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RMFL preview: Time to tally goals, medal votes and memories
Commentators Matt Hood and Shane Snell offer their tips ahead of the final round of the River Murray Football League‘s home-and-away season for 2023.
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The River Murray Football League’s first season as a nine-team competition will draw to a close this weekend.
The Mallee Storm, Tailem Bend, Mannum and Ramblers will each be up against it in their farewell matches for the year, but there will still be a lot to play for.
Top spot on the ladder is up for grabs, there are vital Mail Medal votes to be had, and Sam Sanders and Josh Scott will be vying for the league goal-kicking title.
Here to preview it all are RMFL commentators Matt Hood and Shane Snell.
Mannum v Southern Mallee
Is it better to finish in top spot and have a rest for the first week of finals, or finish second and stay sharp all the way through?
“It’ll come down to percentage between the Suns and Jervois,” Snell said.
“Jervois would possibly like it, due to one or two injuries they’ve got, and all the sore bodies.”
But Hood reckoned the former Mallee league premiers would come out fighting for the title in this week’s broadcast match: “the Suns would love to finish top and show everyone they’re up and about”.
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Mannum had a late-season high point last week when they beat the Storm, and have enjoyed consistency from likely best-and-fairest Jake Keller and Dylan Ribbons all season.
But they’re likely to come crashing back down to earth on Saturday.
“The Suns are going to do it easy,” Hood said.
“They’ve got too many stars, and their bottom 10 are better than Mannum’s bottom 10.
“But it will still be a good game for a half.”
If you’re on the lookout for a Mail Medal smoky, there will be several on the field in orange and grey, but Rory O’Driscoll, Ben Moroney, Thomas Keough and co will likely take enough votes off each other that none will get up in the final count.
Matt’s tip: Southern Mallee
Shane’s tip: Southern Mallee
Watch the game: Visit www.facebook.com/rivermurrayfl from 2.15pm on Saturday.
Jervois v Ramblers
Jervois may opt to rest a few players in this match, even as they aim to close out a 16-0 season.
Fifty-goal man Josh Scott, three back of Sanders for the league lead, will be the biggest question mark after leaving the field late in last week’s win over Imperials.
He’d been playing on a sore knee, but Hood suggested he may also have taken a knock to the head – “he probably needs a week off”.
Dylan Barry could be another one to come out.
It would be great to see reserves gun Michael Pope come up and get a game, Snell said, but that would be difficult to manage points-wise.
In the Mail Medal race, Zane Barry, Scott and Taite Silverlock will be among the Bluds to watch this weekend.
Alex Pfeiffer might well be Ramblers’ highest vote-getter this year despite having missed half the season; Aaron Pratt would be another candidate if the umpires gave him any votes.
“Ramblers bring the effort,” Snell said.
“They have played some good footy, including last weekend.
“The nucleus there, they won’t lie down, they’ll want it.”
Another player to watch will be 350-gamer Jarrad Weyland, who has had a late-season rennaissance – could this be the last match of his long career?
Matt’s tip: Jervois
Shane’s tip: Jervois
Mallee v Coorong
The Storm and Cats have taken different paths during their debut season in the River Murray league, but Mallee’s record did not reflect the outstanding things they had achieved off the field, Snell said.
“The Storm have got a bit to do over the summer, they know that, in the area of their juniors in particular,” he said.
“This season has been more of a learning curve for them, a watch-and-observe year.
“(But) there was doom and gloom around (last season), their juniors were playing five-a-side.
“Now when they’re pulling on a jumper you can see the joy on their faces: they’ve got new outfits, a new identity, and this year even with half the amount of home games they’ve exceeded their normal revenue.”
There was hope for next year, too: the likes of Michael Leonard and Riley Bowles were quality, they would have more player points to play with if their recruits stayed, and an extra four or five bodies would make them more competitive.
This Saturday at Karoonda, though, the Cats will be firm favourites.
Sam Ploenges and centre half-forward Charlie Fisher are both in doubt with knee injuries, but Patrick Barrett should come back in and fill any hole in the forward line.
Meanwhile, Sam Sanders will hope to get both hands on the league goal-scoring title.
Hood said he had been a brilliant focal point all year: “he really gives them a target, he turns on a dime and leads right up the field”.
On-ballers Brad Thompson and Alex Stidiford were always good, and ex-AFLer Brodie Martin gave them versatility, since he could be deployed in the back line, up forward or at centre clearances.
Matt’s tip: Coorong
Shane’s tip: Coorong
Tailem Bend v Mypolonga
This season was always going to be a challenge for the Eagles given the number of players they lost in the off season.
But Snell predicted they were on track for better results as the 2020s rolled on.
“Tailem have got a big future,” he said.
“Their junior group has been competitive and successful over the last four or five years; they just need to bring them on.
“They’re going to come out of the under-18s and need to get 70 or 80 games under their belts to be really dominant players.
“This week will be about getting a look at some of those.”
For Mypo, the goal will be to keep their form ahead of an already locked-in date with the Cats a week from now.
“Sometimes that’s not a good thing,” Hood warned.
“They could go out and have a 20-goal win … then, the following week, go out and get beaten badly.
“They’ll have to be careful of that.”
Players to watch will include captain-coach Nathan Stark for the Eags and Jack Kluske, Mitch Bowley, Riley Robinson and Todd Howson for the Tiges.
Matt’s tip: Mypolonga
Shane’s tip: Mypolonga