It’s a massive Round 16 in A Plus Labour Solutions, where places inside the top-four could become set in stone.
Thomastown last week moved one step closer to securing a second-successive final appearance with a runaway win over Diamond Creek in what was billed as an in-season final.
The win moved the Bears six points clear of the fifth-placed Creekers, although Craig Hayes’ side still remains a chance of pinching a finals berth. The Creekers must win their final two games and rely on either of Thomastown or Eltham losing their remaining two fixtures.
Elsewhere, Banyule held off a resurgent Fitzroy Stars outfit to move a game clear in first place after Whittlesea had the bye. The Bears have an opportunity to sew up the minor premiership this week when they take on the second-placed Eagles.
Meanwhile, Eltham did its finals hopes no harm with a convincing win over Watsonia and will be looking for a similar result when they clash with St Mary’s – whose finals hopes officially came to an end despite a big win over Epping.
Despite being firmly entrenched inside the top-four for much of the season, Eltham will go into this week’s game with new leadership after parting ways with senior coach Paul King.
King has led the club since 2017, however the Panthers announced in a statement on Wednesday the decision to separate on the eve of the finals, with Brent Macaffer and Michael Still to serve as playing-coaches for the remainder of the year.
The biggest game of Round 16 takes place at Beverley Rd Oval where Banyule hosts Whittlesea in a twilight fixture that could very well prove to be a preview of this year’s grand final.
The Bears currently sit four points and 35.61 percent above the Eagles, meaning a win would all but secure first spot on the ladder in just their second season in Division 2.
Whittlesea has won its past six games and comes in fresh after having a bye last week. A win this week would go close to assuring them a double chance in September, however a loss could see them slip to third, depending on other results.
Banyule recorded back-to-back wins last week after it held off a last quarter surge from the Fitzroy Stars to prevail by seven points in a nail-biter at Beverley Rd Oval.
Leading by 40 points at half time, the Bears looked to be cruising. But they were only able to kick one goal in each of the final two quarters to just hold off a Stars side looking to claim a major boilover.
Scott Gumbleton and Adam Barclay each booted three goals each, while Brent Stanton put in a best-on-ground performance in his first game since Round 11.
If the form line through the Stars is anything to go by, Whittlesea may be favoured in this one after they recorded an 89-point win over the Stars at the Whittlesea Showgrounds prior to the bye.
The Eagles led by 52 points at half time and continued that momentum into the second half, keeping the Stars goalless in the final quarter as they went on to record an important percentage-boosting win.
Mitchell Andrews continued his impressive season and was named Whittlesea’s best with three goals, while Sam Indian made an immediate impact in his return to the senior side and finished with a five-goal haul.
Whittlesea’s last loss was in fact against Banyule, all the way back in Round 8. The Bears kicked 11 goals to one in the first half, before going on for a 44-point win at the Whittlesea Showgrounds. Mitch Lovell booted six goals but missed his first game of the year last week.
Diamond Creek knows what needs to happen from here to pinch a spot in the top-four and will be looking to stay in the hunt when it hosts Watsonia at Coventry Oval.
The Creekers’ three-game winning streak came to an abrupt end at the worst possible time last weekend, with the loss to Thomastown leaving the Bears in the box seat to secure a spot in the finals.
It was an even contest throughout, with Diamond Creek holding a one-point advantage heading into the final term. However, a seven-goal to two final quarter from the visitors turned the game on its head and made a serious dent in the Creekers’ finals aspirations.
The ever-reliable Jacob Booth and Jai Norman were again named as Diamond Creek’s best players. The duo will likely be slugging it out in a two-way battle for the club’s best and fairest award come season’s end.
Watsonia also enters this weekend’s match on the back of a loss, after slipping to its fifth defeat in a row at the hands of Eltham. The Saints produced their lowest scoring first half of the season, managing just 1.3, in a 66-point defeat at A.K. Lines Reserve.
Michael Perfetto and Jamie Haber were named as Watsonia’s best, while Matthew Lattouf kicked his first senior goal in his second game.
Since upsetting the Fitzroy Stars at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval in Round 9, the Saints have lost their past five games by an average 64 points. They will hope to round out the year with more competitive showings as they look to build some momentum towards 2020.
Diamond Creek won the last encounter between the pair by just 11 points, where a 4.5 to 1.2 third term proved the difference in the end.
A chance to sure-up a place in the finals presents for Eltham, although it won’t be an easy trip when it travels to Whatmough Park to take on St Mary’s.
Great interest will surround the Panthers’ performance this week following the decision to part ways with coach Paul King just three weeks before the finals commence.
The Panthers currently sit in third place on the ladder and are equal on points with Thomastown. A win this weekend would assure them a finals place and keep them in the hunt for a top-two finish despite a bye next week.
But it won’t come easy against a St Mary’s outfit which has developed a knack for beating higher-placed sides during the second half of the campaign. Both Banyule and Thomastown are among the scalps the Burra have claimed in their five wins this year.
Their fifth win of the season came last weekend when they comprehensively defeated Epping in a 77-point demolition. The result gave St Mary’s its highest winning margin in Division 2.
The Burra were on song from the outset and led by 36 points at the main break, before going on with the job in the second half – spearheaded by a six-goal and best-on-ground performance from Myles Guldon.
Eltham is starting to get its best side back on the park at the right time of year and last week returned to winning ways with an 11-goal triumph over Watsonia – piling on 31 scoring shots to 10 in the win.
Brent Macaffer led the way in the middle of the ground, while Michael Still chimed in with five goals after missing the previous week’s loss to Banyule. The key forward now has 11 goals in his past two appearances and also kicked six in his last match against St Mary’s.
Eltham was 38 points to the good when they hosted the Burra back in Round 9, although the final margin wasn’t indicative of the challenge the visitors put up. The Panthers led to 10.2 to 4.15 at half time and the story may have been different had St Mary’s made more of its early chances.
Fitzroy Stars and Epping will both be looking to end a run of outs when they meet at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval.
The Stars’ last win came in Round 8 when they just held out St Mary’s, while Epping has just a solitary win to its name this year. Given the opportunity that presents this week, a great battle awaits.
Epping may have just the one win to its account in 2019, but it will take some confidence into this encounter after pushing the Stars all the way in a 13-point defeat when they met in Round 7.
However, the Stars will enter this week with renewed positivity after they gave ladder-leader Banyule a red-hot run for their money last week – falling just seven points short of what would have been a remarkable comeback.
The Stars looked set to receive a thrashing when they trailed by 40 points at half time, but an eight-goal to two second half showed plenty of guts and should give the club plenty of belief going into this week.
Northern Blues listed star Ethan Penrith was named as the Stars’ best in last week’s defeat to the Bears, while Corey Wanganeen proved to be a force up forward and finished with a bag of six goals.
Epping never fully recovered after a slow start against St Mary’s last week and kicked just seven goals for the day. That was despite strong performances from Michael Sibaie, Lucas Aquilina and Dallyce Taylor.