ROUND 18 PREVIEW
The final home and away round offers intrigue on several fronts.
Whilst Springvale Districts’ Stefan Feehan leads the division’s goal kicking with 46 majors, Hampton Park’s Nathan Carver is just three behind him.
Two teams that will be playing finals go up against each other.
A couple of sides that won’t take part in the post-season action, battle it out to be the top-placed non-finalist.
Hampton Park vs Endeavour Hills (Robert Booth Reserve)
Hampton Park and Endeavour Hills will be striving to get the balance right in a game that won’t have a bearing on ladder positions.
Both will be seeking a psychological advantage over a club they may meet in the second week of the finals series.
However, neither will take risks with any player whose body needs a week’s break.
When the Redbacks hosted the Falcons in Round 11 it was a thriller, with Endeavour Hills sneaking home by a couple of points.
Hampton Park got the better of its other 2018 clash with the Falcons, taking advantage of Endeavour Hills’ inaccuracy and recording a 16-point win.
The Redbacks sit second on the ladder, a couple of wins ahead of third-placed Endeavour Hills, and deserve to start favourites this week.
Expect a narrow Hampton Park victory, giving it six wins on the trot heading into the finals.
Black Rock vs Heatherton (MacDonald Reserve)
Although Black Rock and Heatherton have long since dropped out of the finals equation, they will hold their own play-off at MacDonald Reserve.
The winner grabs fifth spot on the ladder, claiming the unofficial title as the best non-finalist.
When these sides met at this venue earlier in the season, Black Rock couldn’t contain Heatherton’s Ben Clark-Henry.
He played a scintillating game and his final-term goal on the run gave the Tunners the lead, an advantage they never surrendered.
The Jets won the other 2018 duel between these sides by just five points at Ross Street Reserve.
That game ended in extraordinary circumstances with Jets’ backman Daniel Kick benefiting from three consecutive 50 metre penalties before slotting the winning goal.
This week’s contest should produce another tight finish with the Jets and Tunners evenly matched, and both clubs desperate to finish the season on a high.
Ashwood vs South Yarra (Essex Heights Reserve)
Ashwood needs to utilise its final home and away match against South Yarra to regain confidence ahead of the finals.
The Magpies battled to shake off last-placed Hallam in Round 17 and currently don’t appear likely to have much impact on the finals.
The recent deregistration of key forward Dale Carroll has angered Ashwood, with the club considering taking the matter further at VCAT.
However, club president Daniel Egan told Leader newspapers that, should such action be deemed viable, a hearing would not take place in time to reinstate Carroll this season.
Magpies players and coaching staff need to move on from the disappointment of the Carroll situation, leaving any off-field politics in Egan’s hands.
This week’s game offers a chance to do just that and Ashwood must seize that opportunity.
South Yarra has had a miserable season, with a seemingly endless list of injuries, and has won just two games. Both of those have come against Hallam.
Ashwood’s recent form will give the Yarras hope they can cause a final round upset.
The Magpies should win comfortably.
Springvale Districts vs Hallam (Springvale Reserve)
Hallam will be consigned to a winless season when the bottom-placed Hawks visit top-of-the-table Springvale Districts.
The Hawks have been desperately unlucky not to win a 2018 game, having pushed sides on several occasions.
However, their determined efforts will not be sufficient against the Demons.
Springvale Districts has twice beaten Hallam this season, by margins of 204 and 108 points.
Although the Demons may rest a number of players ahead of the finals, it is unlikely to help Hallam.
The Hawks will again be soundly beaten.