FINALS WEEK 1 PREVIEW
Qualifying Final – East Malvern V Mordialloc
Saturday 1 September – Springvale Reserve
Division 1 finals kick off this Saturday with East Malvern and Mordialloc going head to head in Saturday’s Qualifying Final at Springvale Reserve.
And despite both teams ending the season on 12 wins each, they will head into this weekend’s clash in vastly different form.
East Malvern have won four of the last five matches, with last week’s thrashing of the Colts seeing them jump up into second spot at Mordialloc’s expense. Conversely, the Bloods’ hard-fought triumph over wooden spooners Chelsea Heights is their only victory in that same period.
Initially touted as premiership favourites, a spate of injuries to key players including ruckman Tom McMahon, forward Steve Tolongs and the versatile Justin Summons, which has greatly impacted the side’s structure and contributed to their late season slide.
Over at Dunlop Reserve, the Panthers’ preseason recruits have lived up to expectation, and with quality match winners on every line, there is no reason why East Malvern can’t lift the trophy if it keeps its best side on the park.
The Panthers have two distinct advantages here – in the ruck and up forward. The influence of Chris Carey for this East Malvern side is well known, and first-year Mordi big man Michael Spohn will need to produce a top-shelf performance to counter-act his dominance in the air and around the ground. That said, such an effort is not beyond him, given Buddy’s vast improvement in his first season in Southern’s top grade.
In addition, East Malvern’s ability to kick a winning score stems from its abundance of scoring options, which the Bloods will be hard pressed to contain, particular if Carey provides his mids with silver service.
But Mordialloc’s midfield brigade, led superbly by skipper Todd Bastion, is on its day a quality outfit both offensively and defensively. And while we haven’t seen much of its best footy in recent weeks, we can expect them to rise to the occasion on Saturday and provide a tremendous contest.
The Bloods would be desperate to reverse its form and avoid the ignominy of a straight-sets finals exit, but on form, East Malvern looks the team to beat here.
East Malvern by 26 points.
Elimination Final – St Kilda City V Dingley
Sunday 2 September – Springvale Reserve
There are no second chances for the Saints and the Dingoes this Sunday, with only the winner to advance to the First Semi Final next weekend.
Dingley have ended the home and away season with seven wins on the trot in a remarkable mid-season resurrection and, as such, they enter this clash as the in-form team in the competition.
Form, injury and unavailability had plagued the side for much of the first half of the season, but the return of key players to the senior line-up, including co-captain Jackson Peet and premiership star Daniel Farmer, has helped turn around the side’s fortunes and recapture the sort of form that has taken the club to three straight Division 1 flags.
St Kilda City, meanwhile, have alternated wins and losses since Round 13, a stretch that includes away victories against the minor premiers St Pauls and the then second-placed Mordialloc, highlighting their ability to match it with the competition’s top sides.
The return of former stars Aaron Purvis and Cam Hansen, the addition of man mountain Shem Tatupu mid-season, and the form of several youngsters including Oscar Don and Xavier Jordan has seen the club rocket up the ladder in 2018 and into premiership calculations.
Both teams possess outstanding firepower across the park and are capable of killing sides with their excellent work on the transition, but ultimately this contest will come down to which side settles first and adjusts to the tempo of finals footy. To that end, it is here in which Dingley has a decisive advantage.
The Saints’ talented young list has been rarely overawed in big games and are a red-hot chance here. However, the Dingoes have been there and done in on the grand stage multiple times, and their wealth of finals experience will give them the edge in an otherwise tight contest.
Dingley by 14 points.