Australia: Gridiron Victoria – Mid season report

Australia’s Gridiron Victoria is heading into the final half of the 10 game regular season with a full slate of games this weekend. With the Western Crusaders on top of the six-team league with a 6-0 record, Jamie Stafford grades each of the teams.

Well, the College Football Sydney Cup is upon us and that means one thing for the tired and sore bodies (this intrepid reporter included) in Gridiron Victoria’s Division 1: A league mandated week off! Which seems as good a time as any for us to grade the 6 teams clamouring over each other for a spot in the playoffs. Think of this as your mid-season report card. Are you heading off to Camp Krusty with no false modesty? Or will your team’s week off be filled with chores and running errands for a disappointed Mum and Dad? Let’s find out, in alphabetical order or course. Roll Call!

Croydon Rangers (4 wins, 2 losses, 2nd Place in the Standings) – Grade: B Minus

Photo: Barend van den Hoek

In keeping with the classroom theme, from the outside looking in it would appear that Croydon are the long-time honour student who seems to be coasting this semester, doing just enough to get by but are not their usual hard working, efficient self. Maybe they have a girlfriend for the first time and their focus is directed elsewhere. The reality is they are not the team they once were, not even close, and a distinct lack of physical athletic ability, desire and size is being exposed against quality opposition. It will take some hardcore cramming from players such as Trevor Osborne, Liam Fordham, James Arthur and Tyson Burgess if they are to turn in an A Paper at the end of the season.

Geelong Buccaneers (2 wins, 4 losses, 4th Place in the Standings) – Grade: C Minus

Photo: Barend van den Hoek

Geelong are the equivalent of that forward thinking student in their second last year of high school, who are smart enough to know that this year doesn’t really have too huge an impact on their academic future. The Buccs are clearly in a rebuilding mode, and as long as they continue to get experience into their rookies, they will have a shot landing that full scholarship to Brown next year. While rebuilding, they are still a formidable unit on game day led this year by Elliot Webb and Brad O’Toole, while the play on defence from rookie DB Corie Hale has been especially encouraging, and emblematic of their “Senior Year to make it work” approach.

Melbourne University Royals (1 win, 5 losses, 5th Place in the Standings) – Grade: D

Photo: Barend van den Hoek

We all remember this guy: Picked up Glandular Fever (or maybe an STD) in the summer and the promise they showed in class the previous year has not resulted in improved grades this year due to frequent absences. The Royals have been hit hard by the injury bug, and with a sympathetic, progressive and understanding Head Coach in John Trana, have avoided a dreaded first half “F” due to this. I expect them to be a much stronger team in the run home, and last week’s upset win by the Predators over the Buccs is the make-up exam they needed to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Despite all this, play from Demontrez Simington, Dylan Letoga and Marlon Cummings has been honour roll worthy.

Monash Warriors (4 wins, 2 losses, 3rd Place in the Standings) – Grade: C

Photo: Barend van den Hoek

Monash are the brooding, misunderstood bad boys of this classroom. Clearly intelligent and capable of good grades when they decide to flip the switch, their teachers wonder if they really even care about their in semester assessment tasks (they’ve been handing in work with pizza stains on it). Smart money says that when the end of year exams roll around, as in past years, we’ll start to see some A+ work from this very capable outfit. Right now they are getting quality play out of their defence, in particular from Robert Bettles and Michael Erpelding, which is masking their problems on offence without bell cow running back Luke Jackson.

South Eastern Predators (1 win, 5 losses, 5th Place in the Standings) – Grade: D Minus

Photo: Barend van den Hoek

You’ve got to love the spirit of the Predators, that kid who was born a few weeks premature and as a result is a little more under-developed than the rest of his classmates. But, to his credit, instead of staying down a grade like some of the other boys, he is determined to stay in his year level and work through this rough patch in his life. This great attitude was rewarded last week with their first win of the season, and I anticipate many more as the young talent on this team continues to develop. Led on both sides of the ball by RB/DB Ben Clark, and ably supported by Lachlan Haynes, Jesse Sporton and Liam McGrath, I look forward to seeing this team get better each week and each season.

Western Crusaders (6 wins, 0 losses, 1st Place in the Standings) – Grade: A Plus

Photo: Barend van den Hoek

In a class by themselves, and the extra tutoring they have been getting from Coaching double act Craig Wilson and Glenn Parke has really been paying off. Have aced every pop quiz, assignment and test thrown at them so far, and the list of honour students on this roll is almost endless. Tyson Garnham, Andrew Healy, Prince Coleman, Aristotle Hua, Kenneth Bennett, Sammy and Harrison De Lai, Jnala Saluni and Hayden Brown are all having outstanding seasons and seem hell bent on leading this team to the promised land. It would seem that only a poorly timed teen pregnancy could derail their perfect school year, and leave them a credit point short come graduation.

Photos: Barend van den Hoek, Barendphotos.com

Jamie Stafford
Jamie Stafford has been involved in American Football in Australia since 1998, when he started playing as a teenager. Outside of playing the greatest game in the world as quarterback for the Croydon Rangers, Jamie was a main contributor of content for Gridiron Victoria Television, and now contributes as a writer for gridirondownunder.com and as a host for The Vault Going Local Podcast.
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