By Russell Bennett
WEST GIPPSLAND FOOTBALL NETBALL COMPETITION
FINALS PREVIEW – WEEK 1
CORA LYNN v DALYSTON
Qualifying Final – Saturday from 2pm at Kooweerup
Ladder positions: 2nd (14 wins, 4 losses) versus 3rd (13 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw)
Earlier this season:
Round 7 at Dalyston: Dalyston 14.7(91) d Cora Lynn 12.9(81)
Round 16 at Cora Lynn: Cora Lynn 15.13(103) d Dalyston 11.11(77)
Cora Lynn players to watch: Nathan Langley, Jeremy Monckton, Billy Thomas.
Dalyston players to watch: Brad Fisher, Kyle Kirk, Michael Marotta.
Kooweerup coach Ben Collins: “I think Dalyston have a very good team, however Cora Lynn have a lot of finals experience and that may be the deciding factor. I think Dalyston have the better back half but the Cobras have the better forward line. It comes down to the midfield. If Michael Marotta can fire the Magpies are hard to beat but I think the Cobras will win by a small margin.”
Bunyip midfielder Joel Gibson: “I think Cora Lynn will win in a tight one. Both sides boast powerful forward lines but I think Cora Lynn might be a touch more evenly-balanced and it’s very hard to tip against them this time of year.”
“This is like the second season – the one we want to win.”
Cora Lynn player-coach David Main couldn’t have said it better when describing the start of the much-anticipated debut finals series in the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition.
After winning the past three Ellinbank and District grand finals, the Cobras have been licking their lips at the prospect of the new challenge of West Gippsland – against the likes of Inverloch-Kongwak and Dalyston.
Fittingly, those are clearly the top three sides in 2017.
Main and his men can’t wait for this Saturday – for the chance to get out on to the Denhams Road ground and do what they do best and what they’ve become revered for … performing on the big stage.
“Now that we’ve played twice everyone has been able to put the names to the numbers and positions, and we’ve each had a good look at each other,” Main said about the battle with the Magpies.
“They’ve got a quality midfield and a player like Kyle Kirk is really underrated. He’s one of the prime midfielders in the competition, I think, and they’ve also got the best swing man in the competition in (Brad) Fisher.”
The Magpies will have their work cut out for them in stopping what is the most imposing forward line in the competition – featuring the likes of Nathan Langley, Ryan Gillis and Jason Toan – But Main knows better than anyone that this will be a battle across the whole ground.
Langley was a late withdrawal against Bunyip in Round 18 with soreness to his lower leg, while the likes of Jackson Dalton and Shaun Sparks also would have played if it was a final.
“This time of the year, with the sides that are left, no one is 100 per cent right,” Main said.
“It comes down to management.”
But he was quick to add that: “The boys have been waiting for this chance. It’s the best time of year and it’s when we all want to play”.
With a host of changes from last year’s EDFL premiership side, this year’s Cobras are spurred on – in part- by those who haven’t had the chance to prove themselves in the colours on the big stage yet.
The likes of Travis Woodfield, Ryan Spierings and Billy Thomas have all served to almost re-stoke the fire under the group.
Main spoke about how tough selection will be this week with a number of deserving players set to miss out.
The Magpies have been hit by injuries to significant players all season and have lost two of their past three games – one of those to the Cobras – but there’s no two ways about it; just like Cora Lynn, Paul Brosnan’s side is a legitimate premiership threat.
NAR NAR GOON v PHILLIP ISLAND
Elimination Final – Sunday from 2pm at Inverloch
Ladder positions: 4th (10, 8 losses) versus 5th (10 wins, 8 losses)
Earlier this season:
Round 9 at Cowes: Nar Nar Goon 12.18(90) d Phillip Island 5.10(40)
Round 18 at Nar Nar Goon: Phillip Island 11.19(85) d Nar Nar Goon 4.6(30)
Nar Nar Goon players to watch: Tyler Payroli, Nick Henwood, Brent Hughes.
Phillip Island players to watch: Brendan Kimber, Nick Higginson, Jarrod Witnish.
Kooweerup coach Ben Collins: “You can’t flirt with form and this will come back to bite the Goon big time. You can’t give a mental edge like they did last week by resting players and getting beaten by 10 goals. I actually think the Bulldogs are a big chance to upset the lot. As much as Inverloch looks to be the best side in it, I think Phillip Island can take the chocolates in 2017. They have hit form at the right time and the Bulldog team we played in Round 2 are good enough to do the unthinkable in my opinion.”
Bunyip midfielder Joel Gibson: “I’m tipping Nar Nar Goon in what is a hard game to gauge. Nar Nar Goon will have players returning but Phillip Island will go into the game with great confidence. I think Nar Nar Goon has been the better side during the year and play well as a team. They will need to stop the dominance of Higginson in the ruck and match them in the stoppages.”
It was the biggest eyebrow-raising result of the final round of the home and away season – not for who won, but for the margin; not for who played well, but for who didn’t play at all.
Phillip Island stormed to a 55-point win over Nar Nar Goon just days ago, and this Sunday they’ll be locking horns again for a third and decisive time this season.
Both have enjoyed 50-point wins, with the Goon taking the chocolates at Cowes in Round 9.
Make no mistake – the Goon side that takes to the field this Sunday will much closer resemble that team than the Round 18 version.
In some ways, Saturday was a kind of free hit for the Goon.
“We had a couple of guys on VFL lists who were unavailable but for anyone with a niggle it was the ideal opportunity to freshen them up,” said player-coach Kris Fletcher.
“We didn’t see any reason to put anyone’s finals campaigns in jeopardy.”
Essentially, the Goon took a strictly no-risk approach because they could afford to.
“Will it work? Only time will tell,” Fletcher said.
The Island, by contrast, simply had to win on Saturday.
“We’re assuming they came out giving absolutely everything they could,” Fletcher said.
“We had a look at them and the things we have to change, ourselves.
“But we think they did their homework, and full credit to them.”
Fletcher is hoping his boys approach this contest with more intensity than in Round 18 – they have to. They’ve got no choice.
“They’re a really good side – there’s no way they’re here to just make up the numbers,” he said regarding Phillip Island.
“Their midfield dominated us on Saturday and it’s something we’ll address. Hopefully we can learn a bit from it.”
The Goon could potentially make more than half a dozen changes this week and they’re set to come out all guns blazing.
“I hope the boys have got a pure respect for the kind of damage they’re (the Bulldogs) capable of inflicting,” Fletcher said.
“They’ve got a lot better list available than the last time we played them (in Round 9) and we’ve got a lot of areas to improve on from the weekend – contested ball, ball use and entry (inside 50), and transition (from defence to attack) all need improving.
“They had a high pressure game around the contest and we just didn’t match it.
“They’re a really good side and we must respect them.”