Mandurah Mail football writer Justin Rake takes on the ups and downs of our Peel Football and Netball League in his weekly column ‘Rake’s Rave’.
We’re officially a third of the way through the Peel Football and Netball League’s regular season with six rounds in the rear view mirror.
A look at the ladder is enough to tell you how each team is tracking – Baldivis undefeated, Tigers and Rams ticking along, Demons and Mustangs battling – blah blah and so forth and so on.
But which players have popped up as this year’s top crop?
It’s a question that’s always hard to answer in country footy with things like work commitments and family life often interrupting form, but hey, I’ll give it a go.
Below is my top 15 players through the year’s first six weeks – at the end of rounds 12 and 18 I’ll be coming back to address and update the list as the year goes on.
15. Mathew Allen (Halls Head)
Has quietened down on the goal-kicking front since bagging 12 majors across rounds two and three with consecutive bags of six, but the young forward remains in fourth in league’s top scoring tally with 16 to his name. Has been a big target for the Lightning who are 3-3 on the year.
14. Sam Eccles (Baldivis)
Defenders don’t often get the plaudits they deserve, but if you’ve watched Eccles play, it’s easy to see how reliable he is in the Brumbies’ back six. I’ve caught four of Baldivis’ six games this year, and he’s stood out in each one.
13. Eddy Dann (Baldivis)
Everyone knows what this former Ross Elliott Medal winner is capable of, and he looks like he’s enjoying being surrounded by fellow top-shelf talents in the Baldivis midfield. Gets forward for goals when they matter and leads by both example and voice on the field.
12. Travis Naughton (Rockingham)
A big part of Rockingham’s early success has been Naughton’s drive off half-back. Received top best-on-ground votes in the side’s win over reigning premiers Pinjarra in round four, and was very good in their five-point loss to Baldivis in round five.
11. Josh O’Brien (Pinjarra)
Might be higher on this list if he didn’t miss rounds two and three, but O’Brien has played in four games and has received best-on-ground votes in all four, not a bad strike rate. Must be enjoying having all three of his brothers around, although I don’t understand how people spend that much time around their siblings.
10. Thomas Bennett (Centrals)
It’s been a sporadic start to the year for the 3-3 Centrals, but this East Fremantle recruit has been great in the wins and the losses. Has seven goals to his name, along with best-on points in four of his first five games in the league.
9. Brett Hill (Centrals)
Has played in all six games to start the year, tallying an astonishing three matches where he recorded his side’s top votes. Hill was also among Centrals’ best in their win over Waroona in round four.
8. Brad Holmes (South Mandurah)
Some things never change. Holmes is still the league’s premier forward and scorer, leading the goal-kicking tally with 31 through the five games he’s played. Has two bags of eight goals, and two more of five. He also had four in the first half against Pinjarra in round six.
7. Andrew Haydon (South Mandurah)
Last year’s Ross Elliott medalist could be in the running for back-to-back league best and fairest wins with the way he’s started the year. Haydon’s played five of the first six games, with two best-on-ground outings while collecting points in the other three.
6. Emmanuel Collard (Baldivis)
Probably my favourite player to watch in this league with how hard he goes at the footy and how much run he gives his team. The Baldivis captain’s importance to his side was highlighted in their five-point win over Rockingham, where he went down late in the fourth quarter and the Rams immediately conjured a run in his absence.
5. Robert Falkstrom (Halls Head)
It’s hard to split some of Halls Head’s senior players up, because guys like Jake Lally, Cory Fish and Tyson Phillips all have an impact when they’re on. But Falkstrom often leads the charge with a tough brand of footy through the middle of the ground, and teams struggle to contain him when he’s up and about.
4. Rhett Mason (Waroona)
I’m not sure if any one player is more crucial to their team than Mason is to Waroona this season. He’s played five of their first six with best-on points in each, including two games getting top votes for his squad. Jailed four goals against South Mandurah in Waroona’s only win.
3. Mitchell White (Mandurah)
I absolutely hate it when a player doesn’t get the plaudits they deserve just because their team is struggling, and White might be a classic victim of that. Coach Mat Aitchison described White’s form through the first six games as “rare”, and it’s hard to argue with that given he’s amassed two best on ground performances and a further two seconds. Was outstanding in their most recent game against Baldivis.
2. Brendan Tingey (Baldivis)
Honestly, you could throw a blanket over Baldivis’ midfield when trying to separate who is in better form, but it’s impossible to deny Tingey is one of the early front-runners for this year’s top individual honour. He won the WA Country Football League’s player of the week award in round five, following on from winning the Stand-Down Medal for best-on-ground in a round four Anzac Day clash. No coach has an answer for him yet.
1. Mitchel Curnow (Rockingham)
Highly doubtful you’ll find a player in better form than Rockingham’s Mitch Curnow. The speedy mid has been huge for the improved Rams, buoying them to a 4-2 start with a spate of outstanding performances. He’s booted goals in five of Rockingham’s six games, including three against Waroona, while tallying best points in four of them. Coach Scott Franklin described him as a player that gets other involved, a trait that bodes well for a young Rams outfit looking to make a deep finals run this season.
Stiff to miss
Tyler Sutton (Rockingham), Andrew Stokes (Rockingham), Fraser Millar (Rockingham), Brayden Sutton (Waroona), Chad Wrigley (Waroona), Paul Mugambwa (Centrals), Toby Gianatti (Centrals), Adam Boone (Halls Head), Cory Fish (Halls Head), Michael Beeton (Halls Head), Jake Lally (Halls Head), Sam Barndon (Baldivis), Callum Black (Baldivis), Brieghton Shea (Baldivis), Michael Stevens (Mandurah), Stuart Puls (Mandurah), Tom Wood (South Mandurah), Brennan Gillam (Pinjarra), Jacob Williams (Pinjarra), Rory O’Brien (Pinjarra), Blake Lee (Pinjarra).
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