ONE of Keilor’s toughest wins of the year was against Greenvale back in Round 7.
That day, the Blues had to score five goals to three in the final term to grind out a nine-point win, with Dean Galea booting three goals and Brett Stillman starring against his former club.
The Jets were led well up forward by the division’s third leading goal kicker, Jacob Thompson, who kicked four.
Thompson has missed three games this year, with coaching commitments at Richmond VFL Women’s level keeping him away from Greenvale duties when the two teams’ fixtures clash.
That was the case last week and could occur again here, with the Tigers due to play at 12:30 on Saturday at the Swinburne Centre (Punt Road Oval).
While the Jets were fine without him in a comfortable 85-point win over Airport West, here against the premiership favourite, Greenvale needs to find alternate avenues to goal.
Luckily, Laurence King found some form with five goals against the Eagles last week, while Ryan Mills, Courtenay Dempsey and Kurtis Sanajko are all capable of providing forward drive as well.
The Blues have been the best defensive team in the division this season and while conditions were not conducive for forwards last week, both David Gourdis and Billy Iles were stellar in keeping their opponents, Jayden Foster and Josh Pound respectively, goalless.
Keilor’s assets spread all over the ground and include the competition’s best forward, Dean Galea and the current Reynolds Medal favourite, Kane Barbuto.
We know Greenvale is capable of taking it up to these Blues but right now, you simply cannot bet against Keilor.
AVONDALE HEIGHTS v PASCOE VALE
Saturday 2:15pm at Canning Reserve
Those at Avondale Heights should be chuffed with last week’s win at Essendon Doutta Stars, but by no means is the job done yet.
The threat of relegation still looms large and a loss to Airport West in Round 17 could leave percentage as the deciding factor on who goes down to Division 1 in 2020.
Therefore, protecting percentage is arguably just as important as getting the four points here against Pascoe Vale.
Heights captain Mathew Cravino was outstanding in last week’s dogged win against the Stars, kicking two of his side’s six goals on a heavy Nipper Jordan Oval deck.
Both he and Hisham Kerbatieh are going to play vital roles in the Heights’ plight to stay up and Pascoe Vale will be looking to shut both players down.
If the Panthers can restrict Avondale Heights’ flow, then expect them to go for the kill and pile on the scoreboard damage.
A win here will go close to guaranteeing Pascoe Vale a finals spot, but percentage could become a factor in the unlikely case of a draw between Strathmore and Greenvale in Round 17.
So if the Panthers see an opening, they need to utilise Matthew Watson and co.
AIRPORT WEST v STRATHMORE
Saturday 2:15pm at Hansen Reserve
The bottom-placed Eagles now have little more room for error after the Heights’ win last week.
They struggled to keep up with Greenvale in Round 15 and took a small percentage hit as a result, which right now means they would have to beat Avondale Heights by about 10 goals in Round 17 to survive relegation, based on current standings and expected results in the final week’s rounds of the season.
Getting a win against the Mores would be swell, but keeping it close if Strathmore does get on top is vital for Geoff Maddern’s men.
The Mores are a largely young side with some valuable experience sprinkled across each position group, led by Liam Cavanagh down back, Adam Iacobucci in midfield and Shane Foulds and Josh Helliwell up forward.
It’s a spread not too dissimilar to that of Airport West’s, who often get good production out of Damandeep Aujla (32 goals for the season), Anthony Aloi and George Nabbout.
On home turf, Airport West has no choice but to apply enormous amounts of pressure on Strathmore’s outside game and maintain that intensity for four quarters.
We saw the Eagles do that at Lebanon Reserve for a half back in Round 7, but Strathmore’s experienced brigade lifted in the second half to run away with the game.
Harder for longer is the key ethos Maddern should be demanding in a game that is winnable if Airport West brings the heat defensively.
GLENROY v ESSENDON DOUTTA STARS
Saturday 2:15pm at Sewell Reserve
Neither Glenroy nor Essendon Doutta Stars would have set out to be at three wins and five wins respectively by this point in the season, but mitigating circumstances have plagued both clubs throughout the year.
Injuries, suspensions and player unavailability have restricted both clubs’ ability to field close to full strength line-ups and the lack of depth has proven to be the downfall in each case.
At their best, though, there’s enough evidence to make a solid argument for both sides winning this game and winning it well here at Sewell Reserve.
Glenroy welcomed Lachie Ronaldson back into the line-up last week and he combined well with Adam Winter up forward to kick two goals in a competitive display against finals contender, Pascoe Vale.
Travis Dulic was also solid down back, while Tom Atwell, Daniel Ferraro and Daniel Riley produced good individual performances against quality opposition.
While the result was still a loss, the Roys were vastly better than the week before, where they didn’t give a yelp against Greenvale and went down by 114 points.
Another solid effort here should go a long way to beating a tired Essendon Doutta Stars outfit.
Douttas struggled to go with Avondale Heights last week and ended the game with nine less scoring shots on the board.
That was with key forward Alex Boyse back in the line-up for the first time since Round 4.
It’s been a long, arduous season for Kyle Hardingham’s young men, but they’ve done well to stay clear of the relegation battle.
With Keilor and Strathmore still to come, the Stars should be looking at this game as their biggest of the year and look to emulate their 26-point win over the Roys back in Round 7.
MARIBYRNONG PARK v ABERFELDIE
Saturday 2:15pm at Maribyrnong Park
Aberfeldie’s list of outs in last week’s loss to Keilor included Josh Cubillo, Kyle Reimers, Joel Madden and Mark Austin, among others.
Yet in very heavy conditions at Clifton Park, the premiers stayed with the undefeated Blues for much of the game, before allowing Keilor to kicked four unanswered goals in time-on of the last quarter to blow the final margin out to 37 points.
Aberfeldie’s losing margin to Keilor back in Round 6 was 36 points, so they have six goals to make up by the time they face the Blues in the qualifying final on the weekend of September 7-8.
With a top two finish locked in, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from Aberfeldie in these final three games of the year and given they have some key pieces currently on the sidelines, does player management become a bigger priority than winning?
If so, then Maribyrnong Park has a small opening here.
The Lions have lost four of their last five games, which has seen their slim finals hopes slip away in recent weeks.
But Dean Laidley should still be happy with what his young side has produced this year and this will be another good test for his group.
They were more than competitive at Strathmore last week, only going down by seven points with Jordan Davey booting three goals and George Abboud delivering another solid individual performance.
Maribyrnong Park is a side that is capable of producing upsets in these sorts of games and with little on the line for both sides, there’s a good chance we’ll see an entertaining contest here at Monk Oval.