BURNSIDE HEIGHTS v EAST SUNBURY
Saturday 2:15pm at Burnside Heights Recreation Reserve
ONE of the more remarkable Strathmore Community Bank Division 2 facts that seems to be overlooked is the hoodoo that Burnside Heights is having against East Sunbury.
The Bears have lost their last 13 games against the Thunder – their last win being back in Round 15, 2014.
This weekend’s meeting at Tenterfield Drive is arguably the Bears’ biggest against East Sunbury yet, given a win will mathematically guarantee them their maiden senior men’s finals appearance since entering the EDFL in 2014.
In the previous meeting back in Round 9, Burnside Heights shot out to a blistering start with five goals to two in the first quarter, but slowly faded away and eventually lost the game by 19 points.
A fast start will again be important here, but the Bears might be entering the game down on personnel after they incurred a heavy injury toll in last week’s loss to the Sunbury Kangaroos.
On a positive note, however, star forward Josh Covelli might return after sitting out of last week’s game with an ankle complaint.
East Sunbury will have fresher legs coming off a bye and will be hoping to take advantage of a potentially hampered Bears outfit here, especially given this will be its final game of the year.
The ground and conditions most likely will not suit the Thunder, but their leg speed will remain a key advantage.
NORTHERN SAINTS v KEILOR PARK
Saturday 2:15pm at Charles Mutton Reserve
It’s pretty safe to say the Northern Saints won’t feature in this year’s finals series, but there is a small glimmer of hope for Brett Kennerley’s men.
The Saints can end up in fourth position by the end of Round 18 if they completely obliterate Keilor Park here, and if Burnside Heights loses both of its final home-and-away games by big margins.
It will purely come down to percentage, as Northern has a bye in Round 18 and will automatically get four premiership points for it.
The winning margin they should be aiming for is around 300 points.
But the Bears will enter both of their remaining home-and-away games as favourites, so the odds of this paying off for the Saints are very slim.
Given this will otherwise be the Saints’ final game of the season, they will have no choice but to come out firing from the start and hit the scoreboard as often as they can for the entirety of the game.
The Devils won’t have the manpower to do much about it, but they will be keen to keep improving their own scoring ability.
Their points-for totals have dipped in the last fortnight, but it was bound to happen given their opponents were flag fancies Moonee Valley and the Sunbury Kangaroos.
Prior to that, Keilor Park strung together three consecutive scores of 37-plus points, their best output for the season.
Captain Luke Furci has stood tall and led from the front for much of the year and his individual form, along with Jake Gatto’s, has helped the Devils get better in the second half of the season.
With two games left and the opposition going hard, the Devils should be looking to bring some intensity of their own in this one.
HADFIELD v MOONEE VALLEY
Saturday 2:15pm at Martin Reserve
Moonee Valley should be expecting to win this, but it does loom as massive danger game.
In the first meeting back in Round 9, Hadfield was within two goals of the lead in the final quarter at Ormond Park, but the Fog found a way to break clear late, going on to win by 31 points.
The Hawks have been troubling most opposition sides all year and coach Brett Pitts has built his side to be hard at the contest and consistent with pressure.
It’s an effective way to go about things when your line-up is lacking a couple of match-winners and polish, but it’s also taxing over the course of an 18-week season.
Hadfield has had two byes since the middle of July, including last weekend, so we should see the Hawks start well and bring the heat early given their fresher legs.
The onus will be on Moonee Valley’s midfielders to be willing to absorb that heat and work hard with ball in hand, giving their dynamic forward line quality delivery throughout the day.
The Valley used last week’s fixture against Keilor Park to rest some of its best 22, so team selection will be interesting to keep an eye on come Friday morning.
If they can get Jordan Faba and Rocky Ferraro, who have 76 goals between them for the year, back into the line-up this weekend, then the Fog will be looking to take full advantage and get a big win.
Moonee Valley will be in the box seat to finish second if it can collect the points here, so there’s plenty on the line for Shanon Carroll’s men.
COBURG DISTRICTS v SUNBURY KANGAROOS
Saturday 2:15pm at Cole Reserve
On form, this is a potential grand final preview.
Sunbury is closing in on a perfect season at 13-0 and has already claimed the minor premiership, while Coburg Districts has won five in a row since going down to the Kangaroos back in Round 9.
But the one thing that will be troubling the Lions is how poor they were in that June 15 game at Eric Boardman Reserve.
Districts isn’t typically a high-scoring team, but back in Round 9 they could only muster a season low 31 points against the division’s best defensive unit.
At the other end, the Kangaroos piled on 26 goals and went on to win the game by 137 points.
It remains by far Sunbury’s best win against a current top four side to date.
You need firepower and several avenues to goal to beat Sunbury but scoring heavily on a back line that is brilliantly led by skipper Daniel Gregory is something no one has succeeded in doing so far this year.
The Lions’ best forward weapons are Tom Gleeson, who was held goalless by the Northern Saints last week, and Matthew Vesnaver, who kicked one in the 50-point win.
The Lions will need at least 12 goals out of that combo and find another six or seven goals from elsewhere if they’re any chance of handing Sunbury its first defeat in EDFL men’s ranks.
They also need to be on top of the Kangaroos for the entirety of the game, as Sunbury is capable of icing the games with just one or two quarters of dominant play, as shown in the second half against Burnside Heights last week.
With nothing to play for other than a perfect season, if that’s something the Kangaroos actually want to achieve, we could see a drop off, especially if any key players carrying niggles are rested.
If that does happen, then the Lions might be in with a big show, as they need to win to give themselves a good chance of snatching second spot off Moonee Valley in the final round next week.