Wimmera Football League reigning premier Horsham will enter this year’s finals series as a surprising competition yardstick.
Pre-season predictions were that the Demons would be sitting at the bottom of the top five or outside, but that has certainly proven far from what has happened.
The reason for the early doubt in Horsham’s ability to defend its premiership title was that the Demons had more than 20 clearances on the books and its list appeared decimated.
Thoughts were consistent across the league that this year might be the season that Horsham, for the first time in many years, wouldn’t be challenging for the title in September.
But the Demons have again proved hard to beat, with results punctuated by the fact the team has finished minor premier.
Based simply on form across the year and a top-of-the-table finish, Horsham rates as the premiership favourite.
The Demons have been the most consistent side all year, however, leading into the finals Horsham’s form has been patchy, mainly due to injuries to key personnel such as John Wood, coach Deek Roberts and a variety of niggles through several leading senior players.
And the question remains – is the relatively inexperienced bottom half of Horsham’s senior list going to be able to stand up to finals pressure and intensity?
Outside watchers have pinpointed that while Horsham’s top eight players and spread down the spine easily rate among the best in the competition, there is inexperience and potential vulnerability on the fringes.
Against this, throughout the season, Horsham’s young crop has proven doubters, including me, wrong all year.
Roberts has been instrumental in setting the standard for much of the season but he’s out of action and that has placed considerable pressure on players such as Brodie Mines and Ryan Kemp.