MIRBOO North will host the blockbuster grand final rematch in the last round of the Energy Australia Cup regular season.
Latrobe will be out to avenge is defeat in last season’s epic decider, and remains the only side to have inflicted defeat on the reigning premier this season, albeit way back in round three.
Since then, Mitch Cowell and Brendan Evans have been in poor form with the ball and will need to lift against the likes of Robert Phoenix, Shane Peters and opener Jed Alexander, who provided a reminder of his talents last week against Yallourn North.
The Sharks’ top four have been consistent and all sit around the 400 runs mark.
If Mirboo North is to keep the visitor to a low total Liam Smit and Josh Taylor will need early breakthroughs to expose the weaker middle order of Daniel Siddle, Steven Freshwater and Jamie Brierley.
Dale Banks could also make a return to the side just in time for the finals after dominating second grade for most of the season.
Moe v Yallourn North
YALLOURN North needs a big win over Moe and for Morwell to beat Trafalgar to make it to the finals.
Moe is tough to beat at home and Patrick Spiteri’s men may be on their last legs.
With Josh Keyhoe, Tyler Brown and Spiteri doing all the legwork with the willow, the Bombers’ poor batting depth has been their major weakness post-Christmas break.
The bowling has been solid after a blistering start to the season, with Will Lawrey a welcome addition.
Moe has defied expectations to seal its finals position, and can finish no lower than third.
If Latrobe defeats Mirboo North and the Lions win outright they could finish on top, which would be a remarkable achievement for a team so inexperienced, and a testament to the determination of captain Andrew Philip.
Jayden Mathison is the home side’s main man with the ball with Luke Mulqueen, Nick Clarke and Aaron Walshe all offering Philip options.
Morwell v Trafalgar
MORWELL will host Trafalgar at Keegan Street Reserve knowing that only a massive outright victory, combined with Yallourn North losing, will be enough to sneak into the finals.
The Tigers’ chances for post-season action have been hurt further still by the move to a synthetic wicket to accommodate the hosting of an AFL NAB Challenge Cup match on the Morwell Football Ground next weekend.
With the big-hitting James Blaser in the Ships’ XI the small boundaries and flat pitch could mean a big score.
Morwell skipper Davin Charleston will want to see plenty of fight from his team and finish the season on a high note, with the form of Glenn Bone and Brendan Brincat last week an encouraging sign.
Trafalgar captain Rhys Holdsworth will be determined to extract a good performance from his team after last week’s shambolic defeat to Moe, with the aim of finalising his XI ahead of the Ships’ maiden finals campaign since readmission to the league.
Several options have been tried at the top of the order and the bowling attack also lacks consistency.
Thorpdale v Newborough Bulldogs
THE battle of the cellar-dwellers is the last chance for Newborough Bulldogs to get a win on the board, with captain Matt Coutts back in the side and the experienced trio of John Murray, Leigh Colgrave and Mark Whitney guiding the Bulldogs’ younger generation.
The loss of both Ryan Harvey and Royce Colgrave has hurt the already thin Newborough depth, while Troy Oakley has been struggling as well with just one half-century.
If the Bulldogs can see off the new ball and post a decent total they are in with a big chance.
Thorpdale’s bowling attack of Shannon Pickering, Travis Pickering, Jason Richardson, Kayne O’Connell and Morgan Clark poses the biggest threat, with batting the weak point.
Fraser Smith has carried the side all season and needs support from the likes of Steven Hibbs, Ayden Kelly, and veteran Harvey Poole who has had a poor year with the bat.
The Blues start as favourites but need to reverse their poor batting performances if they are to get their second Energy Australia Cup victory since re-entering the competition’s highest level.