A place in the 2017 Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 grand final is up for grabs on Sunday when Northcote Park and Bundoora meet at Preston City Oval for the second time in two weeks.
The clubs are certainly familiar with each other at this venue, with this their sixth meeting in a final since 2012.
Northcote Park won a thriller in the qualifying final on September 2, however last week’s contrasting performances in the semi finals have resulted in Bundoora now looming as the favourite to meet Macleod in the premiership decider.
On Saturday the Cougars were thrashed by the Roos for the third time this season. The 106-point drubbing was the greatest margin in a Division 1 final since North Heidelberg beat Epping by 155 points in the 1997 first semi final.
The Cougars fielded the same side that downed Bundoora in the qualifying final, but simply could not match the minor premier for skill and intensity in the 23.17 (153) to 6.11 (47) thrashing – with four of the defeated side’s goals coming in the final term.
The result gives Macleod the significant mental edge should Northcote Park advance to the decider, with the Roos winning the pair’s three head-to-head encounters this season by an average margin of 87 points.
The advantage of winning in the opening week of the finals is the Cougars live to fight another day and they will now look to regroup quickly ahead of a preliminary final showdown against a Bundoora side they have matched-up well against this year.
The Cougars have won two of the pair’s three encounters this season, with the sole loss coming in Round 12 when they led comfortably at Yulong Reserve before being decimated by injuries in the second half.
Matt McLennan’s side need only watch the replay of the qualifying final to know their best football is capable of causing plenty of damage. With Jordan Perry and Ash Close dominant, the Cougars led that match by 37 points before holding out a fast-finish from the Bulls.
Bundoora could hardly have been more impressive in last week’s 53-point triumph over Greensborough, where Danny Younan set the game alight with a blistering three-goal first half. Both Younan and Gary Moorcroft missed the qualifying final loss a fortnight ago.
The addition of Younan and Moorcroft means Bundoora has its fair share of match-winners in its side, with Matty Dennis, Nathan Thomas, Liam Byrne and both Grabowski boys carrying great form into the preliminary final.
Last week’s 16.12 (108) to 8.7 (55) win over the Boro followed on from the Bulls’ barnstorming finish in the qualifying final, where they kicked the final five goals to almost pinch victory. It means Ricky Dyson’s side has kicked 21 goals to 9 in its past five quarters.
However, Bundoora lowered its colours during much of the qualifying final and will need to produce more than one quarter of football if it is to advance to its first grand final since 2013.
Just how Northcote Park responds from last week’s massive loss remains of great intrigue. The Cougars’ pride has certainly been dented, however they will be hell-bent to bounce back this week and set up a chance of atonement against Macleod in next Saturday’s decider.
13 wins – 7 losses
Points For – 1757, Average For – 88
Points Against – 1620, Average Against – 81
Average Winning Margin – 37
Average Losing Margin – 49
Leading Goal Kicker – Jackson Starcevich (38)
Most Times In Best – Jordan Perry (12)
13 wins – 7 losses
Points For – 1907, Average For – 95
Points Against – 1502, Average Against – 75
Average Winning Margin – 41
Average Losing Margin – 17
Leading Goal Kicker – Gary Moorcroft (51)
Most Times In Best – Matthew Dennis (16)
HEAD TO HEAD IN 2017
Qualifying Final: Bundoora 8.14 (62) def by Northcote Park 9.10 (64)
Goals: N. Grabowski 3, I. Muller 2, B. Young, T. Hughes, N. Thomas
Best: M. Dennis, N. Grabowski, B. Marshall, D. Marshall, B. Carlyon, J. Palazzolo
Goals: R. Fandrich 3, A. Close 2, B. McLennan 2, J. Donaldson, J. Collopy
Best: A. Close, G. Sutton, M. Naldrett, J. Perry, B. Davies, D. Campbell
Round 12: Bundoora 14.9 (93) def Northcote Park 10.13 (73)
Goals: G. Moorcroft 4, N. Grabowski 2, D. Guccione 2, J. Furlong, D. Mitchell, L. Byrne, J. Lord, J. Grabowski, B. Carlyon
Best: D. Mitchell, M. Dennis, B. Marshall, J. Furlong, N. Thomas, J. Palazzolo
Goals: J. Starcevich 4, P. Dirago 2, J. Mitchell, B. McLennan, R. Fandrich, A. Close
Best: B. McLennan, B. Barnes-Webb, B. Davies, J. Starcevich, R. Fandrich, D. Galofaro
Round 7: Northcote Park 15.14 (104) def Bundoora 13.11 (89)
Goals: A. Close 5, J. Starcevich 3, P. Dirago, J. Perry, D. Campbell, B. Barnes-Webb, J. Mills, R. Fandrich, B. Davies
Best: G. Sutton, A. Close, J. Perry, D. Galofaro, P. Dirago, M. Naldrett
Goals: A. Carmusciano 3, S. Dowell 3, I. Muller 2, G. Moorcroft 2, M. Dennis, J. Grabowski, T. Mancuso
Best: S. Dowell, M. Dennis, M. Pavlovski, B. Nesci, D. Mitchell, J. Palazzolo