Another hurdle for front runners

This year’s North Gippsland Football Netball League finals series has not been kind to premiership frontrunners and Yarram is out to continue that trend in Saturday’s preliminary final.

With the top two sides on the ladder still to win a game in three finals outings, the fourth-placed Demons will take plenty of heart into the battle for a grand final berth with minor premier Sale City.

Within minutes of last Sunday’s first semi-final win against Churchill, Yarram coach Chris Pettitt had turned his attention to the task of bringing down the heavily-fancied Bulldogs.

“The one thing about Sale City is they’re really even across the ground,” Pettitt said.

“(David) Piasente’s still not playing and he’s a key player for them then you’ve got your (Jacob) Schubacks and all their guns but their depth is so good their bottom players are still really good so it’s hard to focus on any certain players.

“They move the ball really well and they defend really hard so they’ve got a lot of strengths to their game and we’ll definitely have to be on our best to beat them.”

Yarram was forced to make three changes to the side that overcame Woodside in the elimination final, but inclusions Michael Pettitt, Jari McDonald and Michael Lush were all key contributors in the win against the Cougars.

The Demons have ruled out Ryan Underwood, with Dylan Rash unlikely and Justin Staley still to prove his fitness, but even if the pair are available Pettitt will be wary of changing a winning formula.

While Heyfield may have provided the blueprint to beating Sale City, the Demons don’t possess the same weapons as the Kangaroos and will have to rely on their own strengths to do the job.

“I thought Heyfield used their talls to their advantage which they did against Churchill as well but they have blokes that can take contested marks.

“For a side that has to use the ball a bit better we’re not a big marking side. We can defend a marking side but we don’t play that way.

“We have to focus more on what we’re trying to do.

“We always try to defend hard and we always try to attack hard, so if we can still stick those things and if we can be up on contested ball we can be right in it but if we fail in one of those areas they can get away quick.”

After seeing the only side to beat his Bulldogs in the home-and-away season sent packing in straight sets last week, Sale City coach David Piasente said his team faced the same fate if it did not respond to the set-back and the challenges ahead.

“There will be changes,” Piasente said.

“We put it on a couple of guys before the game that they needed to perform and we didn’t get what we needed.

“We probably only had four individual winners for the day and we need at least 15 to be able to put their hand up and say they won their position to make sure we win.”

Piasente is a 50-50 chance to return from injury, while the likes of Kerrod McGregor-Davies (nine goals), Simon Jackson and Beau Bennett were among the best in the Bulldogs’ second semi-final win in the reserves.

Brendan Rathnow was the other senior regular to miss last week’s defeat through injury.

The Bulldogs claimed the points in both meetings during the home-and-away season, but the Demons got within two goals in round 17 and could pose a threat with their run and dash off half-back.

Sale City has been the best team all year with its slick ball movement and ability to win the ball and spread hard from stoppages.

The Bulldogs remain the team to beat, but Yarram has momentum, ensuring this clash has all the ingredients of a fascinating duel for the right to take on Heyfield in this year’s grand final.