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SFNL MATCH OF THE DAY
SATURDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER - DIVISION 1 SENIOR QUALIFYING FINAL
BENTLEIGH vs OAKLEIGH DISTRICT
Springvale Reserve, Newcomen Road, Springvale – 2:15pm
SUNDAY 4th SEPTEMBER - DIVISION 2 SENIOR ELIMINATION FINAL
SKYE vs HIGHETT
Jack Barker Oval, Weatherall Road, Cheltenham – 2:15pm
Listen to the SFNL Radio Team’s commentary of both of these matches live on 88.3 Southern FM from 2:00pm or live stream the radio broadcast and get all live scores at sfnllive.com.au
DIVISION 1 – Qualifying/Elimination Final Preview
With Good Will Hunter
Qualifying Final – Saturday 3rd September
Bentleigh V Oakleigh District (Springvale Reserve)
The Districts have surged into third spot on the back of a stunning six-game winning streak, setting up an epic Qualifying Final clash with the second-placed Demons.
Bentleigh have also won their last four matches, with their last defeat coming at the hands of Oakleigh by the slimmest of margins in Round 14.
Both teams have been in electric form in the second half of the year and are capable of kicking big scores, which could make this a highly entertaining final.
Crucially for Oakleigh, they have had their big guns firing in recent weeks with Jake Mullen, Dave Velardo, Paul Fermanis, Aaron Henneman and Khaled Kandakji all getting among the goals. Speedster Kandakji will also relish the extra room to gallop on Springvale Reserve.
The burning question for Bentleigh would be how they adjust to life without spearhead Nicholls, who will miss the finals series through work commitments. But with Matt Troutbeck and Andrew Walsh combining for seven majors last week in his absence, they may have found their answer.
Sam McGarry has also proved dangerous around the sticks, slotting 22 for the year, while the evergreen veteran Scott Lawry still providing plenty of drive out of the back half.
Head to head honours are split one win each so far in 2016, and with neither contest decided by more than four points, expect this one to go down to the wire.
But Bentleigh have proved the better side for most of the year and should sneak home in what could be one of the all-time great SFNL finals.
Elimination Final – Sunday 4th September
Clayton V East Malvern (Springvale Reserve)
Clayton’s phenomenal resurgence has been one of the biggest stories of 2016.
After a controversial loss to Cheltenham in Round 9, the Clays languished in seventh place with an unenviable 3-6 record. Their season was perilously close to heading down the S-bend.
Since that fateful afternoon, they have won eight of their last nine matches and emerged as one of the most dangerous and exciting teams in the competition.
East Malvern, however, who were second at the halfway mark of the season, have limped into the finals with just two victories from their last eight starts. Injuries have been a massive factor in their downfall, but coach Ben Lockwood would be buoyed by the return of several of his big-name stars on the eve of the finals.
In particular, the Panthers’ talented midfield group of Nathan Robinson, Ed Sim, Jimmy Dowling and Tremaine Tohiariki are hard-bodied ball winners, which are exactly the types of players you need in a cut-throat final.
The Clays have several talented players on every line, including halfback Andy Ray and onballer Chris Morrison, but coach Nick Scanlon looms as the biggest danger for the Panthers. One of the most dynamic players in the competition, Scanlon is capable of kicking big bags and turning a game in minutes.
Clayton ruckman Aaron Mills will also likely have an influence on the contest, with his opposing number in Matt Terech missing this week through suspension.
This will likely be a hard-fought contest, but on form it’s hard to go past the Clays.
DIVISION 2 – Qualifying/Elimination Final Preview
With Jason Barbin
A contingency of coaches and players from Port Melbourne will likely be spotted at Jack Barker Oval in Cheltenham, the venue for the Division 2 finals, on Saturday, keeping a close eye on potential semi-final opponents Chelsea Heights and Caulfield, while Skye takes on Highett in the Elimination Final on Sunday.
Qualifying Final – Saturday 3rd September
Chelsea Heights v Caulfield (Jack Barker Oval)
When both of these sides are at their best, it is very hard to split them but at the moment Chelsea Heights are in the in-form team and will deservedly go in as favourites. This match could go down to forward structure and which forwards can have more of an impact. Can Phil Smith and Lachlan Dobson stand tall and tower over Caulfield’s back half or will Nick Gilbert re-discover is early season form and kick the Bears into week two of the finals? Watch out for ex-Melbourne star Travis Johnstone whose AFL experience is likely to serve not only himself, but Chelsea Heights well throughout the match. The likes of Josh Wood, Jason Twirdy and Mick Harrington will be called upon to have an influence for the Bears.
Elimination Final – Sunday 4th September
Skye v Highett (Jack Barker Oval)
Neither side will take the other lightly in what will be a highly intriguing and most likely entertaining contest. The Bombers are known for being a stingy defensive side with a knack for shutting down the competition’s best forwards while the Dogs are a side with enormous firepower but a lack of consistency in front of goal. The big question is can Skye shut down Highett but if not, can the Dogs capitalise on their opportunities in front of goal. Chad Ryan and Joel Jones-Hampton will need to be at their best for Highett to win the game while the experience of Beau Jedd, Tom Brown and Pat Singh will be called upon to guide the Dogs to victory. For the Bombers, the Ben’s (Evans and Walker) have been outstanding throughout the year while the return of captain Aaron Pacey and emergence of James Bateman and Michael Kelly has been crucial to their success and the trio are X-factors going into the clash.
DIVISION 3 – Semi Final Preview
With Andrew Paloczi
Second Semi Final – Saturday 3 September
Mount Waverley vs Ashwood (Meade Reserve)
Mount Waverley will be the side under most pressure after going through the home and away season unbeaten.
Ashwood revels in the underdog tag and proved how dangerous it can be with a solid win over Doveton to start its finals campaign.
As commendable as that performance was, taking on the Mountain Lions will stretch Ashwood’s defence.
Mount Waverley has the top two goal kickers in the division in James Gough, who has kicked 101, and Luke Galle with 74.
Chris Jeffries and Ian Taylor are other skilled Mountain Lions likely to prove menacing around goal.
If Ashwood doesn’t gain control of the midfield, its defenders are unlikely to contain Mount Waverley’s forward firepower.
But, with Dale Carroll who has 57 goals this season and Paul Wineberg with 30, Ashwood will pose a threat if it can get the ball forward often enough.
The Magpies will have to contend with Mountain Lions’ skipper Jarrod Wilkin, arguably the division’s best player.
If Ashwood fails to deliver the ball accurately to its forwards and bombs it in, Wilkin will be hard to outmark.
Mitch Saunders will be a major factor for the Magpies. He is a skillful onballer capable of providing opportunities for teammates, but able to finish the job himself, with 27 goals for the season.
Ashwood will give a good account of itself, but it is hard to envisage Mount Waverley failing to take the direct passage into the Grand Final.
First Semi Final – Sunday 4 September
Doveton Eagles vs Hallam (Keysborough Reserve)
After a strong home and away season in which it lost just three games, Doveton finds itself facing the prospect of a straight-sets exit from the finals.
Waiting to seize its chance is a young Hallam side brimming with confidence after a thrilling Elimination Final win.
Co-captain Manny Peresso and Daniel Chin are capable of providing plenty of chances for the Hallam forwards, and Shane Thomas and Steven Sigeti are a couple of those most likely to take advantage.
They are both strong marks and played well in the Elimination Final, although Sigeti did not capitalise on some fine work and will need to be more accurate against the Eagles.
Clint Wilson is likely to give Doveton’s midfielders first use of the ball with his ruck work and his namesake and coach Corrie is sure to be one of the beneficiaries.
Brett Hidgcock is another in-form Eagle able to help his team win the midfield battle.
Further injuries to Doveton players last week are likely to pose a stern test of the team’s depth.
The Eagles have been forced to cover the loss of quality players such as Peter Dye and Darren Ramsdale for much of the season, placing pressure on Adam Read to perform up forward.
More often than not he has delivered, kicking 51 goals to date.
It is unlikely the Eagles will suffer from the inaccuracy that afflicted them against Ashwood and Hallam will have to be at its best to win.
There is a real spirit to the Hawks and they have an excellent opportunity to grab a spot in the Preliminary Final.