There doesn’t appear to be a dead-rubber among the remaining 20 games left in the home and away season, as the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 season reaches its concluding month.
It’s a promotor’s dream, with eight sides still a finals chance entering the closing stages of the season and it seems only fitting that the top-five, and wooden spoon battle, will likely be decided in the final round of the year.
Round 14 results have added even greater intrigue to the final four rounds of 2018, with West Preston-Lakeside and Heidelberg remaining in the top-three hunt following wins over 2017 grand finalists, while Montmorency kept its faint finals hopes alive by ending a five-game run of outs.
While last week’s results had a big bearing on the shape of the ladder, they have also provided many potential new scripts as we approach the pointy end of the season.
In particular, West Preston-Lakeside prevailing over Macleod, which ended the ladder-leaders 12-game winning streak, showed the Roos are not invincible despite their stronghold over the competition.
Our look at Round 15 begins with a clash between old rivals Greensborough and Heidelberg at War Memorial Park.
A Greensborough win would likely close the door on Heidelberg’s hopes of claiming a double-chance in the finals, with the Tigers likely to fall two games and percentage off third spot if they don’t get a result this weekend.
However, Frank Raso’s side brings good form into the game, having won three of its past four matches – highlighted by last week’s 13-point home win over Bundoora, which elevated them back into fifth place.
Despite being on the receiving end of several heavy defeats this year, Heidelberg’s best football ensures it is a contender. The Tigers have twice beaten West Preston-Lakeside and Bundoora this season, and also defeated the Boro in their Round 3 encounter.
Michael Brunelli earned the maximum 10 votes in the Coaches MVP award in that 11-point win at Warringal Park. He enters this week’s match in good touch after achieving the same feat in last week’s vital win over Bundoora, where he received strong support from Josh Gribben, Chaz Sargeant and youngster Matthew Cecchin.
Greensborough may start as a slight favourite this week in a game that begins an exceptionally trying month for the second-placed side. The Boro follow this week’s match with an away trip to North Heidelberg, a home match against Bundoora and then a trip to West Preston-Lakeside.
There is absolutely no doubt that Greensborough is capable of winning all four games, however it is a massive test ahead of what looms as a fifth-consecutive finals campaign for Robert Hyde’s men.
Jack Johnston, Daniel McLinden and Josh Callaway all made welcome returns to the senior side in last week’s 24-point triumph over Hurstbridge, while Billy Murphy played his fourth game and will be eligible to play finals if released from VFL duties.
With Charlie Molyneux and Mitch Merkel also chances to make their way back into the senior side before the end of the home and away season, the Boro are set to have their strongest side all year available at the right time.
Skipper Tristan Stead was sensational in last week’s win at Ben Frilay Oval, finishing with four goals. After a tight first half, the Boro gained the ascendancy in the third term when they booted five goals to one.
Montmorency should take renewed optimism into this week’s home clash against Macleod after last week winning its first game since Round 8.
The Magpies played arguably their best football of the season in the opening quarter against Northcote Park – booting eight goals to one to take a commanding 42-point lead into quarter time. They were then able to stave off a third-term fightback by the home side to win by 30 points.
Patrick Fitzgerald marked everything that came his way and finished with a game-high four goals, while Ben Kennedy and Ben Walton continued standout campaigns to again lead the way for their side.
The win kept the Magpies within two wins of the top-five. While they look only an outside chance of playing finals for the first time since 2014, they at least remain in the hunt – ahead of games against Macleod, West Preston-Lakeside, Hurstbridge and Heidelberg.
Macleod finds itself on the rebound after last week suffering just its second loss of the season, and first at home, after going down against West Preston-Lakeside in a see-sawing battle.
The Roos got the early jump to lead by 17 points at quarter time but were then kept to just three behinds in the second term, which was just their second goalless quarter of the season. Despite leading again at the last change, they couldn’t hold out the Roosters in the final term.
While the result showed the Roos are beatable, they still remain the side best placed in this year’s premiership race, with Justin White, Shane Doherty, Reid Brandt and Chris Long all among the outs last week.
Still three games and percentage clear at the top of the ladder, they will likely need to win just one of their final four games to secure top-spot for the second successive season. Only one of their final four opponents sits inside the top-five, with this week’s clash their final away game of the year.
West Preston-Lakeside has produced its best football of the season over the past two weeks and will be looking to continue its surge when it hosts Northcote Park at J.E. Moore Park.
The Roosters welcomed back Ahmed Saad, Matthew Harman, Jaylon Thorpe, Alex Federico, and Joel McDonald last week and showed just what they are capable of when they have their best talent on park – not discounting that Mark Kovacevic, Patrick Karnezis and Liam McVeigh didn’t feature.
It was a vital win in terms of keeping in touch with the top-three, but was just as important psychologically, with the Roosters twice coming from behind to topple the ladder-leader on their own turf.
A six-goal to two final term helped them become the first side to score more than 100 points in a game against the Roos this year – however it was a trio of defensive players who were most prominent, with Jackson Clarke, Aidan Tilley and Sam Glover all excelling.
Northcote Park has won just one of its past five matches and has slipped to seventh place on the ladder. It faces a tough ask to return to the top-five by season’s end, with all four of its upcoming opponents currently sitting inside the top-five.
Ten wins looks to be the absolute minimum required to play finals this year, meaning the Cougars will likely have to win three of their next four, while building on their percentage which currently sits at 91.59 – the third lowest in the competition.
Last week’s loss to Montmorency was compounded by injuries to Bronik Davies and Brock McLennan – adding to an already long list of unavailable players at present. But despite his side’s woes Jordan Perry continued his red-hot form as he continues his charge for a third-successive Molloy Medal.
West Preston-Lakeside was a big winner when the sides met in Round 4, amassing 35 scoring shots to 16 in a 74-point triumph at Bill Lawry Oval.
North Heidelberg is back at home for the first of two successive games at Shelley Reserve when it hosts Hurstbridge.
The Bulldogs are on the hunt for their seventh win on the trot and currently have the longest active winning streak in the competition, following Macleod’s loss last weekend. To put that into perspective, no promoted side has won more than six games in a Division 1 season this decade.
After a goalless opening term at Whittlesea, the Bulldogs went on to produce their highest scoring quarter of the season in the second – piling on 10 goals to one to take a match-winning lead into half time.
It was North’s top-end talent who lead the way in the 48-point win, with Brent Harvey, Liam Hunt, Michael Florance and Brody Tardio all enjoying strong outings.
As finals near, AFL games record holder, Harvey, continues to have a bigger impact – with only Macleod’s Anthony Doherty recording as many votes in the Coaches MVP award over the past month. He now sits fifth in the award voting.
Hurstbridge will be looking to bring a similar effort to last week – when it finished within four goals of a Greensborough side nearing full strength. The Bridges trailed by just two points at half time but were left to rue a poor third term.
Shelley Reserve will be a familiar venue for many of the Bridges players, having featured in many battles against the Bulldogs during their recent stint in second division. But for the blowout at J.E. Moore Park two weeks back, the Bridges have actually played their best footy on the road this year.
The Bridges leaders in Brayden Shaw, Lachlan East and Tom Grimes all set the example in last week’s defeat and all will be instrumental over the final month as their side looks to avoid relegation.
After consecutive weeks on the road, Bundoora returns to Yulong Reserve to host Whittlesea.
The Bulls had seemingly steered their season back on track with five-successive wins between rounds 8 to 12, however they again find themselves a game outside the top-five on the back of consecutive away losses.
Of greatest concern for the reigning premier is their win-loss record against sides currently placed inside the top-five, which currently stands at 2-6.
While they will be expected to beat Whittlesea and Hurstbridge at home over the next fortnight, they will likely have to secure one win over Greensborough or North Heidelberg in the final two rounds to play finals.
After conceding an average of just 74 points per game between rounds 4 to 12, the Bulls have been opened up over the past fortnight – conceding tallies of 96 and 92, with the Bulls looking undersized at times last week in the absence of Matthew Dennis and Scott Dowell.
Whittlesea finishes its campaign with four consecutive games on the road and may view this week’s game as its best chance to pull off an upset ahead of what is shaping as a Round 18 relegation battle at Hurstbridge.
The Eagles were winners in their most recent trip to Yulong Reserve and have generally matched up well against Bundoora in recent years – aside from their earlier clash this season, where the Bulls piled on 14 goals after half time to record an 89-point triumph.
Luke Deards and Blake Watson were the Eagles best in last week’s loss to North Heidelberg, where their side made a promising start, before being overpowered in the second and third quarters.