A look ahead to Round 18 in Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 as the home and away season draws to an exciting conclusion.
Round 18 is burned in the memory of Mernda fans. It was in this round in both 2016 and 2018 that the Demons dropped out of the finals after being in the top-four all year.
Now the boot is on the other foot. Mernda can, if results go its way, move up into fourth spot after being outside the top-four all year.
This possibility remained open for the Demons despite losing in Round 17 to Laurimar by 59 points at Waterview Recreation Reserve. Mitch Golby starred up forward for the Power with five goals, while Brad Dimech was prolific in the midfield for the Demons.
With South Morang having the bye, the loss kept Mernda half a win behind the Lions leading into the final round.
Normally a seventh versus ninth clash would be expected to be close, but seventh-placed Old Eltham Collegians has been running hot recently and continued that form against Reservoir at Crispe Park in Round 17.
The Mustangs were hanging on at half time, but a 5.3 to 0.2 third term broke the game open for the Turtles on the way to a 70-point win. Old Eltham Collegians has now won four of its past five games.
Kieran Malone excelled up forward with his best haul for the year, kicking seven goals. The bag draws him level with the likes of Kyl Ewart and Dallas King on 33 goals despite not playing for the Turtles until Round 7. He has booted 28 majors in his past six matches.
“We started off fairly poorly with a number of uncharacteristic mistakes before coming to terms with the conditions and moving the ball a lot smarter from the second quarter onwards,” Old Eltham Collegians coach John Garrard said.
Garrard liked the work of Jack Fitzgerald running off half back, Lukas Lymberatos on a wing, while Corey Ray got a heap of it.
“I thought we started off well,” Reservoir coach Peter Bartles said. “We fell away a bit after half time, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect how well we played. I’m very proud of the commitment and attitude of our guys even though they were beaten by a better side on the day.”
Bartles liked the work of Ben Mowlam, Zacharias Cookson and Shane Potter, who booted three majors. Ben Noy, sharing the coaching duties with Bartles, returned to his on-field role on the weekend.
Heidelberg West had a trip to Lalor Reserve in its last senior game of the year to take on Lalor. The Hawks led by eight points at the main break but pulled away thereafter to record a comfortable 43-point victory.
“The game was tight until half time.” Heidelberg West coach Cam van Florestein said. “Then we changed the way we were playing in the midfield and I think we outworked them.”
van Florestein gave praise to Blake Manton-McCarthy and Ben Kennan down back, while Ben Fogarty impressed on ball. Jack Marris booted four goals.
It was a tough day for Lalor, who lost several players to injury during the game.
“A game marred by errors,” Lalor coach Gary Cutler said. “Mistakes cost matches. We need to get better and make less of them.”
Cutler was pleased with the work of Jake Langborne. Ben Curtiss played his last game before retirement and was exceptional, while Lachie Evans did well at centre half back.
Panton Hill hosted Kilmore at A.E. Cracknell Reserve. After a tight contest for most of the game, the Redbacks came home with 4.2 to 1.5 in the final term to come away with a 26-point win.
After losing to both Laurimar and Kilmore in the first half of the season, Panton Hill has now achieved back-to-back wins against those flag contenders.
“It was the perfect hard-fought win to have leading into a finals series in two weeks,” Panton Hill coach Steve Layt said.
Scott Conte went off injured the previous week but returned to put in an exceptional performance. Midfielder Nathan Hendry led the way at crucial stages when required.
Kicking 6.13 – despite difficult conditions – would have frustrated Kilmore coach Nathan Phillips.
“Disappointed with the loss,” Phillips said. “But we can take a lot out of the game and hope to get an opportunity to play the Redbacks again later in the year.”
Kilmore rounds off the regular season when hosting Lalor at J.J. Clancy Reserve.
The Blues are a game ahead of Mernda, but the huge percentage gap means they will play finals regardless of the result against the Bloods. Therefore, the game will be a tune-up for the club’s first finals appearance in the NFNL.
The Round 7 clash between these teams at Lalor Reserve resulted in a 63-point win by the Blues, so if Lalor could take the four points it would be a huge upset.
Reservoir travels to A.E. Cracknell Reserve to play Panton Hill.
In a similar vein to the Kilmore vs Lalor game, this will be preparation for the finals for the Redbacks, who have already sewn up the double chance. Their only other incentive would be grabbing the top spot, but this could only happen if Laurimar loses.
The Mustangs will hope to improve on their Round 9 encounter with Panton Hill at Crispe Park when they lost by 102 points. If they could manage a maiden win in the final round, it would be the upset of the season.
Laurimar will go into the finals in top spot if it can defeat South Morang at Laurimar Reserve.
The Lions are coming off the bye and they have even more incentive to triumph. A win will ensure them a finals berth.
South Morang has made it to the preliminary final each year since it returned to Division 3 in 2014. The Lions may still get there if they lose, currently sitting two points ahead of Mernda. The only way for them drop out is if they lose and the Demons win.
Mernda travels for the first time to Eltham College to play Old Eltham Collegians and must win – and have Laurimar defeat South Morang – to play finals.
Had Demons fans looked at the fixtures after Round 10, they may have felt confident of a Round 18 victory over the Turtles – who had won only one game outright at that stage.
But Old Eltham Collegians have been in excellent form of late. The Turtles have won three straight and defeated South Morang by 65 points in Round 16 at this venue.
Despite the ladder positions, it would probably be considered an upset if Mernda prevails. The Turtles’ incentive is to leapfrog Heidelberg West into sixth place of the ladder and finish the season on a high in John Garrard’s final game as coach.
With much on the line this weekend and better weather forecast, a great final round of the regular season awaits.