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’.
Before the season, if you told South Mandurah coach Paul Pannell his team would be in the frame for finals with three games to go, he’d have been pretty chuffed.
I know that because I did speak to him before the season, and I was always left a little perplexed when he was nonchalant about his side’s chances to make the Peel Football and Netball League’s top five.
Surely a team with the league’s reigning best and fairest and reigning leading goal-kicker is a shoe-in for finals, I thought.
That logic alone assured the Falcons a spot in my pre-season top five prediction – where I had them pegged to finish fourth – but the head coach insisted making or missing finals wouldn’t define the 2018 season for a very young Southies’ league team who simply wanted to blood their youth.
Turns out he was spot on.
The Falcons will play Halls Head this weekend, in a match that looks likely to decide which of the two plays finals.
It’s a game each side is no doubt desperate to win, and a loss would be nothing short of a disappointment.
But should the Falcons come up short – like they have in their previous two meetings with the Lightning – they won’t be kicking themselves too hard.
Anyone close to the club knows there’s a long term vision in place, and young kids debuting in the league side has become common practice this season.
It got me thinking about who has the best crop of young talent in the PFNL, and it’s hard to go past the Falcons.
Rockingham are probably the closest contenders to that crown, with Pinjarra, Halls Head and Mandurah not too far behind.
But the production the Falcons have got from their first and second-year players this season can’t be understated.
Jaydon Cullen lined up on Blaine Johnson, a bona fide WAFL level star, last weekend with Pannell describing his performance as “outstanding”, while the likes of Jack Varley, Troy Lee and James Fenton have been impressive recently.
No matter the result on Sunday, the Falcons deserve a tick next to their 2018 season simply for the way they’ve developed their youth.
They’re on their way to something big – it may not be this season, but South Mandurah are trending upwards.