Time to turn
Wimmera Football League fans have been waiting all year for Stawell to turn up the heat and time is ticking for the Warriors.
Stawell finished fifth after the homeand-away rounds, comfortably making the finals, but if we go on nothing except the team’s playing record this season, there is little option other than to predict an early finals exit.
The Warriors have not only struggled to beat teams sitting above them on the ladder, but in some cases, notably in the past month, have struggled to get even close to their opponents.
The team has copped hidings at the hands of premiership favourites Horsham and Minyip-murtoa and has also been well off the pace against other finalists Warrack Eagles and Horsham Saints. But finals have a habit of unearthing potential and the faithful on the northern edge of the Great Dividing Range have fingers crossed that this will be the case. Stawell had one of the most promising build-ups to the season, including the appointment of young coach and on-field leader Tom Eckel.
Some long-time Wimmera commentators went as far as predicting the Warriors would win the flag.
There has been plenty of talent on the Stawell list for much of the season, which has left watchers across the league scratching their heads about why the team has struggled to get a winning formula right.
But when watching and analysing the Stawell game in depth with the Local Footy Live team this year, what’s been obvious is that the team has fallen down in a variety of areas.
Critically, for a team that has many talented ball carriers, the Warriors have been dangerously hesitant in taking risks.
They therefore have been caught out and forced to retreat and play an uncharacteristic defensive game.
This has ultimately fuelled deficiencies such as poor approach into the forward arc and a deterioration of confidence in taking on tough opponents.
Of course there have also been injury dilemmas and Stawell has struggled to get its best team on the park.