IT has been some 10 weeks in the making and the most appetising clash of the second half of the home and away fixture – the top of the table showdown between long time foes Churchill and Heyfield.
A mere three points separated the sides at the final siren in round eight when Churchill’s jitters in front of goal prevented an upset over the undefeated ladder leader.
Since that meeting, the Cougars have taken the competition by storm with nine emphatic wins on the trot.
After an indifferent start to the season, the Cougars clicked into gear under new coach Allan Chandler to join the premiership ladder’s leading quartet.
Chandler attributed the change of fortune to a number of factors.
“Everyone understands their roles and what is expected of them every week, that combined with the continued improvement of our younger brigade, which you could include anyone in our side under the age of 25 in that category, have been telling factors,” Chandler said.
Describing this week’s clash as “massive” Chandler won’t draw too much from their previous meeting, when the Cougars allowed Heyfield to skip away to a 38 point final term lead before mounting one of the most impressive, albeit unsuccessful, comebacks of the season.
Seemingly down and out the Cougars booted 6.5 (41) to Heyfield’s lone major, driven by Travis Brighton and Chandler, with Brendan Holt and Nic Celima the go to men in front of goals.
The Kangaroos did not have an answer but the clock came to their rescue.
“I really won’t be taking too much out of last time, we have improved but so have they it will be very good to know where we are compared to Heyfield as we head into finals,” Chandler said.
“It is a massive clash, they are obviously the team to beat and have been more than impressive in the last few weeks with the way that they have dismantled the opposition.
“We have a tough run into the qualifying final with another solid hit out against Yarram in the final round.”
Last season’s bridesmaids are favoured by many to achieve redemption, and rightly so when you look at their list of scalps, but perhaps the biggest test will come this weekend.
“We are looking forward to it, they haven’t missed a beat,” Heyfield coach Damien Birss said.
“Their last quarter against us (in round eight) was awesome, we gave them a sniff and they came at us.
“Churchill has a good mix of experience and young talent where their improvement has come from, both teams have a similar mix we have a lot of guys between 19 to 25 years of age who are very experienced having played a lot of senior footy.”
With both sides boasting dominant ruckman, potent forward lines and pacey midfields, the competition in the middle of the ground may decide the end result.
“Their midfield smacked us in the final term of our earlier encounter, they executed and made the most of their chances they boasted 12 scoring opportunities,” Birss said.
“Both sides have their fair share of scoring options and given the right opportunity each team can kick a big score but… the battle will be won or lost in the midfield.”
Rosedale v Gormandale
ROSEDALE Football Netball Club will celebrate 130 years of history when they host Gormandale, and will aim to rebound from last week’s shock loss against a hungry Wildcats outfit.
While it is far from panic stations, the Blues must lift ahead of finals.
The Tigers have sparked to life over the past month, through adversity they railroaded Traralgon Tyers United last week to claim their second win on the run, following victory over reigning premier Glengarry.
It will take an exceptional team effort from Gormandale to knock over Rosedale however coach Luke Henderson can take confidence in the fact that his side has shown vast improvement over the past five weeks and are showing that they will be a threat in 2015.
TTU v Sale City
DISAPPOINTED with its showing last round, TTU will return to the home turf for the final time in 2014 aiming to atone for the a 42 point loss to Sale City last time out.
The Dogs whipped the reigning premier last round after dropping points in a tough fortnight.
With a final round clash to come against Rosedale, one rung above it on the premiership ladder standings, City will be confident of taking the points against the Bombers.
Cowwarr v Woodside
WHILE it appears mathematically impossible two weeks out from finals for seventh placed Cowwarr to steal the hotly contested fifth position, the Saints may have a large say in who does claim the final berth in the knock out final.
Claiming the four points in the earlier meeting the Saints will go into Saturday’s contest against Woodside confident that they may just have the Wildcats measure.
Woodside, however, has fought gallantly to remain in touch with rival Yarram and a finals berth.
Saturday saw the Wildcats usurp Rosedale, but coach Chris Pettitt is not getting too far ahead of himself.
“It was nice to knock one of the top three sides off, but we are fully aware that they weren’t anywhere near full strength,” Pettitt said.
“There may be only two rounds left but there are still a lot of things that need to happen for us to be in the five, right now our only focus is on Cowwarr we can’t look beyond that.
“They over ran us earlier in the year to beat us by a point, and we know at their home ground they are going to be very tough to beat and we won’t be taking them lightly.”
Glengarry v Boisdale/Briagolong
PREMIERSHIP coach Ryan Potter go to the drawing board one final time as the Magpies aim to close out their season with victory against Boisdale/Briagolong.
With their season aspirations done and dusted the Magpies will go into the contest full of confidence knowing they had the Bombers’ measure in their earlier meeting.
Yarram has the bye.