The big improvers in the region's footy leagues

BENDIGO FOOTBALL LEAGUE

STRATHFIELDSAYE: The Storm are in their fourth season in the BFL and on the path towards their first finals appearance.

Having finished 9th, 7th and 6th in their first three years in the competition, this season started in a blaze of glory for the Storm when they won their first six games and sat on top of the ladder.

Their form has tapered off since, winning just three of their past eight matches, but with a two-game buffer inside the top five and a favourable run home, finals should be the end result.

Then again, this time last year Strathfieldsaye looked finals-bound before stumbling late in the season and missing out.

Record – 9-5, 114.8 %, 34 quarters won.

This time last year – 8-6, 127.3%, 32 quarters won.

KYNETON: Two wins from 13 games may not sound like a big deal – and they certainly aren’t out of the wilderness yet – but after enduring a season like the Tigers did last year, it’s a move in the right direction.

The Tigers were winless last year, losing their 18 games by an average of 126 points.

But there have been two wins this year against Castlemaine and Maryborough, along with defeats by less than 20 points to Golden Square and Eaglehawk – two sides that beat Kyneton by more than 200 points last year.

Another sign of the Tigers’ improvement is their percentage is almost double what it was at the same time last year.

Record – 2-11, 48.9 %, 15 quarters won.

This time last year – 0-13, 25.9%, 1 quarter won.

HEATHCOTE DISTRICT FOOTBALL LEAGUE

HUNTLY: The Hawks have created plenty of attention this season for their surge up the HDFL ladder.

For the past 10 years the Hawks have been battling in the doldrums, claiming 10-consecutive wooden spoons and winning just nine of their 160 games.

But a big off-season recruiting campaign focused around the Bendigo and Goulburn Valley football leagues has helped rocket the Hawks, not only off the bottom of the ladder, but into top three contention.

The Hawks will play finals for the first time since 2001 as they follow in the path of the town’s cricket team, which earlier in the year made the Bendigo District Cricket Association finals following seven-straight years on the bottom of the ladder.

Record – 9-4, 121.9 %, 32 quarters won.

This time last year – 1-12, 38.3%, 8 quarters won.

COLBINABBIN: The Grasshoppers’ rise has tended to be overshadowed this season in the wake of Huntly’s dramatic improvement.

But here’s a side that won just nine of its 32 games over the previous two years and enters tomorrow’s 16th round sitting a game clear at the top of the ladder.

The Grasshoppers didn’t go over the top with the recruiting over the pre-season, but they were smart and added to each area of the ground.

Coach Matt Pinniger doesn’t have a team of superstars at his disposal, but a group of players who give their all every week.

Record – 11-2, 123.6 %, 26 quarters won.

This time last year – 6-7, 93.5%, 23 quarters won.

MOUNT PLEASANT: Special mention to the Blues, whose tally of five wins from 13 games is already up on their total of two wins last season.

Record – 5-9, 79.2 %, 23 quarters won.

This time last year – 1-12-1, 56.3%, 17 quarters won.

LODDON VALLEY FOOTBALL LEAGUE

BEARS LAGOON-SERPENTINE: The Bears haven’t been a part of the LVFL finals action since 2006, but will be finally back there this season, perhaps as the minor premiers.

Since their last finals appearance the Bears have finished 7th, 6th, last, last and 6th.

They showed significant improvement last year with coach Damien Featherby back at the helm and maintained their list over summer, while adding eight new recruits who have been introduced to the senior team this season.

Record – 10-2, 174.7 %, 38 quarters won.

This time last year – 5-7, 98.5%, 22 quarters won.

NEWBRIDGE: After a stagnant four years on field, the Maroons have once again become a dangerous proposition for the first time since their last season in the finals in 2007 when they lost the grand final to Calivil United.

On paper, the Maroons look to have as good a list as any side in the competition, with a gun midfield, strong key defenders and plenty of goalscoring avenues.

The Maroons will play finals, but will have to do it the hard way from the elimination final after struggling for wins early in the season.

Record – 7-5, 154.1 %, 33 quarters won.

This time last year – 4-8, 84.6%, 21 quarters won.

MARONG: Just the three wins for the Panthers last year, so even though they are likely to miss the finals again, the fact they already have five victories on the board shows improvement under young first-year coach Corey Gregg.

Record – 5-7, 81.8 %, 20 quarters won.

This time last year – 3-9, 66.9%, 15 quarters won.

NORTH CENTRAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

ST ARNAUD: It had been a lean previous three years for the Saints heading into this season.

Throughout the 2009, ’10 and ’11 seasons the Saints won just three of their 48 matches.

But in their first six games this season the Saints had already equalled that tally of the past three years, and with five rounds remaining are a game clear in fourth position on the ladder as they chase their first finals berth since 2007.

The turnaround has been led by new coach James McNamee and his recruiting network in Darwin, while North Melbourne premiership player Shannon Motlop has been a more than handy addition.

Record – 6-6, 103.4 %.

This time last year – 0-12, 39.0%.

MARYBOROUGH CASTLEMAINE DISTRICT FOOTBALL LEAGUE

TRENTHAM: The Saints’ finals absence extends to 2003, and they have finished on the bottom of the ladder three times since.

But with eight wins from their first 12 games, finals are finally back in sight, with a top-four finish not yet out of the question.

Record – 8-4, 141.5 %.

This time last year – 5-7, 94.2%.

NEWSTEAD: The Steaders missed the finals last year, winning just six of their 16 games and finishing 10th.

But they have returned as one of the powers of the competition this year and look like being one of the major players at the business end of the season.

Record – 9-3, 162.3 %.

This time last year – 5-6-1, 122.8%.

CAMPBELLS CREEK: Similar to Bendigo league club Kyneton in that after going through a winless season last year, the Magpies have had some joy in 2012 with three victories already under new coach Sean Smith.

Record – 3-9, 72.9 %.

This time last year – 0-12, 36.0%.

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