By Andrew Paloczi
SECOND SEMI FINAL
Hallam vs Endeavour Hills (Jack Barker Oval)
Saturday 2nd September - 2:15pm
A well-rested Hallam returns to action against a confident Endeavour Hills’ outfit.
The Falcons comfortably won their first final at senior level, showing plenty of pace and using the ball skilfully. However, that was against an Ashwood side that lacks the youth and pace of the Hawks.
Endeavour Hills’ coach Rob Dipper iced up a couple of players late against Ashwood. He indicates that was precautionary, due to a bit of tightness and that his side got through its Qualifying Final unscathed.
Dipper plans to have a mid-week look at Jack Barker Oval, a ground with which he is unfamiliar. Its dimensions will help him determine the best balance for his Semi Final team.
He may run into Hallam coach Scott Slater, who hasn’t played or coached at the ground and will also be paying it a visit.
Despite Endeavour Hills having won both 2017 clashes against Hallam, Dipper is under no illusions about the size of the challenge for his players.
“They’re a good side Hallam. There’s a reason why they went top of the table and only lost two games. So we know it’s going to take a four quarter game and we’ve just got to be really disciplined,” he said.
He says finals are a completely different matter to home and away footy.
Hawks coach Slater expects his side to be as close to full strength as it has been this season, potentially having everyone available.
Colourful forward Shane Thomas should be back after a hamstring injury a month ago.
There will be no excuses from Slater if Endeavour Hills gets the better of Hallam. He explains that Endeavour Hills’ outside run and ability to hit targets accounts for it matching up well with his side.
Slater considers the Falcons have a well-balanced team and anticipates another tight contest, as has been the case in both home and away battles. Endeavour Hills got up by eight points at Hallam and triumphed by a solitary goal at Barry Simon Reserve.
Both coaches hope for a dry day so the sides can showcase their skills for the crowd.
Slater believes both teams have plenty of firepower up forward and the winner will most likely be determined by who gets on top in the midfield. That is not easy to predict, with both sides having abundant quality there.
Manny Peresso, Phil Ward and Daniel Chin are some of the stars in a commanding Hawks’ midfield. They will be up against the likes of Jake Van Hoesel, Nick Gay, Byron Hoe and Daniel Batson.
“I’m pretty keen on getting a win against Endeavour Hills this year. So hopefully it’s third time lucky,” Slater says.
He is not concerned that his side will lose momentum due to the week off. The Hawks trained on the weekend in order to keep players in a routine.
If conditions permit, it should be a fast moving, skilful game.
Hallam will benefit from the week off, mainly in terms of the number of players available for selection. However, the fitness of many of Endeavour Hills’ players suggests they will be able to back up successfully.
Despite not beating Endeavour Hills this season, Hallam starts favourite, purely because it has been the division’s benchmark side in 2017.
FIRST SEMI FINAL
Ashwood vs Doveton Eagles (Jack Barker Oval)
Sunday 3rd September - 2:15pm
Ashwood will need to move on mentally after a qualifying final in which little went right.
The Magpies now face a sudden death encounter with a confident Doveton side that made light work of a tired-looking Black Rock in the Elimination Final.
Coach Mick Rossborough indicated Endeavour Hills exposed his side for pace on the expanses of Keysborough Reserve. He will focus on recruiting young players for next season, feeling a number of the Magpies are coming to the end of their careers and an injection of pace is crucial.
But, for this year he must rely on the wisdom of his experienced players to enable Ashwood to work its way back into premiership contention.
The Magpies can’t yet look beyond this week’s hurdle.
That will not be an easy obstacle to clear, with the Eagles having too much run for Black Rock. Expect Doveton to present a similar challenge for Ashwood.
Eagles’ coach, Simon Caldwell will have extra players to choose from this week. Ruckman Cam Carmody missed the elimination final due to a wedding. In his absence key defender Stuart Williams performed admirably in the ruck, more than matching it with Black Rock’s ‘Buddy’ Spohn.
Versatile David Lever played in all of Doveton’s home and away matches, but was unable to get up for last week’s game due to injury. He is expected to be fit, and may be joined by small forward Troy Hancock who has been out with a hamstring issue.
Caldwell expects Ashwood to take a punt on Mitch Saunders whose absence through injury has hurt the Magpies.
That may be a tough judgement call for Rossborough who admitted it was a mistake to give ruckman Matt Menzies the benefit of the doubt against Endeavour Hills.
Rossborough is in a difficult position with his side not just badly beaten on the scoreboard, but licking its wounds after the Qualifying Final.
Key position player Paul Wineberg suffered a nasty head gash requiring prompt medical attention. Rossborough expects him to take the field against Doveton, with the forward having escaped concussion.
Another injury concern is Justin MacKenzie, a ruck option who tweaked a calf against Endeavour Hills.
The Magpies’ coach will urge his side to play positive attacking footy, believing it is the only way they can get the better of the Eagles.
Caldwell emphasises the importance of Doveton getting a good start, suggesting that if the Eagles achieve that, they tend to retain the momentum. He is positive, but expects a tight match.
“I think it will be a tough battle. We’re confident if we play our best and structure up right we can beat anyone,” Caldwell said.
On another big ground, Caldwell’s Eagles should have too much run and fitness for a sore and tired Ashwood. But don’t expect the Magpies to go down without a fight.