The final round of the MC Labour Division 2 home and away season is upon us, and while four teams have locked in a finals spot, several sides will be fighting to keep their season alive.
The most anticipated fixture of the round undoubtebly will be the clash between St Mary’s and Thomastown at Whatmough Park.
If the Burra finish in the top five, it’ll be their first ever finals appearance in Division 2, coming a long way from their entry into league over 12 years ago. If it’s the Bears that sneak home, they will have done so against all odds, with injuries and a change of coach seeing them at one stage, 14 points behind the top five sides.
Of course, a spanner could be thrown into the works with a Watsonia win over Banyule, but the likelihood is that the winner of this match will play finals football in 2022.
Fabian Carelli’s side have lost their last three matches, all against top five sides, and while they’ve been competitive, a win is simply a must ahead of Saturday’s encounter.
Thomastown have been put in this position thanks to a late season surge, winning four of their last five games, including coming from 27 points down in the first term to defeat Panton Hill by three goals last week.
Last time these two met, the Bears were in a similar position. Down by 36-points at half time, they clawed their way back to make it an incredibly tight contest, but just fell short to the Burra by eight points.
It’s all or nothing for these two sides so expect nothing short of a cracking contest.
The other fixture that will be full of intrigue will be Watsonia’s clash with Banyule at Binnak Park.
It’s a simple equation for George Lattouf’s side, beat Banyule and hope Thomastown prevail over St Mary’s to play finals next week and while they would be outsiders to pull it off, the Saints will be full of belief that they can sit in the top five by Saturday night.
They’ve been one of the surprise packets the season right from the opening round where they shocked the competition by beating Lower Plenty away from home, and their confidence is at an all-time high after recording back-to-back percentage boosting victories, against the Fitzroy Stars and Epping in the last fortnight.
Watsonia will be playing a Banyule side who have already locked away a top three spot and may potentially rest some key players following a grinding one-point win over Diamond Creek last Saturday.
Regardless of the strength of the Bears squad, it will be critical for the Saints to produce a near-flawless performance against Paul Harris’ and Ricky Dyson’s side, who have won eight of their last nine games and defeated Watsonia by 81 points when these two teams last met.
If the Saints can squeeze their way into the finals from this position, they will have thoroughly deserved it.
Lower Plenty host Panton Hill at Montmorency Park South Oval as the Bears plan to solidify their top three spot.
The Bears ran away from St Mary’s in the second half last week, winning by 21 points to jump into a potential double chance finish following Diamond Creek’s loss to Banyule.
Tyler Wallace led the way, named as the side’s best player while also getting amongst the goals with three majors. Wallace has been one of the Bears’ most improved players this season with his performance against the Burra arguably one of his best matches of the year.
Phil Plunkett’s men have had a great campaign following a slow start to the season and now have the perfect springboard to launch into a premiership run.
But they will face a gallant Panton Hill side who have proven in the second half of the season that they belong in Division 2.
Last weekend, they got off to a hot start against Thomastown and looked to cause another big upset. But a four goal to nine second half had them go down by three goals.
David Simpson was immense finishing the day with four goals with Jaspa Gook and Charlie Cleary having impressive performances.
It was a 138-point margin in favour of Lower Plenty when these teams last played in Round 6, so the hope for Simon Amore’s side will be to improve significantly and finish their campaign strong.
Following their heart-breaking defeat to Banyule last week, Diamond Creek will hope to somehow regain a spot in the top three in their final regular game of the season against the winless Fitzroy Stars.
The Creekers had been in the double chance conversation since the early parts of the season, sitting in the top three since Round 8, but after Saturday’s defeat, it could prove to be the catalyst for them to play an elimination final rather than a qualifying final.
But it will still be Diamond Creek’s highest finish and first finals appearance since 2017 and with the Stars to come this weekend, it could be the momentum boost they need to produce some damage in the finals.
It’s been anything but positive for Lionel Proctor’s side this season, as the Stars confirmed their relegation to Division 3 for the first time in their history with last week’s defeat which was their 20th consecutive loss.
Having been led most of the 2022 campaign by Riley Livingstone and Hotak Akram, the duo will be looked upon to put in an inspirational performance and lead their side to an unlikely victory.
Minor premiers Eltham will finish their home and away season when they take on Epping at Eltham Central Park.
A near-perfect season is probably the best way to describe the Panthers’ season in 2022, with just one loss all year and on a 14-game winning streak, they are deservingly premiership favourites heading into the finals series.
Another victory will be Eltham’s most successful home and away campaign in history, as they’ll finish with a 17-1 record.
Epping have had few ups this year but to stay put in Division 2 for another season will mean more than anything for the club.
Although unlikely, the Blues could finish off the regular season with a third win, which would be the first time the club would have a three or more-win campaign since 2018.
The Panthers won by 117 points over Epping back in Round 5 this year, and with the highest scoring team facing the highest conceding team, a similar result seems probable.