dylan Hollitt.

Hollitt won last year’s best and fairest but Samblich is the clincher.

If they get him for the season he could win the Kremlin B&F.

Coached by the former 120 game North Melbourne veteran Scott McMahon, a pretty smart coach and the general in the back half.

He doesn’t get flustered, he is patient, he holds the ball when in possession and he always hits the target.

I would put the family jewels on Imperials making the top three as they are relatively settled and they have more coaches than Greyhound. 

The late mail suggests that due to the early season start Rory Taggert and James Moss may make a cameo appearance for the Tigers in the early games; they are high quality players who would give the young players a boost.

It’s also rumored ex-coach Ryan Lewis may saddle up – do us all a favor Ryan, give us a break.

They are patient folk at Mypolonga; I just hope they are gentle with Lindner, as he is going to need the wisdom of Job and the patience of Methuselah to survive.

Imperials by 31 to 40 points.

Mannum v Ramblers

Mannum coach Wayne Knowles is a coach under pressure.

It’s his third year in charge and you can find excuses in his first year, but in 2020 they had a handy list which capitulated in the finals.

They didn’t handle the pressure, while Ramblers, who had a pretty poor year, stitched them up easily in the finish.

Wayne, at the risk of repeating myself: don’t give me excuses, give me results.

They have picked up Dylan Ribbons, but the mail on him is that he is banged up and is a week-to-week proposition.

They have lost last year’s medallist, Adam Smyth, and Liam Newton but that means some promising kids are going to get a chance.

I’m sure we will see another cameo from that great old soldier, Ben Quinn, but maybe just add a push bike to the interchange bench to help him along.

At least they have retained Michael O’Malley, the best defender in SA country football and maybe the man who saves Knowles’ career.

Ramblers, with four wins, had a below-average 2020 but they still won a final and the history books will show a third place finish.

That finish saved the bacon of coach Alex Button, as it was the best result the Roosters could have hoped for.

Everything is new at Ramblers, from the boot studder to the top brass in Travis Schubert and Jason Borman.

It will a steep learning curve taking over from “King” Richard Hein, who can now return to his strength of chief judge of the sheep at the Murray Bridge show.

Gun ruckman Matt Hartmann, the number one ruckman in the RMFL, has allegedly returned, which is a boost for the Reds but a kick in the guts for Meningie.

They take the road trip to the MCG, the Mannum Cricket Ground, first up.

It’s ground that’s hard to win on early due to its size, plus it can be quite intimidating.

It’s the only known venue that Ashton’s Circus never worked because the lions were too scared to come out of the cage due to the ferocity of the Mannum spectators.

The smart money is on the Reds, as Ramblers win the games that count, but come Saturday it will be Mannum by 11 to 20 points.


Sections of this article have been edited since it was originally published.

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