STRATHMORE v PASCOE VALE
Semi Final (Elimination)
Sunday 2:15pm at Coburg City Oval
BOTH Strathmore and Pascoe Vale come into this sudden death semi final in decent form.
The Mores made light work of Essendon Doutta Stars in Round 18 and are on a six-game winning streak since losing to Glenroy by a point in Round 12.
Their form has come on the back of some very consistent football from many of their key A-graders, including Adam Iacobucci (pictured), Luke Jarrad, Andrew Vavra, Nick O’Brien and Andrew Horne.
All five of those players should poll well in the Reynolds Medal in the second half of the season.
Vavra’s consistency in ruck has been particularly noteworthy throughout the year and he’ll be looking to gain an edge on the likes of Jesse Boyd and Daniel Archer.
The midfield battle looms as an intriguing one here, as many Pascoe Vale’s A-graders are finding form at the right time of year as well.
Erroll McConnell and Matt Stillman both starred in last week’s dead rubber win over Airport West, while Liam Ogden and Michael Ross are dangerous attacking mids that know how to kick goals.
Strathmore coach Matthew Horne will no doubt be wary of Pascoe Vale’s ability to spread its goal kicking load.
Inside the arcs, Pascoe Vale’s defenders will have their hands full with Josh Helliwell’s strong marking ability and the likes of Kyle Weightman, Shane Foulds and Athan Tsialtas all feeding off that.
At the other end, Matthew Watson is due for a big bag, as he hasn’t booted any more than three goals for Pascoe Vale since Round 12.
Luckily, the Panthers have been well served by the likes of Archer (four goals last week), Josh Cauchi (eight goals in three weeks) and Jacob Polizzi (three last week).
If Strathmore can successfully lock down on Watson, then those three become vitally important for Pascoe Vale.
The two home-and-away meetings are split at 1-1 and both were blowout wins, so we have ourselves a genuine coin flipper here at Coburg City Oval.
Whoever wins will play in next week’s Preliminary Final and will have a genuine shot of advancing to the decider, so the stakes are very high.
An ongoing hamstring complaint for the division’s best forward, Dean Galea, looms as the biggest talking point coming into this week’s second semi.
Galea has rarely missed games in the past but this season, the Blues spearhead has only played 15 of 18 home-and-away fixtures.
Last week’s clash against Maribyrnong Park was the third game he’s missed this year.
His inclusion here is expected to remain touch and go until game time, but regardless of whether he steps onto Windy Hill or not, Aberfeldie can’t afford to rest on its laurels.
Keilor is still 3-0 without Galea this season and in last week’s 26-point win at Monk Oval, Matthew Clark and David Gourdis both stepped up to kick three goals apiece.
Both Clark and Gourdis are a dangerous forward combo in their own right and it will be fascinating to see how Aberfeldie chooses to utilise the likes of Ryan Allan, Josh Toy, Daniel Thompson (if he doesn’t start in the forward line) and Jacob Craven (if he returns after missing Round 18).
Further up the ground, Keilor is getting fantastic value out of Kane Barbuto, Brett Stillman, David Isbister and Dylan Joyce and all of their extensive finals experience will hold the undefeated Blues in good stead this September.
But Aberfeldie has a wealth of experience as well.
Midfield stars Jaryd Cachia and Luke Blackwell have again had wonderful individual seasons and Cachia in particular will be hungry for a big September, having been part of Strathmore’s heart-breaking prelim loss to Keilor last year.
He is in search of his first premiership medal since joining the competition in 2017 and will be a hard man for Keilor to stop.
Keilor doesn’t have anything to prove after completing a perfect home-and-away season, but Aberfeldie hasn’t lost a final since the 2016 grand final – which was won by Keilor.
This really could go either way.
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