Men's Football: 03/04 August Finals Preview
Two cracking contests await Division 1 followers this weekend with the road to the Grand Final remaining open for just three sides come Sunday evening.
Semi-Final 2 – Cheltenham Rosellas v Cranbourne Eagles – Saturday 3 September, 2:10pm – RSEA Park Moorabbin
A titanic semi-final tussle between Cheltenham and Cranbourne gets the action underway, a spot in the Grand Final up for grabs when the two sides run out at on the hallowed Moorabbin turf.
The Rosellas enjoyed a week off after claiming the minor premiership and will be determined to slot straight back into the thick of things and record their 17th win in a row.
With an imposing record, it’s hard to tip against the premiership favourites but the Eagles have built a solid block of form in the past month and got their finals campaign off to the perfect start last weekend.
Facing the plucky Doggies, the Eagles soared early before withstanding a second half fightback to record a gusty 10-point victory in a great advertisement of finals footy.
They’ll now have their eyes on an even bigger finals scalp and will be looking to turn around their 0-2 record against the Rosellas this season.
Marc Holt was at his dominant best with five goals for Cranbourne last week and will play another key role against the Rosellas dogged defence.
Tyson Barry continued his consistent contribution in front of goal with another three majors and Glenn Osborne was key in the victory.
The Rosellas last appearance against the Saints back in Round 18 saw them record a professional 17-point victory and since Round 2 Des Ryan’s men have met every challenge with aplomb.
Now back at RSEA Park, the team is no doubt determined to banish the disappointment of 2019 and finally break their Division 1 premiership drought.
A victory here would see them just one win away from that reality but they’ll need to play four quarters of quality footy to overcome the dangerous Eagles.
Despite the absence of Josh Fox, the Rosellas have consistently managed to find a way to pile of the goals with Austin Johnson and Dylan Weickhardt hitting the scoreboard most weeks with 51 goals between the pair.
With the Sherrin it’s been Cam Blitsas and Oliver Moran who have caught the eye, and the pair will be ones to watch on Saturday afternoon.
The Rosellas have been the superior side all season and have consistently met every challenge thrown since their early wobble.
Will their unbeaten run extend through to a Grand Final berth? We’re about to find out.
Semi-Final 1 – St Paul’s McKinnon v St Kilda City – Sunday 4 September, 2:10pm – RSEA Park Moorabbin
A brilliant cut-throat final is in store on Sunday afternoon when St Paul’s McKinnon and St Kilda City clash in a contest that promises to be a cracker.
There’s no tomorrow for the loser and with the stakes high we should see a high-quality affair right from the first bounce.
The Doggies were excellent in the second half last weekend but will rue their second quarter where they let through five-goals to see the Eagles open up a 24-point half time lead.
Despite booting seven goals to four in the second half, chasing tail proved too much with the team falling by 10-points.
Despite the result, Matt Kreymborg showed why is he a multiple Ellis medalist with a superb performance that included three goals.
James Sziller was also sharp in front of the big sticks with three majors, while Brad Dolan chipped in with a pair of snags.
The result sets them up with a date against the resurgent Saints who made a big statement last Sunday.
Despite drawing the in-form Dingoes, the Saints built a solid buffer at half time before killing the contest in the second half with nine goals to four.
Aaron Edwards put on a show for those who rolled through the turnstiles with seven goals leading the charge for the Saints.
The haul makes it 23 majors in the past three weeks for the former AFL spearhead and the Doggies coaching staff are sure to have a few headaches in limiting Edwards influence.
They’ll also need to be wary of some bloke called Dane Swan, with the former Brownlow medalist once again providing the spark for City with another typical champion display last weekend.
These two clubs have clashed twice this season with the Doggies getting the job done convincingly on both occasions.
Stephen Muller was chief tormentor on both occasions with the star Dog sinking the Saints with 12 goals to dominant inside the forward fifty.
City’s defence will need to tighten up and keep Muller under control if they are to progress through to the preliminary final.
If both teams play to their potential, we will be set for another cracking contest with the potential of a grandstand finish.
Worth the price of admission this one!
Preliminary Final – Chelsea Heights v Caulfield Bears – Saturday 3 September, 2:10pm – Ben Kavanagh Reserve
And then there were three.
The finals series in Division 2 has already thrown up many twists and turns but none more so than Chelsea Heights starring down the barrel of a straights set exit after a humbling qualifying final loss to the Doves last weekend.
To be frank the Demons were humiliated after half time, conceding 13 goals to two to see the margin blow out to an embarrassing 93-point defeat.
It’s hard to recall too many premiership sides recovering from such a brutal loss in a finals campaign but the club must respond to avoid their season going to waste.
Just a fortnight ago things looked rosy for the Demons, earning the extra week’s rest as reward for finishing top of the table but now, with two losses in a row, the group is scrambling for answers to turn it around in time.
At the conclusion of the home and away season no one would’ve dared tip the Demons to miss the Grand Final but that prospect is very much on the cards against the in-form Bears.
Caulfield have already sent one side crashing out of finals in straight sets, after they led from start to finish to record a gritty win over Keysborough last weekend.
The win makes it their second this finals campaign and their sixth victory in a row with some impressive wins against Hampton Park, Doveton and East Brighton mixed in there.
With this in mind it’s pretty clear the Bears don’t fear anyone and, on their day, can knock any side off.
They’ll be buoyed by the Demons recent battles and will be looking to capitalise on their opponents form slump.
James Backway has been in cracking touch with nine goals in the past fortnight and the Bears will be hoping he keeps finding the middle of the big sticks.
James Sullivan and Chris O’Keefe have also chipped in to consistently hit the scoreboard in finals, while Jake Buggy continues to star for the club.
The wins have all come without any meaningful contribution from Chris Smith, with the star forward held to just one major so far in finals.
But that can be defined as a positive for the Bears, with plenty of upside if Smith does manage to hit the scoreboard in tandem with their current forward potency.
These two clubs have clashed twice this season with the Demons comfortably getting the job done on both occasions by 57 and 78-points respectively.
The minor premiers will be hoping to recapture similar form that saw them hold the title of premiership favourites for the majority of the season.
With the Bears entering full of confidence this should be a fascinating battle with everything on the line.
With the added pressure and finals intensity we could see a grandstand finish to determine who progresses to play Doveton in the big dance.
Grand Final – Murrumbeena Lions v Black Rock Jets – Sunday 4 September, 2:15pm – Ben Kavanagh Reserve
After months of blood, sweat and tears we finally arrive at the seasons crescendo with the two best sides left to fight out it out for the flag.
Following a gripping and turbulent fortnight of finals action, we’re back to where we started with a Semi-Final rematch between Murrumbeena and Black Rock.
While Beena watched on last weekend, the Jets were engaged in a brutal struggle against Ashwood in a classic preliminary final.
It was everything footy fans could've hoped for with both sides showing skill, courage and heart right from the first bounce.
With just one kick the difference at three quarter time, the Jets threw everything they had in the final stanza to hold on for a thrilling nine-point victory in an entertaining contest.
Now they’ve made it the final hurdle, the Jets will be eyeing off one more victory to claim a fairytale flag.
Byron Wright was sensational last weekend in front of the big sticks with four goals and Ned Fallon, who also booted three majors, will be aiming to replicate their form on the biggest stage of all.
Stuart Wines has been unstoppable for Black Rock in the finals, with two best on ground efforts proving that he’s a big time player.
Murrumbeena enter the clash with fresh legs and they’ll be determined to use any advantage to help them on the scoreboard.
The Lions are in cracking shape for a tilt at the flag winning their past seven games, with two of those victories coming against the Jets.
Steve Tolongs has made his presence felt up forward this season, with the spearhead booting 67 goals for the season and he will be a key matchup for the Jets coaching staff.
Wade King and Lucas Cloke have also proved to be handy contributors with 43 majors between them.
Cory Hargrave has starred since entering the fold and will be looking to repeat his Semi-Final efforts from a fortnight ago.
As mentioned before the Lions have had the wood over the Jets this season, claiming all three contests, but the average final margin from all three clashes has been just 16-points.
On paper the two clubs are incredibly evenly matched, with both averaging 92 points in attack and conceding an average score between 56 and 60 points respectively.
While the Jets defence only averages four points more per game, they will be concerned with some of the scores kicked against them in finals with opposition booting 13.13 and 12.13 against them respectively.
That’s all well and fine in they are in front on the scoreboard, but it means their offensive game will need to be in top shape to counter the goals down the other end.
The Lions are in cherry ripe shape for a tilt at the flag brining in good form, fresh legs and the confidence of consistently getting the job done over their rivals.
If they can bring down the Jets for the fourth time this season, they’ll etch their name onto the premiership cup in a memorable turnaround from last season.
The Jets however will bring the heat, so expect to this to be another classic contest.
Grand Final – Frankston Dolphins v Lyndhurst Lightning – Saturday 3 September, 2:10pm – Power Reserve
The Division 4 premiers will be crowned Saturday afternoon when Frankston and Lyndhurst meet once again with the ultimate prize on the line.
The top two teams will square off for the fourth occasion this season after meeting in a Semi-Final just a fortnight ago, with Frankston claiming the spoils by 20-points on that occasion.
The Lightning bounced back brilliantly last weekend with a crushing triple figure preliminary final victory over Hallam and will line up in their third Grand Final since 2018.
They’ll be hoping it’s third time lucky after missing out in their previous two premiership deciders, but this contest will be the biggest challenge of the lot.
The Dolphins are one win away from a rare slice of history, having not dropped a single game all season while routinely bullying other teams.
The numbers on paper are genuinely hard to get your head around, with the team averaging 143 points per game to form the deadliest attack in the competition.
They have booted a score of 130+ on 11 occasions this year, including two whopping scores of 230+.
Combined with their elite defence, where they let through a miserly average of 34 points per outing, it’s hard to find a weakness across the field.
Richard Mathers has been a sensation for Frankston’s forward line, the key forward bagging 80 goals for the year.
He has however, been held to account by the Lightning with just five goals from three matches and he’ll be determined to break the shackles on the biggest stage of all.
Liam O’Donnell is another Dolphin to keep an eye on, with 58 majors from just 13 games.
Despite the odds being stacked against them, there are several positives the Lightning can draw inspiration from.
Their Semi-Final clash saw the Dolphins challenged like rarely before, with the men in orange managing to boot the second highest score (11.4) and claim the second tightest final margin against the premiership favourites all season.
While it wasn’t enough to get the job done, the Lightning will enter confident that they can take it right up to the Dolphins on the big stage, as evident by the single digit margin at three quarter time.
If this game has a similar score line late in the piece, nerves are sure to come into play for the undefeated Dolphins and the Lightning will be banking on applying some scoreboard pressure.
Lachlan McGenniss picked a good time to have his best game of the season with five goals leading the charge for Lyndhurst last weekend.
Jarryd McGrath also returned to form with a haul of four majors, taking his season tally to 82 and the Lightning will be banking on McGrath and Hamish Browning to stand up in the front half this weekend.
Ball magnet Jason Twite is also crucial to the cause as is David Ford who enters in good form.
As ridiculous as it sounds, the Lightning have nothing to lose heading into the premiership decider.
Frankston has had one hand on the cup for months and no one is expecting anything different despite their close contest a fortnight ago.
But as the 2008 AFL Grand Final proved, the most dominant team of the season doesn’t always salute on the day and the Lightning will be hoping for their own Stuart Dew to turn the tide.
A key feature from that famous game was goal kicking and it stands true today with both sides, especially the Lightning, needing to take their opportunities in front of goal.
On paper all indicators point to Frankston being the superior side with only the pressure of a Grand Final seemingly stopping them from claiming an inevitable flag.
If the Lightning can start well early and keep the butterflies flying around the Frankston camp, we could be set for a thrilling climax to the season.