Top spots up for grabs as Gippsland teams fight it out

Round 14 of the Gippsland League will be a test for some sides as they jostle for top five positions and the ever important double chance come finals time.

Bairnsdale will look to right the wrongs of last week’s loss when they take on Traralgon fresh from a morale-boosting win against Moe. Maffra will face another big challenge this week as it plays the all conquering Tigers’ outfit looking to consolidate a top two position come finals time.

Drouin has another tough test this week when it competes with a finals bound Wonthaggi. Leongatha and Warragul will look to play for respect and pride for the rest of the season but don’t count out the hunger of each side to record wins late in the season.

Moe faces a mammoth task on Saturday, taking on ladder leaders Sale.

Bairnsdale v Traralgon

Bairnsdale is back on its home turf, looking to fight off a fast finishing Traralgon side who simply must win every match remaining this year for a chance of finals action come September.

Last time these teams met, the Redlegs put in what was probably their worst performance of the year which eventuated in a 47-point loss. The team may change a little after last week’s loss against Morwell with both Andrew Nelson and Wes Russell available after Victoria Country duties.

Bairnsdale’s following matches are against fellow top five sides Sale and Wonthaggi, and its chances of a top three finish, which looked so promising after round 10, could be in jeopardy if its mini-slump (two losses in the past three weeks) continues.

Traralgon has winnable games ahead but also games against top five teams Maffra and Morwell. Should it lose to Bairnsdale this week and Wonthaggi win as expected, the Maroons will be three games and percentage behind the Power with just four games left – mathematically possible, but highly improbable.

Moe v Sale

Moe is looking to regroup after consecutive losses to Morwell and then most recently Traralgon last week. Earlier in the year, it was Sale who had the better of the match-ups on the day going, recording a 70 point victory.

The Magpies’ best ever run of wins over the Lions stands at seven, achieved between 1980 and 1983. Sale’s brilliant form continued last week, its percentage now just over the 200 mark. The Magpies have won 12 of 13 games this year. They have won 24 of their last 26 matches and since round seven, 2012, they have the incredible record of winning 44 of their last 47 games.

Moe fought on bravely at Traralgon last week but its opening quarter effort 

of just five straight behinds meant it was chasing the Maroons all day long.

Moe’s coach Adrian Burgiel will be looking for an improved performance from his charges if he is to finish off the year on a high note.

Drouin v Wonthaggi

The sequence of six matches where the visiting team came home the winner was broken the last two times these teams met, both games having been played at Wonthaggi with the Power recording very big wins. While the Hawks continued to battle bravely on last week, Wonthaggi scored an important win at Leongatha on Saturday night.

In a tough affair, the Power held off the Parrots to take the points and keep Traralgon at bay. A good win this week and against Moe next week should assure Wonthaggi of its place in this year’s finals series.

Wonthaggi will be hoping results go its way this weekend so it can be a force come finals time. Its tall timber has been dominating games of late and last time these two clubs met, Earl Shaw put on a sparkling display, booting nine majors in the Power’s big win.

Maffra v Morwell

Morwell has had the better of Maffra over the past couple of season including a crucial preliminary final win last season and a tough battle earlier this season which saw the Tigers pushed all the way to the final siren with the final margin 14 points.

Of the top six teams, Maffra has the most difficult run of all, playing against four of those top six teams. This means its current third placing on the ladder and the double chance in the finals could be in jeopardy. Both Bairnsdale and Wonthaggi, currently fourth and fifth, will have their sights set on a qualifying final spot and therefore avoid an elimination final. For its part, Tigers had a hard-earned but strong win over Bairnsdale last week.

Morwell coach Harmit Singh seemed buoyed after that great team effort but knew there was a big challenge ahead this week if his team is to beat a battle hardened Maffra side, fresh from a big win against Warragul.

“We will prepare how we normally do each week but we need to be on our game as Maffra have a fantastic midfield and tall forward line, so they have lots of avenues to goals,” Singh said.

This game will have a finals-like atmosphere and should go down to the wire.

Leongatha v Warragul

Leongatha has won four of its last five clashes against Warragul, but more importantly, the Parrots have won their past five home ground clashes against the Gulls, the last three of those by margins of 120, 60 and 45 points. Leongatha made Wonthaggi earn every goal last Saturday night. Despite the fact any thoughts of a late run at the finals are now long gone, there will be plenty for the Parrots to work with as they lay down their plans for next year.

Glenn Garner knows the challenges ahead for his team and knows wins are vital at the end of the season to hold his side in good stead for season 2015.

“In terms of the results, they will come,” Garner said. “Our big focus is on improvement and building our structures for the rest of the season ready for next season.

“In terms of preparation, we take it one week at a time. It was a hard slog against Wonthaggi in the mud last week and we have another couple of injuries to attend to this week so we will prepare the best side that we think will be competitive against Warragul.”

Warragul will be under no illusion of the challenge it faces on Saturday at Leongatha, needing a win to gain some confidence for its younger players moving into next season.