A clash between two sides fighting off relegation and a qualifying final preview are just some of the matches to look forward to in this weekend’s Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 action.
Hurstbridge and Northcote Park are set to battle it out at Ben Frilay Oval in a match that could possibly decide who will play Division 2 football in 2023.
Both sides currently occupy the bottom two spots on the ladder, each with three wins to their name and separated by just over five percent.
The Bridges were probably the favourites for relegation at the midway point of the season despite a promising 2-1 start, but improvement has come in the last month, losing three of their last four by an average margin of only 33 points and claiming one of their best wins in recent memory against Bundoora at Yulong Reserve.
Joel Naylor has been in fine form this season and with 11 goals in his last three games, has been one of the catalysts of the Bridges improved performances. Cooper Barbera and Ty Franks have also been impressive.
Their opponents in Northcote Park have been anything but impressive in recent weeks as since their monumental victory over Macleod at the end of June, the Cougars are yet to pass the 50-point barrier.
Although you could cut them some slack with two of those defeats being against finals bound sides in Greensborough and West Preston-Lakeside, Stephen Saddington’s men suffered a massive blow in their fight for survival last week when they fell to Whittlesea at home by 31 points.
Hurstbridge would be the favourites at home and with Whittlesea still to come this year, the Bridges are the team that can afford a slip up, although they would want to avoid being in that position by the final round of the season.
It’s a different story for Northcote Park as with Bundoora and Heidelberg in the final two weeks of the home and away season, defeat on Saturday will likely see them fall to Division 2 for the first time since 1994.
A likely qualifying final preview is set to take place at Montmorency Park North Oval when Montmorency host Bundoora.
The Magpies have quickly regained form following their defeat to Heidelberg three weeks ago, with two big wins over Whittlesea and then to Macleod last week.
Danko Bzenic has taken his game to a whole new level, kicking 15 goals in two games, including nine goals last weekend, while competition leading goalkicker Patrick Fitzgerald is still getting involved with two five goal bags in the same period.
Bundoora though will be brimming with confidence after picking up a spirited victory over neighbours Greensborough last week, further distancing themselves from the fourth placed West Preston-Lakeside.
Co-captain Luke Collins made it his 10th appearance in the best in his 15 games this year, while Sam Lloyd kicked a season high three majors to make it 19 for the 2022 campaign.
The ruck battle will be where most eyes are peeled to in this match as two of the competition’s best big men in Liam Wale-Buxton and Hamish Shepheard are set to produce a great contest.
Garry Ramsay’s men have only lost three matches this season, but one of those have come against the Bulls back in Round 2 in a high scoring contest at Yulong Reserve.
Both sides will want to claim early bragging rights before their likely rematch at Preston City Oval at the end of the month.
Greensborough will face the biggest test of them all in Heidelberg as they look to bounce back at War Memorial Park.
With fifth locked away at this stage, the Boro will look to this match as an opportunity to learn from the best in the competition in the lead up to a brilliant finals series.
They will be disappointed with letting their lead against Bundoora last week slip as a three-point lead at the midway point of the last quarter turned into a 14-point loss.
Zak McCubbin added to his goal tally with three goals to make it 32 majors for the year whilst Nick Riddle’s near-flawless season continued, keeping in form Bulls forward John Jorgensen goalless.
The signs and the talent are there for Saade Ghazi’s men to make a strong push in September but it’s hard to imagine them conquering this incredible Heidelberg side at the moment.
The Tigers are looking unstoppable. They’re currently on a 12-game winning streak and last week, made the reigning premiers look second rate in an 87-point thumping at Warringal Park.
A theme of Heidelberg’s season has been running over teams in second halves, they’ve averaged over 45 points in second halves in their last four games, ensuring they don’t give their opposition a sniff in the backend of matches.
It’s also exactly what happened when they last faced the Boro at home as despite being level at three quarter time, the Tigers kicked six goals to just five behinds to run out 37-point winners.
Depending on other results, another four points could mathematically sew up the minor premiership for Danny Nolan’s side for the first time since 2016.
Macleod will be looking to claim a big scalp when they host West Preston-Lakeside at De Winton Park
The Roos are halfway through their brutal run of top five sides and last week, were no match for a strong Montmorency outfit.
Despite the likelihood that the Roos won’t make an appearance in September, they have had some individual standouts in the last few weeks. Kurt Manuel has been excellent with four appearances in the best in his last four games while Lucas Hobbs has proven to be an impactful forward in the last month with eight goals in his previous four games.
Craig Hayes’s side have only defeated one top five side this season, who happen to be this week’s opponents, and Saturday is their best chance to win another match against a finals bound side.
The Roosters will prepare for another finals appearance after an improved second half of the season. But after they were blown out of the park by the ladder leaders in Heidelberg, Rob Maiorana’s side will need to do a bit more work in the lead up their elimination final if they’re to win a third consecutive premiership.
Although a top five spot is secure, there could still be some motivation for the Roosters in the remaining few weeks of the home and away campaign.
A win against Macleod and a Bundoora defeat this weekend will mean just six points separate the Bulls and the Roosters with two games to go, opening the door for a slim, but possible top three appearance for West Preston-Lakeside by season’s end.
Whittlesea will be looking to continue to build towards next season when they host North Heidelberg at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
The Eagles took a massive step towards solidifying their appearance in Division 1 next year after defeating Northcote Park by 31 points away from home.
It was a must win game for the relegation battlers and with the likes of Jaron Murphy, Mitchell Andrews and Xavier Dimasi standing up in the important moments, the victory moved Whittlesea into eighth spot on the ladder.
Depending on the Hurstbridge vs Northcote Park result on Saturday, the Eagles may not need to win another game this season to confirm survival, but nonetheless will want to put in a solid performance against a North Heidelberg side who still believe they have something to play for in 2022.
The Bulldogs returned to the winners list with a comfortable triumph over Hurstbridge to sit six points away from fifth placed Greensborough.
North Heidelberg defeated Whittlesea by 46 points when they last met in Round 7, which means if they can repeat the dose and if Greensborough lose to Heidelberg, they will be well in the hunt to steal fifth spot from the Boro.
But while it looks good in theory, the Bulldogs play Montmorency and Bundoora following their clash with the Eagles, so wins against both top three sides is a must if they’re to have any chance of an unlikely finals appearance.