The Power is theirs

TWO of the three contenders for the final two spots in the Gippsland League top five will collide this weekend in a pivotal match for the makeup of the post-season.

Fourth-placed Drouin (30 points) will host fifth-placed Wonthaggi (28 points) with Warragul (28 points) breathing down the neck of the losing side.

Should the Gulls defeat Sale, which will be no mean feat given the Magpies’ current form, the loser of the Power versus Hawks clash would drop from the five with two rounds remaining.

Wonthaggi had an early taste of finals footy at the weekend when Traralgon mowed the Power down, and will approach Drouin with renewed hunger and inspiration.

“We’ve got a bit to work on, we obviously got sewn up by Traralgon again, we took a lot out of that game,” coach Stuart Gilmour said.

“They play a finals brand of footy and that’s mostly why Traralgon start off a little bit slower, and they have over the last couple of years.

“We look at their game and go ‘that’s how we need to go about it’, at the end of the day we watched the tape of Traralgon and took a lot out of their ball movement and setup.

“We’ve still got our own focus and the way we want to play but we come up against Leongatha and Maffra and those top three sides play a similar brand of footy.

“I think Traralgon, from what I’ve seen, I’d put them at the top of the heap at the moment… they’re the ones to beat at the moment.”

Last time the Power travelled to Drouin was in round seven last year, when the Hawks pulled off a stunning one-point heist thanks to a Dan Nicholls-snapped behind in the last minute of play.

Wonthaggi won the first bout this season but Drouin has been much improved in the second half of the fixture.

Away games have not been the Power’s strength this year and Gilmour was keen to turn that around on Saturday.

“Playing Drouin at Drouin in those conditions is always challenging; they’re a really hard side up there,” he said.

“We need to take our best defensive footy with us on the weekend and do what we’ve got to do.

“We haven’t travelled that well so our focus… is to make sure we take our brand because we haven’t been able to (on the road) – that real hard defensive edge and also being dangerous when we’ve got it.”

Gilmour said ladder position was secondary to executing the game plan, but with finals just around the corner it was no longer a factor which could be ignored.

“We don’t sort of analyse our position too much on the ladder but I suppose it does become important sometimes,” he said.

“We’ve had a discussion about that as a group the last couple of weeks about what weight goes into a game based on our position, but more importantly we want to be playing the sort of footy we’ve been rehearsing all year.

“That’s what we’ve got to be able to do before we worry about ladder position.”

Wonthaggi could be bolstered by the return of three key men for the important encounter.

Byron Dryden should be back at full fitness after playing a minor role last week, following a four-week injury layoff, and should be joined Eli Richards who had a run in the reserves at the weekend.

Collingwood VFL player Jack Blair may also be available having recovered from a broken leg.

Drouin was pushed to the limit by Morwell last week and will be keen to avoid playing from behind against another quality opponent.

TRARALGON and Maffra will play a dress rehearsal of the likely qualifying final this weekend.

The two appear destined to finish third and second respectively and will be keen to land a psychological blow ahead of finals.

Maffra and Traralgon have produced some real thrillers in the past two years with their past five games having winning margins of 17 points or less.

While Morwell has won the past five games played against Bairnsdale, only one has been by a margin of more than 30 points, with most matches in the balance well into the second half.

The Redlegs and Tigers have both been out of finals contention for some weeks now but both are still vying to escape the wooden spoon. The result of this game could well be a major factor in determining who ends up on the bottom.

Bairnsdale has not finished last since 1998 and Morwell, back-to-back premiers in 2013-14, has not finished on the bottom of the ladder since 2003.

LEONGATHA looks set to put an end to Moe’s mathematical chance at a finals berth this weekend and continue toward an unbeaten home and away season.

In the old Central Gippsland league, where the Parrots competed from 1934 to 1953, their best home and away seasons were in 1935 and 1939 when they lost just two games.

Their best seasons in the South Gippsland league (1955-1968) were 1961 and 1963, years in which they lost three matches.

Since 1969 in this league their best seasons have included three losses – 1987, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2012 and 2015.

All the signs are pointing to a first flawless run for Leongatha since at least 1934.

A win at Sale is crucial for Warragul’s chances at playing in this year’s finals series.

The Gulls face Traralgon and Maffra in their last two home and away matches, and have dropped out of the five after Drouin’s heart-stopping win at Morwell last week.

Warragul’s record at Sale is not great, the Gulls having won there just 15 times from 57 matches.