The Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 finals commence at the Whittlesea Showgrounds this weekend, with two great match-up in the semi finals.
Momentum has been critical in the lead up to the finals in third division.
Reservoir was the premier in the 2015 season but started the year 1-3. Watsonia was 3-3 early in 2016, but gained momentum thereafter and went on to win the premiership.
In 2017, Banyule lost to South Morang by 51 points at Mill Park Lakes Reserve in Round 13. But the Bears rallied late in the season, while the Lions struggled with injuries and Banyule won the flag.
This season, three of the finalists have hit form at the right time, but a fourth team in Laurimar has hit a flat spot.
In the final round of the season Mernda ventured to Eltham College to play Old Eltham Collegians. The Demons had to win, and hope Laurimar would defeat South Morang in order to play finals.
Part one of their plan worked a treat. After a slow start, they reeled in the Turtles then secured a 23-point win. Matthew Campbell booted six goals in a best on ground performance. In doing so, he took his tally to 21 and surpassed Nicolas Aleksovski as the club’s leading goal kicker.
John Garrard made the decision to step down as senior coach of the Turtles during the week and his team unsuccessfully endeavoured to send him off with a win. Garrard named Corey Ray as his best on the day, while he was impressed that Luke Bower racked up 22 tackles.
Mernda finished fifth with Old Eltham Collegians sixth and both teams look well placed to push for finals in 2020.
Keeping Mernda out of the finals race was South Morang, who easily defeated Laurimar at Laurimar Reserve. The Lions took any guesswork out of the finals equation with a dominant display after quarter time to win by 50 points.
It was one of the biggest upsets of the season – rivalling Kilmore’s 35-point defeat of Panton Hill at J. J. Clancy Reserve in Round 8.
“Great four quarter effort – our best for the year,” South Morang coach Gary Hall said. “We didn’t want to rely on other results today.”
Alex Colaidis booted six goals to take his season tally to 38 to finish in fourth place on the goal kicking table. Luke Shelton was named best and also managed a major.
It was a great result for the Lions, who have been underestimated more than once in recent years. Since they returned to Division 3 in 2014, they have made a preliminary final at least in every year.
The Power were hampered in finishing with no bench and lost top spot as a result of their second defeat in three matches.
“Injuries and not being able to rotate is hurting us at the moment,” Laurimar coach Justin Sherman said. “But we were disappointing and need to regroup and concentrate for Panton Hill this week.”
The Power would be aiming to get Bradley Deed and Josh Williamson back from the injury list soon if possible. Plus, they may have to monitor the fresh injuries from the South Morang game, as well as a suspension to Jake Richards.
Panton Hill tuned up for the finals with its biggest win of the season – a 172-point victory against Reservoir at A.E. Cracknell Reserve. They Redback had seven multiple goal kickers as they moved into top spot and took out the minor premiership.
Alex Tsardakis had his best haul for the year with six, while Rhys Boyden also booted six majors to finish atop the goal kicking ladder with 76. Scott Conte was best and is in hot form late as the finals beckon.
Thomas Holloway kicked three goals for the Mustangs. Jackson Bellingham had his best game for the season and was named as Reservoir’s top performer on the day.
“Our boys battled hard all day,” Reservoir coach Peter Bartles said. “They never gave up and I am proud of every one of them. In my books, Panton Hill is the team to beat.”
Kilmore also had a big win at J.J. Clancy Reserve with a 120-point victory over Lalor. Ben Cooney registered his biggest tally in senior football with eight goals. Nicholas Zaharakis, Jaxson Kinnear, Kieren Binion and Scott Swindells each booted three.
Swindells returned after missing multiple weeks with a hamstring injury and is a handy inclusion on the eve of the finals. Shane Skidmore was best – kicking a goal and having a hand in many others. Leigh Irons continued to get plenty of the ball.
“We executed our game plan as well as we could,” Kilmore coach Nathan Phillips said. “We look forward to the challenge next week which we haven’t had as a club for a long time. Hoping to get one back on South Morang.”
Phillips noted that Lalor never gave up, but the Blues got their game going nicely after half time.
Sam Rexhepi kicked four majors for the Bloods to take his tally to 39 for the year. Demetrios Constantinou was a standout, especially early, and will be a leading contender for their best and fairest.
The finals begin with Panton Hill playing Laurimar in the second semi final at the Whittlesea Showgrounds on Saturday, where the winner will claim the first spot in this year’s grand final.
Panton Hill was two wins behind Laurimar before their Round 16 clash at Laurimar Reserve. The Redbacks won that game convincingly and go into the finals on a 10-game winning streak, having last lost to Kilmore at J. J. Clancy Reserve in the week prior to the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
In stark contrast, Laurimar was unbeaten through the first 15 rounds, but have lost two of three coming into the finals – with a dominant win over Mernda between those defeats.
With player availability a potential problem for the Power, the Redbacks look like starting favourites to take the short cut to the grand final.
But Laurimar fans should consider Epping in 2016 for inspiration. Epping was a distinct outsider in the second semi-final against Watsonia after a less than ideal lead in to the finals. But the Blues easily won their way into the grand final with a 37-point win.
The Power has the capability to do the same. They would be keen to stop Rhys Boyden, however – who was best afield with seven goals against them in their most recent clash.
The Round 4 clash between these teams at A.E. Cracknell Reserve was a wonderful spectacle – with Laurimar prevailing by a solitary point after a long shot by Michael Brennan went through late in the game. A thriller of those proportions would make for a great start to the finals series.
Mitch Thompson was leading the Coaches MVP award at the Round 14 cut-off and his team will look to him for inspiration.
The loser of this encounter goes to the preliminary final to face the winner of the first semi final.
Kilmore and South Morang face off on Sunday at the Whittlesea Showgrounds in what appears to be a fascinating contest.
The Blues would appear to be the better side when viewing the ladder. They finished half a win and 38 percent cleat of the Lions. But the head to head record this year is 2-0 to South Morang.
Their Round 1 tussle was a thriller, with the Lions prevailing by a goal at J. J. Clancy Reserve. The return match at Mill Park Lakes Reserve in Round 14 saw South Morang win by 17 points in a match where Kilmore squandered first use of the wind.
This is the first finals appearance in the NFNL for Kilmore and the club has not played finals in any competition since 2002. Can it focus enough to defeat the perennial preliminary finalists?
The Blues would like to keep Alex Colaidis in check. He has booted seven goals against Kilmore in their games this year and comes into the game in good form. So does the Blues’ Shane Skidmore. He booted four in the Round 1 match and was best last Saturday.
It’s a tough one to tip and a great contest is anticipated – with the loser going out and the winner progressing to the preliminary final.