DIVISION 3 QUALIFYING FINAL
Ashwood V Endeavour Hills
ROUND 18 PREVIEW
By Will Hunter
Season 2017 has thrown up a dream match-up in the final round between two sides eying off the last remaining spot in the top five.
East Malvern currently occupies fifth spot on the table on percentage ahead of the sixth-ranked Oakleigh District. And it’s a simple equation for both sides – the winner takes fifth spot and plays an Elimination Final against Bentleigh next Sunday, while the loser will be September spectators.
It has been an up and down season for the Oaks, who have played a good brand of footy in patches throughout the season. They enter this clash on the back of three straight defeats, albeit honourable losses against top-four opponents in Dingley, Bentleigh and Mordialloc, but have their star play makers in Paul Fermanis and Jake Mullen both in stellar form. They are also set to regain midfield ace Andy Howison after his International Cup campaign with New Zealand, further bolstering a strong line-up.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have again been hit by the injury curse, but the players they have in their starting 22 are still talented enough to trouble most sides. They shot themselves in the foot last week against the Demons, and simply must improve their conversation if they are to avoid finishing with the also-rans.
The first quarter is crucial for the Panthers, who have shown an inability to play catch up footy this season. They have trailed at the first change in all bar one of their losses this year (Round 7 the exception courtesy of Dingley’s wasteful 1.7), while only twice have they overcome a quarter time deficit to secure the four points.
With the season on the line for both sides expect nothing to be left out there at Princes Highway Reserve on Saturday. This could go either way, and there likely won’t be much in it when the final siren sounds, but gut feel says the Districts in a heart-stopper.
Oakleigh District by four points.
Cheltenham remarkably remains a mathematical chance to extend their season beyond Saturday, sitting level on points with East Malvern and Oakleigh District, but it’s low percentage does it no favours.
For it to sneak into the top five, it needs to smash Port Colts here by 25+ goals, and for Oakleigh to beat the Panthers in a close result in order to sneak into fifth on percentage.
It is a long shot, however, given the Colts’ record at the Portress.
Port will be keen to finish their season on a high, so expect maximum effort and a reasonable contest from the home side. The Rosellas will win, but not by enough to see it sneak into the finals.
Cheltenham by 36 points.
A game and percentage clear on top of the ladder, Dingley are all but assured of a fourth consecutive minor premiership. Their second half of the season has been scintillating, recording some hefty victories as it builds momentum ahead of the finals.
The third-placed Dogs were the last team to inflict defeat on the Dingoes back in Round 9, coming from behind at three quarter time to storm home by 17 points. Their form throughout the season has been terrific, and are more than capable of causing an upset here.
Expect a high-quality, free-flowing game of footy, but Dingley to get the chocolates at home.
Also keep an eye out on the interesting battle that will unfold at either end of the ground, with Dingo Cal McQueen and Bulldog Steve Muller tied atop the league goalkicking table on 65 majors each.
Dingley by 23 points.
There is purely pride on the line for the Saints, who were unceremoniously eliminated from the finals race by Cheltenham last week. City started the season with much promise, and would be keen to finish the year with a win in front of it home fans.
Mordialloc, however, have proved a class outfit throughout the season and, although top spot appears out of reach, it remains firmly in premiership contentions.
The Bloods to win comfortably.
Mordialloc by 42 points.
The Demons have been the Sydney Swans of the competition, emerging from the doldrums (1-5 after six rounds) to surge into fourth spot on the ladder. A win here against Clayton will confirm home status for next week’s Elimination Final.
The winless Clays have endured the season from hell, and will look to rebuild in Division 2 next season.
There will unfortunately be no joy for Clayton as Bentleigh continues its march to September.
Bentleigh by 58 points.
ROUND 20 PREVIEW
By Jason Barbin
The final round of the home and away season will only feature four matches with three teams enjoying the bye, including minor premier Chelsea Heights. With nothing to play for other than pride, there is the potential for a few upset results.
Game of the Round
The Lions came a lot closer than I gave them credit for to getting inside the top five in their debut season in Division 2.
They come up against a side in Murrumbeena which did make finals and they will be keen to knock them off to finish the season strongly.
Murrumbeena, like every other team playing finals, may use this as an opportunity to rest key players if needed.
Mount Waverley by 20 points.
After the events of last week, which saw Skye’s Matt Haverfield heartbreakingly break his leg, don’t be surprised to see the Bombers wrap their key players in cotton wool for this game.
The Bombers are inside the top five and will play Murrumbeena regardless of the result, so there is no need to risk any players with niggles.
Springvale has surprised this season and again another upset could be on the cards as the Districts look to go into the offseason on a positive note.
Springvale by three points.
This is one game where I expect a finals contender to go into with a reasonably strong side, as the Bears may look to enter the finals in winning form.
Caulfield suffered an upset loss at the hands of Highett last week and with Keysborough looking strong, winning form and confidence is a must.
Barring a massive loss, the Hammers can’t finish any lower than eighth, but don’t expect them to lie down in this clash.
Caulfield by 21 points.
The Vampires will be shattered with last week’s result, which ended their run at the finals, so retribution and a strong finish to the year may be on the cards.
Keysborough saw first hand the injury suffered to Skye’s Matt Haverfield last week so it may also err on the side of caution with players suffering niggles.
Another match with just pride on the line so an upset is possible.
Keysborough by 16 points.
ROUND 18 PREVIEW
By Britt Goldsmith
Round 18 comes as the last round of the season for the Under 19s. Congratulations to all sides on a fantastic year, and best of luck to those sides going through to the finals.
Bentleigh and Hampton will clash in an evenly matched contest at the Bentleigh Reserve, and Parkmore / Springvale will visit Skye at Carrum Downs.
St Kilda City will be looking to finish their season on a high against Endeavour Hills after their loss in Round 17, and Doveton should host a thriving Cheltenham at the Power Reserve.
Oakleigh and Hallam will go head to head in what should be another close contest of the final round, and Dingley will host St Pauls after their confidence boosting win over Hallam in Round 17.