Round 8 of A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 sees two top-four clashes in a round where the contenders will be out to show their credentials following the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
After a stagnated start to the year, this weekend’s match-ups provide an interesting start to the long run home towards finals.
Second spot is on the line when Eltham hosts Thomastown at Eltham Central Park, with the two sides currently sitting in third and second place respectively.
The Panthers are coming off a two-week break after having the bye in Round 7. They currently sit one win and 1.16 percent behind the Bears, so a win this week would be enough to propel them inside the top-two for the first time since Round 1.
Their last game in Round 6 saw them record a convincing 96-point win over Watsonia, giving the club consecutive victories for the first time this year.
After leading by just 17 points at half time, the Panthers held the Saints to just one behind in the third term as they piled on five unanswered goals, before kicking 11 goals in the final term to record their biggest win of the season.
Brandon Freeman led the goal kickers with his bag of four, while three other Panthers chipped in with three. Brent Macaffer and Anton Woods were named as their best.
Eltham could be bolstered by the inclusion of Collingwood utility Adam Oxley, given the VFL Magpies have a bye this weekend. Oxley was a standout in his only appearance for the Panthers this year, however his side suffered an upset home loss to the Fitzroy Stars that day.
Thomastown will have been looking forward to returning to the field for 14 days after its last game ended in a heartbreaking defeat – losing a thrilling four-point game to Banyule which ended a run of five-straight wins.
Leading by 33 points early in the final term, Thomastown wasn’t able to hold off a resurgent Banyule outfit, who kicked eight goals in the final term – the last of which came on the final siren goal to Devin McDonald to pinch the result.
While Thomastown would be bitterly disappointed to lose from such a commanding position, the performance confirmed that Ben Chapman’s side is a legitimate contender this year.
James Rizzolio, Ben Nesci and Matthew Vasilevski were outstanding in the game against Banyule and will look to continue that form this week, while Salvatore Mamone bagged three goals.
Whittlesea and Banyule lock horns in the second of the top-four clashes this week, where the fourth-placed Eagles host the undefeated ladder leader at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
The Eagles maintained fourth place on the ladder with a 34-point win over Watsonia prior to the long weekend. It was the club’s fourth win since returning to Division 2 and made amends for the previous week’s loss to the Fitzroy Stars.
Leading by just nine points at half time, the Eagles put together a five-goal to one third term to open up the game. Nicholas Pupillo led the scorers with three goals, while Matthew Coen and Josh Eid were the Eagles’ best in the win.
Whittlesea is yet to beat a side inside the top-four and will be looking to change that this weekend, where a loss could see them slip into the bottom half of the ladder depending on other results.
Banyule kept its winning start to the season alive with a remarkable win over Thomastown in the game of the year. Despite being outplayed for three quarters and with several key players contained, the Bears showed great resolve to dig deep and overcome a 33-point deficit.
Scott Gumbleton and Riley Loton each kicked three goals, while it was Loton who was named best afield for his side. He was aided by the performances from Ben Embleton and Tim Martin.
Having already beaten Eltham and Thomastown this season, a win over Whittlesea would further elevate Banyule’s status as the side to beat and would take them one step closer to securing a double chance in September.
St Mary’s and Fitzroy Stars take each other on for very first time when they meet at Whatmough Park.
The Burra enter with a 1-5 record but have shown good signs in recent matches, while the Fitzroy Stars are closing in on the top-four after a slow start to the season.
It’s been a stop-start month for the Burra, who had a bye following their Round 5 win over Epping and then another break following their eight-point loss to Diamond Creek at Coventry Oval in Round 7.
With scores level at three-quarter time and a second-straight win within their grasp, the Burra could only muster one behind in the final term in a low-scoring game.
Nicholas Daisley, Raygan Tate and Jacob Yeomans were named as the Burra’s best on a day when the club’s six goals were shared amongst six individual goal kickers.
Fitzroy enters this week’s game off its second win on the trot, defeating Epping by 13 points. The Stars weren’t overly convincing against the Blues but managed to lift when required to continue their climb up the ladder.
Trailing by three points at half-time, the Stars kicked clear in the third term to have a lead of 20 points, which was enough to seem them hold onto the lead and come away with their third win of the campaign.
Playing-coach Hayden Heta booted four goals up forward for the Stars, whilst Aaron Lynn and Northern Blues-listed speedster Ethan Penrith were named as Fitzroy’s best in the win.
Watsonia hosts Diamond Creek in the final match-up of the round with the sides to meet at A.K. Lines Reserve.
Watsonia has suffered four-consecutive defeats after starting the year with two wins, however the Saints showed signs of turning their form around in Round 7.
Taking on a Whittlesea side that had played in Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 in 2018, the Saints trailed by just nine points at half time. They then gritted their teeth in the final term after a third-quarter fade-out and closed the final margin to 24 points.
Xavier Kelly has been one of the Saints’ most valuable players in recent weeks and was again amongst the best players against Whittlesea, while Riley Taylor and Hayden Mitchell also performed well.
Diamond Creek improved its record to 3-4 before the Queen’s Birthday weekend and will now be looking for back-to-back wins for the first time in 2019.
The Creekers have been decimated by injuries in the opening third of the year and were at risk of falling to an upset loss to St Mary’s in Round 7, where scores were level at three-quarter time.
However, the Creekers kicked the only goal in the final quarter which would prove to be enough to walk away with the four points.
Jai Norman is enjoying a strong season and was dominant against the Burra with a four-goal display. Hugh Kavanagh and Jacob Booth were also notable in the win, which kept their side within touching distance of the top-four.