Big V 2015: State Championship Men Season Projections
With the Big V season underway for 2015, #TeamPnR’s Dean Zardo takes a look at how the State Championship Men’s clubs are stacking up for the campaign ahead.
Corio Bay: The Stingrays have lost some heavy artillery over the off-season but still remain one of the sides to beat in 2015. Despite being shorthanded in round one, they snuck home in overtime against McKinnon on the back of Ma’Alo Hicks and Michael Rebula, who looks to have stepped it up in the absences of 2014 imports Duane Johnson and Scooter Renkin, before coming home hard to overrun a valiant Diamond Valley 24 hours later. Triple-double machine Jason Reardon will again be the glue for his side, particularly early while they finalise their roster and search for a second import to pair with the 6’9” Jordan Latham.
Credit: Big V Media
Ringwood: The defending champion Hawks cruised in round one against Melbourne and will again be the benchmark of the league in 2015. New recruit Matt Fennell will provide the Hawks with scoring and rebounding help, but import signings Nate Champion and Tate Unruh look to be the goods and will ensure their side loses nothing after Bryan Dougher and Marcus Ruh both left at the end of 2014. Champion netted himself 27 points against the Tigers while Unruh was quiet with just seven but comes to Australia with a reputation as a flat-out scorer.
Waverley: The Falcons may well prove to be the biggest improvers and perhaps should deserve to be touted as title favourites based on what we saw in the pre-season and round one. After taking out the pre-season tournament in a weakened field, the Falcons opened the season proper with two resounding victories, accounting for Sherbrooke by 18 before backing it up with a 30-point thumping of Bulleen the next day. Ivan Platenik continues to be a picture of consistency while veteran Chris Cameron is the centre they have been desperately searching for to take them to the next level. Sharp-shooting talent Chris Arkell is a key to the Falcons’ success, with his body continually letting him down in the past two years
In The Mix
Bulleen: The Boomers didn’t quite get the start they were after, running into a rampant Waverley and going down to the tune of 31 points. The loss of superstar import Thadd Varmall will hurt immensely; with new import Kinard Gadsden-Gillard starting slowly with just four points on 2-of-10 shooting. Despite that, they still boast an impressive set of starters featuring proven stars in Liam Norton and Scott Cuffe, while they have improved their bench by bringing in Brett Fennell and Derrick McDonald, despite the latter going 0-for-10 against the Falcons. They certainly won’t be world-beaters, but they will be in the finals mix again in a tight competition.
Eltham: The ‘Cats, coming off a very disappointing 2014 campaign, lost Elliot Carr but have added SEABL gun Justin Aver and Adam Moore, as well as injured youngster David Tomat, to an otherwise relatively unchanged roster. An impressive round one thrashing of Diamond Valley was followed by a tight loss to Sherbrooke a day later, making it hard to gauge exactly where the Wildcats will go this season just yet. A semi-final appearance at the pre-season tournament, where they went down to the eventual champions Waverley, also showed signs of significant improvement, and a finals berth is certainly not out of the question.
McKinnon: The Cougars were expected to struggle in round one, coming up against heavyweights Corio Bay, but managed to take the game into an extra period before finally going down. Yes, the Stingrays were an import down, but the Cougars were impressive nonetheless and will be on the cusp of finals again this season after a successful 2014. Marcus Timmons is gone, but former NBL big man Axel Dench and import Kale (or William) Harrison more than picked up the slack in the defeat. They made a habit of pushing the top sides last season and will prove a handful again this season, with consistency the key to a finals appearance.
Credit: Big V Media
Sherbrooke: The Suns split their opening round, with a heavy defeat to Waverley on Saturday and a tough win at Eltham on Sunday. The Falcons are looking like the benchmark of the competition right now, and Eltham will likely be mid-table by season’s end, and the Suns will probably be somewhere in the middle as well. With so many teams vying for a finals berth again this year, there will be a lot of pressure on new import signing Troy Snyder to carry his side in true Grant Johnson fashion. Johnson was arguably the best and most damaging player in the league last season and, as well as giant American Titus Robinson, is a huge loss. The Suns will likely not finish as high as fourth again, but early indications are that Snyder has the ability to drag his team into finals contention.
Werribee: Last season, the Devils showed signs of being a finals challenger before dropping off alarmingly mid-season. They have started strongly again, thrashing a Whittlesea side with Jermaine Williams back in the line-up, and could feature in the finals battle come season’s end if they can keep it up for longer. Jack Sonda and Jordan Hughes will be the focal points on offense, while David Cobb’s first game saw him pull down an incredible 26 rebounds to go with his 10 points. If Cobb controls the paint like that all season long, the Devils may be a legitimate finals chance.
Not Far Off
Hawthorn: The Magic were impressive in their first State Championship season last year, despite finding wins hard to come by. They made it tough for the sides above them and look to have improved already in 2015, knocking off perennial mid-table specialists Hume City in the opening round. Young gun Ben Waldren was super in his first season in the seniors last year and started strongly again in 2015, leading a very young side featuring a host of Youth League regulars past the Broncos. The loss of veteran scorer Jay Allen will hurt, and a finals berth would be a huge achievement for Waldren and co.
Credit: Big V Media
Hume City: The boys from Broadmeadows were somewhat disappointing in 2014 after a strong start, and have kicked off 2015 with a home loss at the hands of an inexperienced Hawthorn side, which doesn’t bode well. Nothing much has changed, with American duo Jermaine Maybank and Jamal Brown again suiting up for the Broncos, while the addition of Elliot Carr from Eltham will give them a boost off the bench. Unfortunately, in a tough league, the Broncos may just be off the pace again in 2015.
Whittlesea: There was one clear conclusion to be drawn from the Pacers last season – Jermaine Williams was the key to their success. With him in the line up in 2014 the Pacers looked like a finals contender, and after he went down with an Achilles injury they simply couldn’t buy a win. Fortunately, he is back in uniform now and played in round one. Unfortunately, it didn’t help as Whittlesea went down by 21 points to Werribee. If that is a sign of the season ahead, the Pacers could struggle, particularly given Williams and Michael Petridis both played relatively well. One player who didn’t was Jason Dirkx, and if he plays at a high level again it will certainly help his side’s fortunes improve, but probably not enough to sneak into the finals
Could Be A Long Year
Diamond Valley: The Eagles have lost a huge chunk of their roster over the off-season, with the biggest loss undoubtedly being Matt Fennell. Brad Bridgewater comes into the line up from Waverley but two losses in round one isn’t a great start, particularly given they were thrashed by mediocre Eltham and only put together 130 points across the weekend. Matt Reynolds was their main source of offense and he may be in for a big year, but it is hard to see where the points are going to come from and the Eagles could be in for a long season.
Credit: Big V Media
Melbourne: The Tigers were dismal last season and will be going young again this season, which doesn’t bode well for them. Melbourne couldn’t get near the top sides and after their best youngsters left mid-season for college it only made things tougher. Make no mistake, there are plenty of young stars in the making at the Tigers, but with a constantly changing line up and a few years of development still needed, they won’t be troubling too many teams in 2015.
To find your local club’s fixtures and results, and to keep up to date with all the league news and information over the season, head to www.bigv.com.au or click here.