The top-four sides have booked their finals place in A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2, with Round 18 to provide a chance to iron out the creases before next week’s semi finals.
Banyule remains in first spot entering the final round, although Whittlesea remains a chance to claim the minor premiership – with both sides taking a 12-3 record into Round 18.
The Eagles won’t be able to make-up the percentage differential between the sides, meaning they can only finish in first place by winning this week and hoping Banyule loses to Thomastown.
The Eagles secured the double chance in the finals by registering an 11-point win over Thomastown in Round 17. Despite the result, Thomastown’s place in the finals was confirmed after Diamond Creek suffered a harrowing four-point loss to St Mary’s.
It was the second year in a row the Creekers endured heartache in their final home and away game to suffer a finals near-miss, with a goal-bound shot with the last kick of the day touched on the line in last week’s defeat at Whatmough Park.
The pick of the games this weekend takes place at Main Street Recreation Reserve where Thomastown hosts Banyule in the round’s only clash between two top-four sides.
The Round 7 meeting between the sides at Beverley Road Oval was arguably the game of the season, when a goal to Devin McDonald on the final siren handed Banyule a four-point win after trailing by five goals early in the last quarter.
While both sides know full well which final they will play in next week, it’s hard to see either team taking a backward step this weekend as they look to enter the finals in good touch and with momentum.
Thomastown last week fell to its first loss under caretaker coach Scott Plant, although it did take it right up to Whittlesea at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
The Bears trailed by 16 points at half time, but never threw in the towel despite being kept at arm’s length by the Eagles throughout the day. Despite the defeat, Diamond Creek’s loss at St Mary’s ensured Thomastown’s finals hopes aren’t hanging on this week’s result.
Josh Beare and Brayden Plant each booted three goals last week, while ever-reliable trio Daniel Chadwick, Dylan Chapman and Adrian Natoli kept Thomastown right in the game with strong performances.
Banyule bounced back from its six-point loss to Whittlesea in Round 16 with a dominant win over Epping. The ladder-leader broke away early and never allowed the Blues a sniff, keeping them to just one goal until the final quarter as they ran away with the 77-point win.
Michael Italia, Mannon Johnston and Scott Gumbleton were major contributors on the day and were the pick of the goal kickers with three majors each, while Jack Langford was best afield in another excellent display.
With Whittlesea a red-hot favourite in its Round 18 clash with Watsonia, Banyule will need to win this game to secure top spot – a position it has occupied for the majority of the year.
A Thomastown victory would do wonders for its confidence heading into a second-successive finals series. The fourth-placed Bears have taken it right up to their fellow finalists throughout the home and away season, however their record against the top-three stands at 0-5 and they would love to change that before the finals.
Whittlesea will look to continue its charge for a first-place finish when it travels to A.K. Lines Reserve to take on Watsonia.
The Eagles are the in-form team of the competition and enter the final round on an eight-game winning streak – which includes victories over each of their fellow top-four rivals.
To say that they are a red-hot chance at being promoted back in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 would be an understatement and last weekend they continued their run with a relatively close win over Thomastown in a finals-like match.
Clancy Bland and Nathan Stefanile were the pick of the crop for Whittlesea in a victory which cemented a top-two finish, while Samuel Indian’s four-goal haul was his second bag at home in as many games, after kicking five in the Round 14 win over the Fitzroy Stars.
Riley Dyson returned for his first game since Round 2 and he can now use this week’s game to gain more match practice ahead of next weekend’s second semi final against Banyule – where the sides will be competing for the first grand final spot.
Watsonia will be looking to cause an upset as it hopes to snap a seven-game losing streak, which includes a 24-point loss to the Fitzroy Stars last week.
The Saints led by seven points at half time but could only muster one more goal for the rest of the day as the Stars ran over the top of them to record the win a A.K. Lines Reserve.
Daniel Watson was Watsonia’s only multiple goal scorer with two majors, while Xavier Kelly was named as the Saints’ best as he continued what has been a very impressive campaign in his return season with the club.
Eltham returns from the bye and will be looking to gather some momentum for the finals when it hosts Epping at Eltham Central Park.
The Panthers currently sit in third place on the ladder but won’t be able to push up any higher – meaning this week’s game will be used to ramp up preparations for next week’s first semi final against Thomastown – who they have beaten comfortably in both encounters this year.
Prior to last week’s bye, the Panthers made a fantastic start to their journey under caretaker coaches Brent Macaffer and Michael Still with a dominant 80-point win over St Mary’s at Whatmough Park.
So good was the Panthers’ performance that they didn’t concede a goal until the fourth quarter. It was a mighty effort against a side that has proven to be a massive danger to those competing for a finals place this year.
Still (five goals) and Macaffer led from the front in their first game since taking the coaching reins from Paul King, while young midfielder Bronson Glasgow was also at his best in the win.
Epping’s tough season comes to an end this weekend, with the Blues entering the final round with just one win to their name. Despite finishing in bottom spot, they will compete in Division 2 again in 2020, with no side to be relegated this year.
The Blues only managed one goal across the first three quarters in last week’s clash with Banyule at Beverley Rd Oval. It was a game controlled by the ladder-leader from the outset, with the home side eventually going on for a¬ 77-point win.
Leigh Judd was Epping’s best player in defeat. Despite missing five games in the back half of the season, the Blues skipper is still be a leading contender for the club’s best and fairest. Joel Carter, Thomas Burnside, Lucas Aquilina, Corey Middleton and Dallyce Taylor will also be in the running.
Fitzroy Stars and St Mary’s lock horns at Sir Douglas Nicholls in the final round, where the winner will secure a sixth-place finish.
The Stars are coming off a come-from-behind 24-point win over Watsonia and will be hoping to send off departing coach Hayden Heta on a positive note.
Last week’s win gave the Stars their sixth triumph of an inconsistent campaign and if they can win this week they will finish the season with an equal-season best three wins on the trot.
The Stars managed to overturn a poor recent record against Watsonia and a seven-point half time deficit to score last week’s win. They were sound defensively and conceded just one goal in the second half.
Carl Groth, Peter Hood and Jai Burns all excelled in the victory, while the 12 goals were shared by nine different players.
St Mary’s also enters the final round in winning form, after pulling off yet another stunning upset in last week’s four-point triumph over Diamond Creek at Whatmough Park.
The Burra were facing a Creekers side desperate to win to keep their finals hopes alive. Despite trailing early, the Burra were the ones who lifted in the second half – booting nine goals to six after the main break to score a thrilling win.
Nick Dean played a stellar role in defence but snuck forward late to take a towering mark and kick a clutch goal to put the Burra ahead. Mitchell Green was also instrumental late and managed to chase down a goal-bound kick in the final second to rush a behind, which saved the win for his side.
St Mary’s has been one of the most improved sides of the 2019 season after a slow start – scoring triumphs over Banyule, Thomastown and Diamond Creek in the back half of the year.
It would be a might effort if the club could finish its debut season in second division with seven wins, ahead of what is already looming as an exciting 2020 – where the club will again be led by Fab Carelli.