FINALS WEEK 1 PREVIEW
Second Semi Final - Springvale Districts vs Hampton Park
Saturday 1st September - Power Reserve
Previous meetings this season:
Hampton Park 11.13-79 def Springvale Districts 10.4-64 (Good Friday match)
Springvale Districts 8.11-59 def Hampton Park 4.5-29 (Round 6)
Springvale Districts and Hampton Park had big expectations placed on them before the Division 3 season got under way.
Most forecasters expected the Demons and Redbacks to feature prominently at the pointy end of the season.
That has come to fruition, with one of these sides set to progress straight to the Grand Final after this week’s semi final clash.
The other will have a chance to lick its wounds and take the longer path to the decider.
The Demons won six Division 2 matches last season and were relegated despite finishing five wins ahead of last-placed Heatherton.
Springvale Districts moved on promptly from that disappointment, not only retaining its already strong squad, but also bolstering it with astute recruiting.
Hampton Park also had to move on, putting the disappointment of recent barren seasons in the SEFNL behind it.
A shift to divisional football has proved just the tonic the Redbacks needed, with them also having recruited strongly.
They made an immediate impression with victory in a tight Good Friday match against Springvale Districts.
The Demons squared the ledger with a stunning Round 6 effort, dispatching Hampton Park by five goals and holding the Redbacks to just nine scoring shots.
Hampton Park’s coach Jason Chapple is confident he will have a close to full strength team available for the first week of finals action.
Chapple expects the Demons to provide a stern test for his charges.
“Springvale are a high-pressure team that force turnovers, no doubt they go in favourites, so hoping we can match their pressure and stop their elite ball movement,” he says.
His counterpart Kris Thompson also expects to go in with a strong side, having taken the opportunity to rest a few players with niggles in Round 18.
Thompson enthuses about this week’s challenge against the Redbacks.
“We have been looking forward to this for a long time now. We have genuinely improved as a team every single week and are ready to tackle the finals series. We will have to be at our best to beat Hampton Park and we look forward to the challenge.”
This is a game all SFNL fans should look forward to.
Expect a scintillating contest, with Springvale Districts to justify its favouritism with a narrow win.
First Semi Final - Endeavour Hills vs Ashwood
Sunday 2nd September - Power Reserve
Previous meetings this season:
Ashwood 6.13-49 def Endeavour Hills 5.7-37 (Round 5)
Endeavour Hills 8.11-59 def Ashwood 1.10-16 (Round 12)
Endeavour Hills is perceived as a genuine contender for the flag, whilst most pundits anticipate Ashwood will make a rapid exit from the finals.
The Falcons unquestionably start as favourites against the Magpies in what is in name a semi final, but is in a practical sense an elimination final.
Still, it was Ashwood that won the first encounter between these clubs this season.
On that occasion, Magpies’ coach Mick Rossborough was delighted with his side’s ability to maintain its defensive structure and apply pressure to Endeavour Hills’ ball carriers.
Ashwood will need to produce the same level of organisation and intensity to cause an upset this time.
If the Magpies allow Endeavour Hills to play the game on its terms and give the Falcons the space to chip pass to teammates, Ashwood will lose heavily.
That was demonstrated in Round 12 when a disorganised and wayward Ashwood was exposed by a more purposeful and precise Endeavour Hills, with the Falcons recording a 43-point win.
Rossborough is confident his Magpies can do damage this time if they can stop Endeavour Hills’ running players.
“Attacking is not a worry for us. When we attack and use the ball well we score,” he declares.
The main obstacle will be getting enough of the footy, something the coach indicates his side was unable to do in last year’s finals clash with Endeavour Hills.
The Endeavour Hills’ outfit Rossborough’s side faces this week will be substantially stronger than the one soundly beaten by Hampton Park in the final home and away round.
Falcons’ coach Rob Dipper took the opportunity to rest six players in a match with no bearing on Endeavour Hills’ ladder position.
He expects to recall Daniel Soar, Daniel Strom, Daniel Cann, Nathan Crutchley, William Fournarakis and possibly Marcus Kleinert to take on Ashwood.
Dipper believes his side is yet to play its best footy this season and is confident the Falcons’ top-level performance is capable of beating the other teams in the premiership race.
Ashwood was boosted last weekend by the return of George Lithotomos who got through the game against South Yarra after being out of action since Round 6.
If his fitness holds up against Endeavour Hills, Lithotomos will provide much-needed run from half back for the Magpies.
Ashwood centre half forward Jack Harris made a big impression against the Falcons in Round 5 and was another to return to action against the Yarras, after a number of weeks on the sidelines.
Ashwood is a proud club and whilst this scribe anticipates the Falcons will be too classy, the Magpies will make them work for the win.