By LIAM DURKIN
THE dots are starting to join up in the Gippsland League as half the season is now complete.
Although not everyone has played each other once, pundits can now say with a degree of
certainty there are four teams who will more than likely play finals, four who will be fighting each other for the last spot, and two who will be wanting to make sure the season does not drag out.
TRARALGON will travel to Maffra in what could well be an elimination final for the home side.
The Eagles need to win to keep their season alive, or face the prospect of missing the post regular season action for the first time since the turn of the millennium.
Maffra will undoubtedly be out to make sure this does not happen, while Traralgon will also have no shortage of motivation for similar reasons.
The sixth placed Maroons can probably only afford to drop one more game if they are to play finals.
Saying a game is must-win doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given every game is must-win really, but in this particular instance, Traralgon will know exactly what is at stake and how costly a loss will be.
Young gun Tye Hourigan had a blinder last week against Morwell and will be out to have a similar output this weekend. The ability of Maroons playing-coach Jake Best is renowned, and Maffra defenders the likes of James Huts could have the job of keeping the spearhead quiet.
At the other end, the Eagles’ have a freakish forward of their own in Daniel Bedggood, and he could singlehandedly decide this match if he is let off the chain.
MORWELL will face a good test when it hosts Wonthaggi.
The young Tigers had a character building win against old-foe Traralgon last weekend and will back their chances of causing an upset when it takes on the Power.
Morwell remains a mathematical possibly of playing finals, but will more than likely need to win every game from here until the rest of the home-and-away season for that to happen.
With this in mind, the Tigers will have no shortage of motivation to get the job done at home, and could take the advantage of having an extra days rest owing to the fact Wonthaggi are coming off a Sunday game.
Cody MacDonald has been relatively productive inside 50 for Morwell and will provide a goal scoring option.
The two teams share similarities in terms of size, and those who enjoy seeing players take grass in front of them could be in for a good display on Saturday.
Wonthaggi will be eager to get back on the winners list following their first loss of the season at the hands of Leongatha, and will see this match as a ‘get through game’.
Even if the Power win as predicted, the young Morwell players will no doubt be better in the long run and learn some lessons playing against the likes of former Collingwood player Jarryd Blair.
MOE travels to Bairnsdale.
Those looking at this fixture a fortnight ago would have tipped the Lions to win comfortably, but the Redlegs one point loss away from home to fourth placed Sale last week has all of a sudden reinforced the fact that there are certainly no gifts in the Gippsland League.
While it may be overplayed in some respects, the travel factor is a justifiable hurdle for teams heading to Bairnsdale, and the Redlegs will be looking to use this to their advantage.
Logic would suggest Bairnsdale should be like West Coast playing in Perth and rarely lose at home, and surely given the fact no one is absolutely at their best after sitting in a car for two hours, the Redlegs will want to put a decent lead on the board in the first quarter.
Moe has traditionally found it difficult to win at Bairnsdale, with its recent record reading four losses from six starts.
The Lions would be well advised to leave no stone unturned in terms of preparation for this match, with everything from road works to getting to bed early on Friday night needed to be taken into consideration.
Lachlan Rees played his best game for the season last week, while midfielders Jordan Ceppi and Lucas Forato should enjoy the wide open expanses of Bairnsdale City Oval.
Those traversing the Bairnsdale canteen will also be out to see if the home of the famous hot dog in bread and schnitzel rolls are still a staple menu item.
SALE will be taking nothing for granted against Warragul.
Despite the fact the Gulls are yet to win a game, the Magpies won’t feel they are in a position to make too many outlandish predications after last week’s huge scare against lowly Bairnsdale.
Playing at home will help Warragul, and given very few teams actually go through a season without registering a win, there will be the lingering thought that the Gulls are due to win at least one game.
The Magpies sit a game clear in fourth, and anything other than a win will be required to stay in touch with the three teams above.
Sale guns Kane Martin, John Gooch and Jayden Allison rose to the occasion when the game was on the line last week, and can be relied upon to put in another strong showing when they travel to Western Park.
The man who could potentially have a say in the match is Warragul key forward Brayden Fowler.
Fowler is the classic ‘when he’s on he’s unstoppable’ type of footballer, as Morwell discovered in 2018 when he kicked five goals in the first quarter.
DROUIN and Leongatha meet in the only game between two top-five sides.
The Hawks will see this game as an opportunity to take a scalp and reassure itself it is not just making up the numbers in the top half of the ladder, while Leongatha will see it as another game to put a green tick next to at the finish.
Drouin’s home ground by nature generally makes a lot of matches 50-50 contests, and if the Hawks are within three goals at the last change, the chance of toppling the ladder leaders will be a genuine possibility.