EFL: Norwood taking flight

Leigh Williams pulls in the contested Mark from Blackburn's Michael Locco (photo: Davis Harrigan)
Leigh Williams pulls in the contested Mark from Blackburn‘s Michael Locco (photo: Davis Harrigan)

The purple army at Mullum Reserve could not be flying any higher over Division One right now.

Norwood Football Club are doing everything right, and not much wrong in season 2014.  They started their campaign off with a bang, defeating East Ringwood away by 42 points, before returning home and hurting Vermont to the tune of 56 points.

All this while Norwood have used 32 players throughout the season after eight rounds.  Looking down the playing list, the depth in all areas is evident.  Former Melbourne players Matthew Bate and Jordan Gysberts add another element to a club that is seemingly unstoppable at senior level.

Watching the likes of Dean Poynton, Stuart Hill, Matthew Jessop and Rhett Jordon run rings around Lilydale and Blackburn the past few weeks has stamped the authority that is needed to be a premiership contender.

Coach Denis Knight says that to stay at the top of the table, there is a week-in-week-out mantra.

“The biggest thing for us at the moment is focusing on exactly the same thing every week.  At the moment, we’re doing that, there was five changes from last week (after the Rowville game) due to internal pressure, so we’ve got some depth, too.”

One of Norwood’s shining lights has been the immense figure of Leigh Williams in the forward line.  Having kicked 15 goals in his last two games, Williams has created scoreboard pressure that has made it extremely difficult for the opposition to effectively stop the attack.

Knight says he can highlight not only Williams, but everyone else on the ground.

“I can highlight 22 I suppose.  That’s been a real strength of ours…everyone will look at Leigh Williams, and they can continue to do that.  It’s pretty rare that we do not have ten goalkickers.”

The midfield run and carry of Norwood has left some teams scratching heads all season.  Connor O’Sullivan has been superb, and kicked 3 goals against some quality defence at Blackburn before the Queen’s Birthday break.

All of that is playing second fiddle, though, to the fact that Norwood are well clear at the top of the table and points and percentage.  Having finished fourth last season, behind 2013 premiers Balwyn, as well as other Division One finalists from last year, Vermont and Noble Park, it seems nothing can stop the men in purple.

Knight says the recent wins will shape Norwood’s fixture after their mid-season break.

“It probably defines where we finish at the end of the home and away season…it’s probably a slight different season in that Balwyn’s obviously Balwyn, and Blackburn and South Croydon are probably the third and fourth sides.

“What we thought was potentially difficult at the start of the year, we got through that pretty well.”

The difference in the last two weeks, however, showed when Norwood could hardly break away from Blackburn in the second half in round eight, but completely dominated against Lilydale in round seven.  Anthony Fagan was instrumental in defence for the Burners, and at the other end, the experienced David Johnson had his own battle to wage against Blackburn captain Ben Fraser.

No-one can forget Troy Armstrong, playing a ruck and lead-up forward role.  Against Lilydale, Armstrong wrestled his way into a lot of contests, coming out victorious from most of those.

Before playing Blackburn last round, Knight says the game strategy for Lilydale would not change for the Burners.

“We’ll do exactly the same as we did today (against Lilydale).  Our preparation won’t be any different…obviously the opposition quality wise is better than what we had today.”

It seems that very little can stop Norwood marching to the Division One flag.  However, they must face second place Balwyn at home this week, and the might of forward Jeff Gobbels.  The purple men will be without Williams due to injury, but the strong depth means confidence is high in the Norwood camp.  After dispatching Lilydale at home, and triumphing away over Blackburn, there is very little reason to change that mindset.

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