It’s a case of déjà vu, as North Heidelberg and West Preston-Lakeside meet in the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 preliminary final for the second-consecutive season.
In one sense, the game can’t come quickly enough for the Bulldogs, who will be desperate to atone for last week’s 98-point second semi final drubbing at the hands of a rampaging Greensborough.
On the other hand, the wounded Bulldogs will appreciate the extended eight-day break ahead of Sunday’s game to allow battered bodies to heal after looking sore in last week’s loss.
West Preston-Lakeside could not have been more emphatic in its two finals wins to date and the reigning premier will enter this week in red-hot form and full of confidence as it continues its bid to become the first side in 10 years to defend a Division 1 flag.
Based on last week’s performances and the health of each list, West Preston-Lakeside will enter this week’s clash at Preston City Oval as favourite, however the history books do suggest that it is risky to write off the loser of the second semi final.
In recent years any side that has been soundly beaten in the second semi final has responded in a positive manner in the following week’s preliminary final.
Macleod was thrashed by Greensborough in the 2015 second semi, before bouncing back emphatically to win the preliminary final over Eltham and then going on to upset the Boro in the grand final.
In 2017, Northcote Park lost the second semi by 106 points. The next week the Cougars led Bundoora late in the final term, before conceding two goals in time-on to lose by 10 points. Meanwhile, Heidelberg lost its 2011 semi to Bundoora by 73 points but bounced back to win the next week and then took it right up to the Bulls in a memorable grand final.
There is absolutely no doubt that North Heidelberg will have to improve greatly on its past five quarters to have any chance of pulling off a win this week – however the Bulldogs have shown right throughout the year that their best is capable of beating anyone.
Injury concerns to Brent and Shane Harvey certainly won’t help the cause this week, but if Jesse Tardio, Billy Hogan, Daniel Harris and co are firing through the midfield, North still has the weapons to cause major headaches.
Despite the immense talent of the players listed above, the Bulldogs won’t be able to rely purely on the individual brilliance of their elite players and will require more contribution from its entire 22.
The Bulldogs have been outscored by 148 points over their past five quarters of football since leading Heidelberg by 53 points at three quarter time of the qualifying final. It will take a team effort to arrest that form slump.
Not only will the Bulldogs be hungry to atone for last week’s poor showing, they will also be driven to make up for last year’s heavy loss in this same fixture – where they produced their worst showing of the season in a 70-point loss to the eventual premier.
In recent months West Preston-Lakeside has firmed as the side most capable of denying Greensborough the 2019 premiership and the Roosters reaffirmed that status with a disciplined and professional 46-point win over Heidelberg in last week’s first semi final.
The Roosters always looked control in heavy conditions and broke the game open with a five-goal to one third term, where they turned an 11-point half time advantage into an unassailable 33-point lead at the last break.
If the Roosters maintain their recent form it is hard to see them being denied a grand final place. However, they will be wary of falling into a poor mindset and underestimating a North Heidelberg outfit that will be on the rebound.
Ahmed Saad once again excelled last week and has kicked 10 goals in his two finals appearances in 2019. He has been unstoppable in two showings against North Heidelberg this year – booting nine goals in the Round 14 win at J.E. Moore Park and seven of his side’s eight goals in a heavy Round 3 loss at Shelley Reserve.
Nick Robortella produced his best game in West Preston-Lakeside colours last week and is proving to be a finals wildcard, while Matt Harman continues to hold his own as the first-choice ruckman ahead of an important battle with Michael Florance this week.
Perhaps the most fearsome aspect of West Preston-Lakeside’s performances over the opening two weeks of the finals is the fact they have conceded just five goals across the elimination and semi finals.
Poor weather has certainly contributed to the low scoring, however the efforts of Jackson Clarke, Nathan Valladares, Joel McDonald and their defensive team have to be applauded.
Both outings between the two sides in 2019 have been one-sided. North Heidelberg smashed the then winless Roosters in a 59-point hiding in Round 3, where Shane Harvey, Shane Biggs, Jhye Baddeley-Kelly and Kyle Green combined for 14 goals.
The Bulldogs then kicked three of the first four goals in the return fixture at J.E. Moore Park in Round 14, before being humbled in a 60-point defeat. It was that victory that announced that West Preston-Lakeside wasn’t just making up the numbers in the top-five and the Roosters have only built more momentum since.
13 wins – 6 losses – 1 draw
Points For – 1678, Average For – 84
Points Against – 1482, Average Against – 74
Average Winning Margin – 35
Average Losing Margin – 44
Leading Goal Kicker – Shane Harvey (65)
Most Times in Best – Daniel Harris (12)
12 wins – 8 losses
Points For – 1675, Average For – 84
Points Against – 1484, Average Against – 74
Average Winning Margin – 44
Average Losing Margin – 42
Leading Goal Kicker – Ahmed Saad (86)
Most Times in Best – Jackson Clarke and Luke Lirosi (14)
HEAD TO HEAD IN 2019
Round 14: West Preston-Lakeside 19.9 (123) def North Heidelberg 9.9 (63)
Goal Kickers: A. Saad 9, M. Crapper 2, M. Vincitorio, B. Sanderson, B. Maroney, B. Samie, O. Uysal, M. Harman, D. Valeri, A. Federico
Best Players: A. Saad, J. Clarke, A. Federico, M. Tobin, L. Lirosi, D. Costanzo
Goal Kickers: S. Harvey 4, M. Persson-Clark, B. Harvey, D. Bramich, B. Hogan, N. Matthews
Best Players: J. Brown, N. Matthews, B. Harvey, D. Harris, M. Dillon, B. Hogan
Round 3: North Heidelberg 17.12 (114) def West Preston-Lakeside 8.7 (55)
Goal Kickers: S. Harvey 5, S. Biggs 3, J. Baddeley-Kelly 3, K. Green 3, J. Jones 2, B. Hogan
Best Players: K. McDonald, S. Biggs, D. Harris, L. Nunan, L. Gilbert, N. Matthews
Goal Kickers: A. Saad 7, D. Costanzo
Best Players: A. Saad, L. Lirosi, M. Dreher, J. Clarke, N. Valladares, A. Stoikos