Ariels set for huge tests in M-League clashes

ARIELS will have a couple of huge contests in tonight’s Round 6 Victorian Men’s and Mixed Netball Association (VMMNA) action. Taking to the court at 7pm, the Ariels face off against top of the table City Heat in the Premier Men’s M-League, before the Premier Mixed side go head-to-head with Altona Falcons in a 9:40pm game. We take a look at those two huge contests, as well as who faces who across the divisions.


Round 6: (All at 7:00pm unless stated)

Altona Falcons vs. Netblacks – Court 1 (8:20pm)
Ariels vs. City Heat – Court 4
Boroondara Thunder vs. St Therese – Court 5
Bye: Darebin Dragons

With bottom side Darebin Dragons having the week off, all three remaining matches look set to be beauties. The top four teams face off, with the ladder-leading City Heat taking on third placed Ariels, while second placed Altona Falcons lock horns with the Netblacks. While St Therese is currently fifth, the reigning premiers loom as a huge danger to the competition once at full strength, taking on sixth placed Boroondara Thunder in Round 6.

Focusing in on the unbeaten City Heat this week, the title contender locks horns with Ariels in a match that promises to have some terrific head-to-head contests. Last round, City Heat crushed Boroondara Thunder to the tune of 28 goals (53-25), which backed up huge five and six-goal wins over last year’s grand finalists, St Therese and Netblacks. Now seemingly one of the key contenders this year, City Heat head into the match as favourites.

Ariels had a bye in Round 5 so are fresh heading out onto Court 4 tonight. The bye came at a perfect time for the side, having suffered a forgettable 20-goal defeat at the hands of Altona Falcons in Round 4. Prior to that, the Ariels scraped past the Dragons by a goal, and took care of an understrength Netblacks in Round 2, winning that contest by 13 goals. Given the form on paper is a little shaky, the Ariels will be wanting to produce their best effort of the year in a bid to overcome the red-hot Heat.

It is no surprise the Heat are among the top teams in this year’s M-League competition, with Alistair Punshon, Josh Byron and Simon Cartwright forming a strong bond up the defensive end. Thanks to two-way running Jake Noonan in centre, the team is incredible defensively, but then can fall back on having Brodie McCleish and Cameron Allum in attack. With Michael Dower in wing attack providing great feeds into the circle, the entire starting seven is a consistent blend of dangerous and accountable.

While the Ariels do not quite have as many experienced players as the Heat, they do have some very talented individuals who cause do a lot of damage to the opposition. The defensive pairing of Dan King and Dan Stone work well when together, but quite often have to be thrown forward. Offensively the team has struggled this season, recording the third lowest average score. Billy Mahoney is a Mr Fix It, with the utility play goal attack, centre and wing attack back in Round 4. Brendan Nick is one who can free up Stone to go into attack, while Matthew Blomeley and Josh Clavarino are others who have produced some big games in 2022/23.


Round 6: (At 9:40pm)

Ariels vs. Altona Falcons – Court 1
Melbourne Quakes vs. LTU – Court 2
Parkville Panthers vs. NNE Vipers – Court 4
Valley Wolves vs. Eastside Sonics – Court 5
Bye: Geelong

There are plenty of important clashes in the Premier Mixed division tonight, with the sixth placed Ariels taking on third placed Altona Falcons one of those. The Ariels started the season off strongly with two wins from as many games, but have not won since before the league-wide bye, with losses to Valley Wolves and NNE Vipers by 10 and three goals respectively.

On the other hand, Altona’s status as the dark horse in the premiership race has only increased, having defeated LTU by three goals last week, and NNE Vipers by seven goals the week before. The Falcons’ only loss came at the hands of Valley Wolves in Round 2, though admittedly Altona has a tough upcoming draw, with top two sides Parkville Panthers and Geelong back-to-back in Rounds 7-8 which ill test the Falcons’ mettle.

Altona has no shortage of contributors this season, Montana McKiernan and Montana Holmes forming a strong two-way midcourt. With Deepak Patu another player yet to be fully unveiled for the Falcons have proven themselves balanced between offence and defence, with Andrew Lewis and Josh Smith able to do both.

Kurt Thompson and Jemma Osborne form a reliable shooting combination inside the circle for Ariels, with Ally Black stepping up into the goal attack role in Osborne’s absence last week. Holly Bugeja has been a consistent midcourt performer in season 2022/23, while Dan Stone has filled out both goal shooter and goal keeper roles.

In other matches, top of the table Parkville Panthers return to the fold after a bye, set to move a full win clear of Geelong – who has the week off – when they take on fourth placed NNE Vipers. That game makes the Falcons-Ariels game all the more important considering the advantage the winner could take. In other matches, Melbourne Quakes will be looking to string together a second consecutive win having accounted for Eastside Sonics last week, taking on LTU on Court 2. The Sonics face Valley Wolves in the other contest.

In the Junior M-League, another 17 and Under top of the table clash presents itself out on Court 11 at 8:20pm, with the undefeated St Therese taking on WDNA. The former is yet to drop any points in season 2022/23 having accounted for tonight’s opponent last time they played, while WDNA split the points with Peninsula Waves in Round 5. In the other match, the Waves – who are fresh off that draw over WDNA – will be keen to turn the tables on Darebin and collect their first win of the season.

In the 14 and Under grade, the teams are out on Court 1 and Court 2, with St Therese taking on WDNA again there. Both sides have beaten each other once this season, with St Therese marginally ahead on percentage due to its stingy defence of 18.2 goals per game. In the other match, Melbourne Up & Comers will be favoured over TBC, with the latter looking to bounce back from a loss to the same opponent last time the pair faced off.

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