For the second time in a fortnight North Heidelberg and West Preston-Lakeside meet at Preston City Oval, with the prize for this week’s winner a spot in the grand final.
Given both sides have beaten confirmed grand finalist Macleod during the home and away season, the winner this week would give themselves every chance of causing a boilover in the premiership decider, should they make it through.
Last week’s semi final performance would instil optimism in both sides, with the Bulldogs finishing just 13 points shy of the Roos, despite not playing their best, while West Preston-Lakeside’s fourth-quarter demolition of Bundoora showed its capabilities on the finals stage.
Given the events of the past fortnight, the most important match-up in the preliminary final looks to be Ahmed Saad’s battle against Ryan McGhie.
McGhie, with great support from his fellow North Heidelberg defenders, kept Saad goalless in the qualifying final. McGhie’s performance proved pivotal in his side’s 32-point triumph, in which the Roosters managed just five goals – all of which came before half time.
Saad bounced back in a big way in the first semi – booting 10 goals in one of the most dazzling finals performances produced in league history to power his side to a 52-point triumph over the reigning premier.
West Preston-Lakeside is far from a one-man team, but it cannot be denied that Saad is their barometer. The Roosters have an 8-1 record in games Saad has kicked four goals or more but are winless in matches when he has booted less than four.
With Saad roaming the forward 50 at one end and Shane Harvey at the other, fans are in for a treat this weekend, with the two superstars looking to outdo each other with their freakish ability.
Saad’s standout performance last week overshadowed Patrick Karnezis’ welcome return to top form. After an injury-interrupted campaign, Karnezis looks to now be moving freely, with his trademark powerful burst from stoppages a feature against the Bulls.
With Luke Lirosi also in outstanding touch, Mark Kovacevic providing quality service to the midfield, and Jackson Clarke and Sam Glover in great form across half back – the Roosters’ top-end talent will provide the club confidence it can reverse the qualifying final loss.
North Heidelberg has won the past two outings between the two sides and will take the mental edge into the game after its dominant second half two weeks ago – where its piled on seven unanswered goals, led superbly by a stellar performance from Brent Harvey.
Last week’s loss to Macleod followed a similar script to the qualifying final, with the Bulldogs outplayed in the first half, before fighting back strongly in the second half. Despite falling short of the Roos – the Bulldogs have shown they are never out of a game.
Jesse Tardio’s love affair with Preston City Oval has continued this year. A two-time winner of the best medallion in grand final wins – Tardio has starred in both of North’s finals this campaign and will be a player West Preston-Lakeside puts plenty of planning into.
Billy Hogan looms as a key figure again this week after a dominant showing in the qualifying final. With so much attention focused on Harvey, Tardio and Liam Hunt through the Bulldogs midfield, Hogan could be the player who gets off the leash and propels the Bulldogs into the grand final.
13 wins – 7 losses
Points For – 1835, Average For – 92
Points Against – 1629, Average Against – 81
Average Winning Margin – 30
Average Losing Margin – 26
Leading Goal Kicker – Shane Harvey (68)
Most Times In Best – Michael Florance (11)
13 wins – 7 losses
Points For – 1891, Average For – 95
Points Against – 1268, Average Against – 63
Average Winning Margin – 56
Average Losing Margin – 15
Leading Goal Kicker – Ahmed Saad (62)
Most Times In Best – Luke Lirosi (12)
HEAD TO HEAD IN 2018
Second Semi Final: West Preston-Lakeside 5.14 (44) def by North Heidelberg 12.4 (76)
Goals: D. Valeri, J. Novelli, L. McVeigh, O. Uysal, M. Kovacevic
Best: M. Kovacevic, A. Federico, J. McDonald, L. McVeigh, S. Glover, L. Lirosi
Goal Kickers: B. Harvey 3, L. Gilbert 3, S. Harvey 2, L. McLeod, L. Hunt, J. Jones, B. Hogan
Best Players: J. Tardio, B. Hogan, L. Gilbert, R. McGhie, B. Bailey, B. Tardio
Round 11: West Preston-Lakeside 9.13 (67) def by North Heidelberg 11.10 (76)
Goals: L. Lirosi 2, M. Harman, J. Novelli, L. McVeigh, G. McDonagh, O. Uysal, J. Thorpe, K. Waari
Best: G. McDonagh, M. Ercolano, L. Lirosi, J. Novelli, C. Adams, O. Uysal
Goals: S. Harvey 7, L. McLeod, R. Gardener, M. Dillon, B. Harvey
Best: M. Florance, L. Hunt, B. Harvey, R. McGhie, L. McLeod, K. Green
Round 4: North Heidelberg 12.10 (82) def by West Preston-Lakeside 19.10 (124)
Goals: B. Harvey 4, B. Hogan 2, J. Baddeley-Kelly 2, B. Tardio, K. Green, L. Gilbert, S. Harvey
Best: J. Brown, R. Storey, M. Florance, B. Bailey, L. Gilbert, J. Baddeley-Kelly
Goals: A. Saad 9, O. Uysal 4, L. McVeigh 3, M. Vincitorio, L. Lirosi, A. Federico
Best: A. Valeri, O. Uysal, A. Saad, P. Karnezis, N. Valladares, D. Valeri