Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 Preview – Preliminary Final

Published on Thursday, September 14, 2023

Author : Josh Ward

Only one spot remains in the Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 Grand Final, with Bundoora and North Heidelberg going head-to-head in a massive preliminary final at Preston City Oval.

After a season which saw these two sides fight it out for a double chance spot all season, they now face off in their most important clash in over a decade.

The Bulls will look to respond after a disappointing second semi-final defeat to Heidelberg. They conceded 10 of the 12 first half goals kicked in the match, and never looked close in slowing down the reigning premiers.

It was the lowest score kicked and the highest score conceded since their last meeting with the Tigers in Round 14, and they have now lost their last seven matches against the minor premiers.

But with another chance intact, don’t expect Bundoora to produce two average performances in succession.

North Heidelberg meanwhile are riding a strong wave of momentum, having won both their finals matches so far by 57 points.

The Bulldogs overcame a slow start against Montmorency in the first semi-final to take control of the match by half time and look a side powerful enough to turn just about any contest their way.

Again, the individual battles scattered throughout this match will be telling towards the result.

At one end, Shaun McKernan and Peter McEvoy have combined for 12 majors between them in Bundoora’s two finals this year and will be the main targets up forward for the Bulls midfield group.

Unfortunately for North Heidelberg defender Nicholas Matthews, he can only play on one of them on Sunday. He has been in excellent form, keeping Joel Naylor and Patrick Fitzgerald (the top two goalkickers in the competition before finals) to just three majors combined in the previous two weeks.

If he can nullify the impact of at least one of those players, the pressure will be on Bundoora to find other avenues towards goal.

At the other end, Majak Daw has looked almost unstoppable in this finals series, producing efforts of four and six goals respectively in the last fortnight.

Whoever does match up on the key forward will need limit his aerial ability as it was his contested marking that broke the game open for the Bulldogs in last week’s win over the Magpies.

The ruck battle of Michael Florance and Hamish Shepheard is a fascinating one, with their work around the ground as well as in the ruck certain to have a say in how this game plays out.

It means Luke Collins and Sam Lloyd of Bundoora and Liam Hunt and Jesse Tardio of North Heidelberg will be kept busy all afternoon at stoppages.

Each pair has the ability to produce clearances and keep the ball pushing towards their attacking half’s, further stressing the importance these battles have on the overall outcome of the game.

Their two meetings in the regular season were split. Bundoora cruised to a 54-point win in Round 2 at Shelley Street off the back of a very accurate 22.4 scoreline, before Jason Heatley’s men bounced back in Round 11 at Yulong Reserve, kicking four goals to two in the last term to claim a 17-point win.

In terms of finals matchup’s, Bundoora lead the Bulldogs head-to-head with a 7-4 record. The last final these two sides met each other in was back in the 2009 semi-final, where the Bulls claimed a 23-point win.

Will Bundoora be given another opportunity to knock off Heidelberg and make it consecutive Grand Final appearances or will North Heidelberg’s outstanding finals run continue to see them secure an appearance in a Division 1 decider for the first time since 2005?

It’s those questions plus so much more which will be answered in what’s expected to be a brilliant Sunday afternoon of finals action at Preston City Oval.

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