Hampton Park faces Endeavour Hills test

Jayden Weichard is a natural ballwinner. 400988 Picture: ROB CAREW.

By Jonty Ralphsmith

A battle of two teams fighting for a spot in the lower rungs of the top five beckons for Hampton Park and Endeavour Hills on Saturday in the Southern Football Netball League.

It’s the sort of game that both will see as must-win to be a legitimate finals contender – an eight point game to kick off May.

Both teams find themselves in similar positions a month into the season – their top handful of players have performed, with their week-to-week fortunes determined by their depth players.

Hampton Park has started the season with victories over St Kilda City, Doveton and Skye, while Endeavour Hills has beaten Highett, Skye and Keysborough.

Both teams’ only loss is to East Malvern, but while Endeavour Hills were soundly outplayed for most of the game against one of the competition’s best, Hampton Park challenged them, thanks to Jye King closing down gun forward Isaac Morrisby.

King will again have a tough task this week, likely to find himself matched up on tall forward Alex Cann, who is coming off a four goal haul and is capable of taking a contested mark.

It is set to be a battle of King’s brute strength and physicality and Cann’s marking craft, with Hampton Park needing to rely on the work rate of wingers and midfielders to deny him space to lead into given they lack other options to play on him.

Another route Hampton park could take is backing Corey Braden’s bodywork on Cann, to release King to play either as an interceptor or in the ruck – where he turned the game on Saturday against Skye.

Consigned to losing the ruck battle for much of this year, the Redbacks will hope to neutralise against the Falcons, given neither team has an established recognised ruck.

Tyler Studd has been competing manfully in the ruck, chopped out by Fallon Wanganeen, for Endeavour Hills given Sean Van Velsen’s absence, while Hampton Park was also unable to replace their departed 2023 ruck, Andy Parker.

Endeavour Hills struggled for much of Saturday to get their hands on it in close and will punished if they repeat that this week, given the clean hands of Jayden Weichard in close.

Hampton Park’s challenge will be in approaching the game the right way and starting well after a lethargic first half against Skye; John Rafferty, Liam Hasler and co. will exploit the undersized defence and have the capacity to put the game out of reach if Hampton Park struggle.

Elsewhere in the SFNL, Doveton faces the biggest test in the Division 2 competition – Murrumbeena at Murrumbeena but come in after back-to-back wins, while Cranbourne faces Mordialloc.