WFL enjoys most competitive start to season in a decade

IT MIGHT still be early days, but Wimmera Football League has enjoyed its most competitive start to the season in more than a decade.

After the opening three rounds, the average winning margin is just 28 points, which is a massive reduction on previous years.

During the past decade, the closest average winning margin for the opening three rounds has been 38.25 points, in 2009, with the figure extending beyond 14 goals back in 2005.

Western Vic Football general manager Stephen McQueen said it had been an extremely positive start to the season.

“It’s fantastic for the league that everyone’s so competitive,” he said.

“We always thought things would close up with clubs going out of their way to recruit quality footballers and it’s probably the best shape the league’s been in for many years, as the stats are proving.

"It’s great for the league, the clubs and most importantly spectators, because every game is going to be an event.”

In the opening three rounds of 2014, five matches have been decided by 10 or fewer points, with only one match blowing out by 10 goals or more.

It is a stark contrast to the past nine years, when no more than two matches in the first three rounds of any season were decided by 10 or fewer points.

An average of 4.89 matches were decided by 10 goals or more.

"It’s great for the league, the clubs and most importantly spectators, because every game is going to be an event.” - Western Vic Football general manager Stephen McQueen

Dimboola coach Stuart Farr – who has been directly involved as a player or coach in the past 11 Wimmera league premierships – said results this season had reinvigorated the league after Horsham’s decade of dominance.

“I’m sure the bar has been raised across the board and it shows in the close results,” he said.

“I think every club’s probably working that bit harder and striving for success that bit more.

“The interest across the Wimmera has probably never been as high, which is great.”

However, Farr’s Roos – the reigning premiers – are yet to taste victory in their first three games.

“We were lucky enough to get the ultimate success and in three weeks it can all change – that’s the beauty of a close competition I guess,” he said.

“It’s great to see footy back to where it should be – it’s a lot more enjoyable for the players and spectators.

“Everyone’s enjoying the challenge and you take an interest in all the other games, which are close and competitive.”

“We were lucky enough to get the ultimate success and in three weeks it can all change – that’s the beauty of a close competition I guess.'' - Dimboola coach Stuart Farr

On the other side of the fence, Ararat – which won just four games last year – is undefeated after its first three matches and sitting on top of the ladder.   

Rats co-coach Andrew Louder said he believed the club’s promising start and the equality within the league had led to more interest in Ararat.

“I think it’s going to be a really even competition, and if you’re not on your game for four quarters you’re going to get beaten,” he said.

“Looking at the results, there are not many big wins and the competition’s very even at this stage.

“The interest from around Ararat has been a lot higher, and we’re seeing people come back to watch us again who haven’t been there in previous years.”

McQueen said the league’s competitive start could possibly be attributed to the reconfigured draw.

“With the exit of Horsham United, the draw was specifically constructed so in the first two rounds games were selected on rankings from the previous year,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that not only are the matches closer, but the winning teams have not easily been predicted.”

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