Boots and All: Top-of-the-table clash beckons at the Bend

Peter Dalwood previews round seven of the 2021 season in the River Murray Football League.

This post was contributed by Peter Dalwood.

Tailem Bend v Jervois – is this a grand final prelude, or are Tailem Bend downhill skiers?

The Eagles are coming off a bye and a chance to freshen up, whereas Jervois are gaining momentum and confidence with each start.

The 2021 season is a marathon, not a sprint, and the end result on Saturday won’t affect the ladder much at all.

Tailem Bend are shooting the lights out, averaging 24 goals per game, and currently have the tightest defence in the competition.

They haven’t put a foot wrong all season and we all expect them to have a hiccup at some stage.

Ben Hansen must be pinching himself with the dream opening and his leadership has been exemplary.

Jervois’ top-end players – Josh Scott, Josh Woodall, Adam Diamond and Michael Pope – are as good as we have got but they strike an opponent at the top of their game.

Connor Smelt is providing the target, sitting on 36 goals and averaging over seven goals per game.

Jordan Bell has been a surprise with his pace and elusiveness around goal; Nick Westoff has given the Eagles a ruckman who takes a lot of marks around the ground and can almost double as an extra midfielder; and the veteran Dylan Hogarth has shown that you don’t have to be the enforcer and copy Jimmy Caruthers, just get out on your own and play your role.

By the way, he should  thank Cory Smelt for reviving his career.

The pick-up players in Tom Geyer and Ben Rossi are new to the league but we need a bigger snapshot of them to get an accurate gauge on them. 

The coaches’ love child, Daniel Perks: some punters think he is new to this humble league but he has been around a good portion of this century and is bursting into interleague calculations.

At this stage, at the end of round six, coming off a week to freshen up, a win for Tailem Bend would give them a two-game gap heading into the second round of matches and a nice springboard for the remainder of the season.

Win the midfield, win the game on the toy ground.

All the Jervois strength is in the midfield and forward and it will be a massive job to contain Josh Scott, the best player in the competition.

Tailem Bend by one to 10 points.

Imperials v Ramblers

Imperials went down last week because they ran out of players.

Five first choice players were unavailable for various reasons, two of their experienced players were off before half time and two of the young players, Ryan Farnham and Braden Martin, were unable to finish on the ground.

To top the day off, John the Boras and Sam DeMichele were both receiving treatment at the last change.

It was a bad day.

The Roosters have no high expectations but they have been known to pull something out of the bag against their crosstown rivals.

They are inexperienced and many are lightly built, but they catch an Imperial side smarting after last week and they will be very keen to shore up a top-three spot.

We are all hoping John the Boras will line up; if he kicks seven, Imperials win, plus he will test the younger lighter Reds defence physically and mentally.

The Blues have a weakness in ruck.

Josh Ritter and Ryan Farnham will take on Matt Hartman, who many consider the best in the business.

He will give the Reds first look but they need big games from Aaron Pratt, Clint Walker and Jacob Trevorrow to even be around the mark.

The Blues would be pleased with the efforts of Nathan Daish: he is a goer, he is tough and he doesn’t shirk the issue.

Angas Day is another who showed a bit with cut-through on his left foot and he possesses a nice turn of foot.

Over the past two weeks, Imperial coach Scott McMahon has a couple of minor altercations with the peanut vendors outside the playing arena.

A pattern has emerged that this has occurred following two losses.

Now, the Roosters have some of the best peanut vendors in the world.

If they get a sniff in the last term, history suggests he may cop some of the best running commentary going around, especially if one of their all-time greats, Mick O’Neil, bobs up – he takes no prisoners.

Imperials stumbled last week but they will get a few back and should give Ramblers a fair touch-up.

Imperials by 61 to 70 points.

Mypolonga v Mannum

Mannum coach Wayne Knowles raised the bar last week with a stroke of genius when he selected three 16-year-olds who all had big moments against an opponent who has had the mental edge on him.

Remember the names Chad Reschke, Declan Gladigau and Brodie Moloney because if they don’t make it at a higher level, the worst they will end up is very high quality players for Mannum in the future.

It was a brave selection move by Knowles and his match committee.

It was also timely for him, as his name is being bandied about in the corridors of power regarding the upcoming Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Mannum got the job done mainly due to two old soldiers in Dylan Ribbons and Jake Keller, who remained calm after trailing most of the day, but when the opportunity came they rook it.

Ribbons turned back the clock – I honestly believe when he donned the green and gold of Mannum he thought he was playing for Australia – while Keller, who is a very smart player, cleaned up on the Anzac Medal. 

It’s a simple game but if you can’t score you can’t win and that’s why it’s tough going for the Tigers, who average seven goals a game and concede 15.

Saturday is really a neighborhood stoush with Mannum in the hunt for the top three while the Tigers are resigned to a five-year rebuild.

I look at that grand old warrior Joel Eckermann, one of the Tigers’ finest both on and off the field.

He loves this club and is working his butt off to develop the Tigers’ young players – and he would be the first to admit he doesn’t need a push bike, he needs a Harley Davidson – but he plays the game with effort, endeavour and a big heart.

Kobe Wilson is improving; his dad, “Sweet William”, was a state country player and he may give him a bit of coaching Friday night on how to tackle the jolly green giant at Mannum, Blake Webster.

The Tigers don’t have a lot of size about them, while Mannum have a nice mix in Blake Tabe, Isaac Hampel and some very smart kids who are not expected to dominate but will play a role.

The most nervous man in Mannum is Mayor Dave Burgess, as deep down he knows if Wayne Knowles keeps going on this hot streak and he decides to run for mayor at the next council elections it’s bye bye Dave.

The big boy has got momentum and he would love a lunch at the Mid Murray Council canteen with a bottle of Mick Heward’s finest Grange Hermitage to wash the lobster down.

Mannum by 61 to 70 points.

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