By Matt Fotia
We’ve saved the best round for last in the Premier Division as all of the spots in the top five are suspect to change, both the Division One elimination finals get a looking over and Seville take on Yarra Junction once again.
Read on for all of this, and more in the Weekend Preview.
All of the stars have aligned to create the most interesting round of the season the final one in the Premier Division, with a play-offs for first place and third spot, whilst the other two games decide who takes the final spot in the five.
Berwick travel to Narre Warren for the return leg of their season opener, with both sides level on 60 points at the top of the ladder.
Narre Warren are coming in off the back of some impressive form, given they’re the only side from the South East to come away from Wandin with the points and have won their last two games – against the fourth and fifth placed sides – by 75 points or more. They’ve notched up the ton on each of those occasions and are one big score away from reaching the 2000 barrier before the end of the home and away season.
Berwick had a comfortable win over Upwey-Tecoma last weekend after having the smallest of all wobbles, with a low scoring loss against Cranbourne and struggling to bury Olinda Ferny Creek the week after. The Wickers won’t be too concerned about that wobble given their spot in the five and the double chance has been locked away since around about round four or five though.
There’s much more on the line for Narre Warren, who will not only want the minor premiership, but will also like a timely reminder that they’re good enough to knock off their rivals on the eve of the finals.
Back up the Warburton Highway, Woori Yallock host Beaconsfield in another play off, this time for the final double chance spot. Third has even more importance given the recent resurgence of Cranbourne and the genuine danger that a motivated Wandin could pose.
When Beaconsfield hosted the Tigers in round nine, Woori Yallock were in front for the majority of the first three quarters and if not for a late Beaconsfield goal could’ve snatched an all important victory. The tenacity and intensity that Woori Yallock bought that day led Beaconsfield coach Leigh McQuillen to describe them as ‘Junkyard Dogs’.
If he thought they were good then, he should wait for them on their home deck. Woori Yallock are a much better side on their home patch, performing better against everyone bar Olinda Ferny Creek and Healesville at home.
They were 90 points better against Upwey – Tecoma at home, 37 better against Wandin and 35 better against Berwick. On average they’re 22.57 points better at the Tiger den.
Beaconsfield pose more of a threat to Berwick and Narre Warren in September, but Woori Yallock have proven themselves to have the most determination and genuine grit across the Premier Division all year.
Woori Yallock drew with Cranbourne in round 11, and those two points have kept the battle for fifth spot alive til the last day, with Cranbourne’s far more superior percentage (over Wandin) now pointless, if results go the Dogs way this weekend.
Wandin will have to knock off Olinda Ferny Creek at home to hold up their end of the bargain, which around a month ago seemed a sure thing. Given the Bloods recent form and Wandin’s up and down nature of late that’s no longer the case.
Should Wandin win, they’d need Upwey-Tecoma to do them a massive favour and snatch one of more unlikely wins over Cranbourne at home. The Tigers last three scores at home have been 62, 50 and 72 meaning they’ll need to be on their game defensively to pull this off.
The Eagles broke the shackles last weekend putting 131 past Olinda Ferny Creek last weekend, but their previous two outings saw them notch up 46 and 50, albeit against the top two sides. It’s unlikely they’ll slip-up, but stranger things have happened.
Mount Evelyn haven’t played at the Gembrook Sports Ground in a couple of seasons, but they’ll be hoping that the home of the Brookers will be more unfamiliar to their elimination final opponents Officer and stop the Roos free flowing style.
That aggressive, attractive style of play saw Doug Koop’s boys hold a 32 point lead during their round 13 match, before the Rovers got back to their high pressure contested game and completed an impressive comeback to win by 12 points.
They’ve been doing just enough in recent times, limping across the line against Belgrave, staying with second placed Monbulk for the first three quarters and holding off Emerald in a high scoring affair last weekend.
Officer can be slowed down by denying them possession of the ball, which of course stops their movement – you can’t attack if you don’t have the ball. But this isn’t usually Mount Evelyn’s style, preferring to go quickly and chaotically themselves.
Gembrook is more expansive then the Rovers may recall and should the Roos get off to another fast start they may be required to slow themselves and the Officer boys down. Regardless this game promises to be a thigh rubber, with the winner a very real chance of going all the way.
Back in the Valley, Don Road hosts another Seville v Yarra Junction encounter as the two sides return for the first time since Yarra Junction’s famous Grand Final victory.
Seville are a different outfit this time around though, with more speed on the outside, along with much more depth and spread of responsibility.
The closest anyone has gotten to Seville since their round five loss to the Eagles is 35 points, with Powelltown achieving that feat, on a wet and windy day in the depths of June. The Blues still had 25 shots on that day.
Their most recent outings have seen them dispose of two finalists in Gembrook-Cockatoo – by 48 points – and Kinglake – by 108 points – the latter away from home against a side who had just dismantled Yarra Junction.
Junction have flattered to deceive in recent times but won’t be too concerned about that fact. They aren’t obsessed with aesthetics. They like getting the job done and timing their run. They’ve got big names like Holmes, Wadsworth, Armstrong, Wheeler, Morton and Johnson – who kicked four goals in a dominant performance last weekend – that live for the big occasion.
This is almost as big as it gets. A chance for a spot in the big dance, on a big ground against a big opponent.
On the netball court, Division Two’s third best side Kinglake are setting themselves for a knockout battle with Yarra Glen after yet again going close without getting the cigar against one of the top two sides.
They play a style which is clearly compatible with the top two. Their biggest loss to either Seville or Yea is just nine goals against the Blues back in round nine. Unfortunately this style has stopped them from tearing apart any of the sides that have finished from 4th to 7th.
Kinglake are very reliant on Bille Cvijetic to score their goals, with the tall goal shooter having shot 397 of their 721 home and away goals, which comes to 55%. She shot 21 of their 32 last weekend.
Kinglake have struggled against Yarra Glen this season as well. The RiverPigs lost by just seven goals back in round four and closed the margin to four in round 13 on their home court. The RiverPigs have shown that on their day they can take down anyone, most notably when they defeated Yea – the Tigers only loss this season.
Alicia Mortley and Nicole Moate have been good all season, especially in recent times, but it’s the improved performances of defenders Katelyn Vanderkolk and Alana Stone that has seen an initially leaky defence tighten itself up.
If they can do it again and shut down Cvijetic, they could have one foot in the Preliminary Final.
In Division One, the Pakenham Lions will be at fever pitch as they prepare for the 2019 finals series, a year after one of their toughest seasons in recent memory. Add in a win over top of the ladder ROC to finish the season and the Lions will be chomping at the bit.
Third, fourth and fifth were almost inseparable on the table, with similar win loss records and for and against records, so the Lions last fortnight has been ultra important for their psyche heading in. Kyra Esler is coming off two 30 plus goal games and is the barometer for the Lions. If she’s on her game in terms of shooting efficiency then the Lions are always a chance of victory.
Their opponents, Warburton Millgrove, are much more experienced then the Lions and will be preying on that fact, and their win over the Lions back in round 14.
If their defensive combination of Courtney Lever and Natalia Petrucev are in sync then the Burras could be on their way to week two of the finals. They’ve got a potent mid court made up of Selina Fotia, Ashlee Guerra and Chelsea Barnard and their goalers – Bianca Daniels and Kirralee Luiyf – have proven on a number of occasions that they are both match winners in their own right.
With the top five spots locked away in the Premier Division for awhile, Upwey-Tecoma can consider their finish to the season as impressive as anyone, as they’ve swanned in to be guaranteed a sixth placed finish unless Berwick or Wandin produce a very unlikely upset.
The Tigers form since the bye has been particularly enjoyable, with a four goal loss to second placed Beaconsfield, a five goal win over Wandin and last weekends three goal victory against Berwick. Their only down week came against Woori Yallock.
They lost by 41 goals last time they played Cranbourne, and will be likely to improve on that considering both their recent form and that of the Eagles.
Cranbourne are coming off back to back losses, and whilst it won’t worry them in terms of their premiership aspirations – they came from the elimination final to reach the big dance last season – back to back to back losses would spell trouble, especially given it could see them hand Woori Yallock the double chance.
Expect a heated affair despite the fact Upwey-Tecoma are fighting for nothing. If they can finish this season with a massive upset win, it could set the wheels in motion for 2020.