The combatants for the first week of finals is all but settled however some crucial clashes still remain in Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3.
Barring some extraordinary results, Laurimar will play South Morang in the second semi-final and Old Eltham Collegians will lock horns with Kilmore in the first semi-final.
Nonetheless, the round presents four fascinating matches that could all easily go either way.
Round 16 produced three big wins and a thriller, that being between Laurimar and Kilmore, two sides who have played in several results which went down to the wire in recent years.
The Blues led late in the contest and looked a chance to win, but the Power booted the crucial last goal courtesy of Matthew Gersh to come away with a two-point victory in a game which only produced ten majors.
“We weren’t playing that well early, but the contested work and effort was great in the final quarter,” said Laurimar coach Jimmy Atkins.
Atkins was impressed with the work of Ethan Bateman and Jake Richards, the latter played at half back before being moved onto the ball later in the game.
“We don’t accept losing, but it was pleasing that we were able to match it with the top side,” said Kilmore coach Nathan Phillips.
Jacob Lawson had kicked five goals in the Round 8 match between these teams at the same venue, so Phillips was pleased with the job done by Thomas McMillan who kept Lawson goalless for the afternoon.
Stephen McIntyre also kept competition leading goal-kicker Jacson Cecil goalless but the clear best for the Blues was Chris Ryall who dominated in the midfield.
Mernda booted eight goals to nil with the wind in the opening term on their way to a 106-point win over Reservoir at Waterview Recreation Reserve. Jesse Guelfo hadn’t scored a goal all season but slotted four majors for the Demons in the big win. Riley Edwards and Angus Mills continued their stellar seasons, with Edwards kicking three goals and Mills two.
It was an improvement from the Mustangs who lost by 134 points at the same venue back in May.
“We’re developing a squad that has the talent to be competitive at this level,” said Reservoir coach Justin George.
Daniel Cole and Robert Holland continue to lead the way for the Mustangs, while midfielder Matthew Barnes played his best game for the season.
Heidelberg West ventured to Lalor Reserve to play Lalor and recorded a 115-point win.
“Our focus is to win the remaining two games and finish the season with winning habits,” said Heidelberg West coach Michael Missen.
Missen was impressed with the improved Jordon Bulman, while Alex Hywood kicked five and Tim Gleeson led a winning defence.
The Bloods began the year with a 205-point defeat at the hands of the Hawks at Heidelberg Park in the opening round, so the improvement since then has been noticeable.
Nick Anastasi, Jamie Meadows and Dylan Lovett were among the best for the home team.
“Like most weeks, we are getting more parts of the game right and hopefully, we can continue that trend into next week,” said Lalor coach Angelo Lamanna.
It has been a positive to see both Reservoir and Lalor improve throughout the season even though they still sit a fair way behind the other six teams. In a highly anticipated encounter, the Mustangs and the Bloods will clash this week at Crispe Park.
Reservoir won the first game at Lalor Reserve by 33 points in Round 2 and then came from behind to claim a six-point win at Crispe Park.
This trend line suggests that Lalor is a big chance to win, and a victory would be a great achievement for the club and supporters, but the Mustangs would be equally keen to make it three from three to take momentum into 2023.
Both teams have blooded youngsters this season who will be on display this week and that plan is expected to pay dividends down the track and with this being the first time for several weeks where fans of both clubs can attend with a genuine chance of a win, a great contest is expected.
Heidelberg West faces Mernda at Heidelberg Park in a fifth versus sixth clash with the winner to take the Les Butterworth Cup. While both teams would be disappointed to be out of the finals race, the victor on Saturday would feel that finals are within reach in 2023.
The Demons would draw level with the Hawks on eight wins if they can prevail. Given that they led at three quarter time at this ground in Round 6 before being overrun, they should fancy their chances. They did win at Waterview Recreation Reserve by 27 points in Round 13 in a game which all but ended Heidelberg West’s finals push.
The Hawks would return their best ever result in the competition with a win and would eclipse the eight wins back in 2018.
Kilmore hosts Old Eltham Collegians at J.J. Clancy Reserve and while both teams lost against the top sides last weekend, the Blues go into the match in better shape in this first semi-final preview as they have a healthier list and are the only team the Turtles have not beaten this season.
Matthew Sleeman’s men had won seven straight between Rounds 2 and 8 with narrow losses to Kilmore book-ending that winning streak. Given those close losses, Old Eltham Collegians would be given a good chance if they could reproduce the form that saw them defeat Laurimar over a month ago. The victor would take some confidence into the finals series, so both teams will be desperate for a win.
In what many see as a grand final preview, South Morang plays Laurimar at Mill Park Lakes Reserve with the winner to sit atop the ladder. With both teams on 13 wins and feeling like they belong in Division 2, a top of the table finish would be the ideal lead-in to the finals series.
These powerhouses played at this venue in only three weeks ago in a match where the Lions led narrowly at the last change then pulled away to win by 23 points.
Most pundits would have predicted these teams to be prominent at the business end of the season and the winner this weekend is likely to be labelled premiership favourites. While Laurimar would feel like they could improve enough on their Round 14 loss to turn things around, South Morang will have their sights set on extending their winning run of nine games right through to the finals.
Whatever the result, it will be a great tune-up for the upcoming second semi-final and a big crowd is expected.