By Tyler Lewis
PREVIEW – PRELIMINARY FINAL
GIPPSLAND POWER v EASTERN RANGES, IKON PARK, SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER, 1:30PM
The Power got off to a slow start but kicked into gear halfway through the opening term and took the game away from the Western Jets with their standard electric ball movement.
Often the back six is unappreciated for their efforts on the opposition’s best avenue to goal, but in the match against the Jets the Power backline were instrumental and held Western at bay for the best part of three quarters before the cue was already in the rack
Differently to recent weeks where Gippsland have benefitted from elite games from some of its stars, the Power were a collectively dominant side, ultimately seeing them play like a premiership contending side, winning 11.9 (75) to 6.4 (40).
Eastern enjoyed the week off after defeating Sandringham in their opening finals encounter.
Despite finishing the home-and-away season minor premiers, the Ranges will have to overcome the mental edge of playing just two matches in four weeks of football.
LAST TIME THEY MET
The two sides haven’t faced off since 5 May where it was the Power who dealt the Ranges one of its three losses for the year.
After trailing at the first change, the Power fought back into the match and held off the fast-finishing Eastern side, winning 12.9 (81) to 11.5 (71).
Gippsland’s Fraser Phillips booted three majors as did Eastern’s Bailey White and Ben Hickleton.
Lachie Stapleton and Zak Petty brought their own Sherrin with 28 disposals apiece while Brock Smith filled every corner of the stat sheet off half-back with 27 disposals, four tackles, eight marks and nine rebound 50s.
Despite not being named in the best, Sam Flanders was crucial in the win with 25 disposals, two majors and seven tackles.
WHAT THEY SAY: POWER COACH RHETT MCLENNAN
“I think the beauty of NAB League competition is there is rules against actually having taggers through the midfield and you can let the best players play,” he said.
“Mellis and Stapleton are very good, we think we have great midfielders as well – the people come to watch the game will come see some quality junior talent go at it.
“(And) what Eastern do really well is link together as a team, I think their continuity as a team is their big advantage over most teams in the final four.
“(Throughout the season) a lot of us have had a lot of representative players out where they (Eastern) haven’t had as many.
“Darren Bewick (Eastern coach) and his staff have done a really good job in having these guys working as a unit and that is something we will have to be ready for.
“These guys will be slick if we let them, we have to play good finals footy to break them down and work to our advantage of where our talent lies.
“Once again it will be won through the midfield but it will be important for our role players to play their part.”
WHAT WE SAY
The Power is coming home with a flourish and it will be one of the matches of the year between the two best sides of the home-and-away season.
Either team who wins this is likely to go into the grand final as underdogs if Oakleigh are to get up in the corresponding match, but that doesn’t mean neither of them can’t win the premiership.
For the first time in the finals series, the conditions are expected to be clear, ultimately meaning the two most skilful sides in the competition will be at their best on the fast Ikon Park deck.
Expect a fast moving game that opens up in passages with elite ball movement.
PREDICTION: Power by less than two goals – Caleb Serong best afield on the big stage.