ALTONA Falcons have a couple of huge games across both the men’s and mixed premier divisions at M-League tonight. Round 4 kicks off with the Falcons tackling the Ariels in the men’s – in one of two top four contests in that grade – while the Falcons face NNE Vipers in the mixed to try and continue to ascend up the ladder.
PREMIER MEN’S LEAGUE:
Round 4: (All at 8:20pm)
Altona Falcons vs. Ariels – Court 1
Darebin Dragons vs. Netblacks – Court 2
St Therese vs. City Heat – Court 4
Bye: Boroondara Thunder
A top three clash between Ariels and Altona Falcons highlights arguably the most fascinating round to-date. The ladder-leading Ariels have won all three games so far, and can gain further separation if they can knock off the third placed Falcons. With second placed City Heat taking on fourth placed St Therese, it adds extra spice to the Wednesday night action, with ladder ramifications in place. While Boroondara Thunder has the bye, the bottom two sides – and only two without a win – Netblacks and Darebin Dragons go head-to-head.
Focusing on the Ariels and Altona Falcons clash, the Ariels have picked up wins over Boroondara Thunder, Netblacks and Darebin Dragons in the opening three rounds. The clash against the Falcons may be their biggest test yet, with those three sides occupying the three bottom spots. Netblacks are still yet to field their best squad however, so are forever a danger on any given night. The Falcons went down to City Heat by three goals in Round 1, then bounced back to knock off St Therese and Boroondara Thunder – both by double-digits – suggesting perhaps a more reliable formline.
The Ariels have a reliable defence that is locked in each week with Dan King and Dan Stone holding down the circle. Last round Stone was thrown into goal shooter to start with Brendan Nick in defence, but that changed after quarter time. The pair have a tough challenge up against Australian representative Brodie Roberts if he plays, providing plenty of star quality in the Falcons’ shooting circle alongside the likes of Josh Smith and Andrew Lewis.
PREMIER MIXED LEAGUE:
Round 4: (At 7:00pm unless specified)
Valley Wolves vs. Parkville Panthers – Court 4
Melbourne Quakes vs. Geelong – Court 5
Altona Falcons vs. NNE Vipers – Court 8
Eastside Sonics vs. LTU – Court 4 (9:40pm)
In the Mixed Premier division, Altona Falcons will take on NNE Vipers in a real mid-table crunch clash. Six of the nine sides are on eight points, with the Vipers and Falcons two of those. Both teams have already had a bye in the 2022/23 season, with a win and a loss in each of their other two games. The round is sure to break up the ladder logjam, with second placed Geelong and fifth placed LTU taking on the two winless sides in Melbourne Quakes and Eastside Sonics respectively. It will be significantly tougher for the other side in that logjam, with Valley Wolves having to face the undefeated Parkville Panthers. Ariels have the bye after their first loss of the season in Round 3.
Both sides fronted up in Round 1, picking up wins to kick off their respective seasons. NNE Vipers took care of the team that knocked them out of the finals race last season – Valley Wolves – with a comprehensive 18-goal victory, while Altona Falcons snuck past Melbourne Quakes by a single goal. As the Vipers rested up in Round 2, the Falcons suffered a five-goal loss to the Wolves, before heading into a long break. With the league-imposed by, and the Falcons’ Round 2 bye, Altona has not played in almost a month. NNE Vipers on the other hand returned to the court last week, but went down to a high-powered LTU outfit by eight goals, 59-51.
In the loss to LTU, the Vipers still had a number of impressive players. Ben Bruitzman impacted through the midcourt for two quarters, teaming up well to feed it into Michael Dower. Standing in the goal circle, Bridget Ryan can be a danger in setting up her shooting partner, but also showed her versatility last round rolling into defence. The Falcons have a number of players who have other netballing commitments, but if they come out could do a lot of damage such as Deepak Patu and Montana Holmes. Andrew Lewis is one who has shown he can play up both ends too.
In the Junior M-League, the action continues across both the 17 and Under and 14 and Under contests. On Court 10 at 7pm, WDNA will look to bounce back from its one-goal loss to St Therese when it takes on Darebin coming off its first victory in Round 3. In the other clash, the undefeated St Therese takes on the winless Peninsula Waves on Court 11.
In the 14 & Under Round 4 action, both games will take place at 7pm, with St Therese and WDNA facing off for the second consecutive week. WDNA won by a goal last Wednesday, with St Therese hoping to turn that around in Round 4. Meanwhile Melbourne Up & Comers will go up against TBC, hoping to repeat the seven-goal victory from Round 3.