By David Nagel
Some games just have a special feel about them – like there’s more than just four points riding on the line – like Saturday’s West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) Match of the Day between Tooradin-Dalmore and Garfield at Westernport Oval.
It’s hard to explain isn’t it…how the teams that sit fifth and sixth on the ladder can bring so much intrigue and excitement to a game of footy.
But this one definitely has that big-game feel about it, with both teams looking to consolidate themselves as genuine premiership contenders this season.
Seagulls’ coach Lachie Gillespie knows the next two weeks, against the Stars and Cora Lynn, provide the perfect opportunity to finally take a big scalp and lock down a position in this year’s finals series.
“It is a massive fortnight for us, not just because of the quality of the opposition, but because we genuinely don’t know in the current environment what’s going to happen on a week to week basis,” Gillespie said.
“It’s really important in that situation that we bank enough wins to play finals, and Garfield and Cora Lynn are two enormous challenges that we look forward to taking on.
“Garfield fights hard for every contest, and are very even and hard to break down, while Cora Lynn have been a great club, a benchmark, for a very long time.”
Gillespie believes that despite not defeating a top-six team this season that his group is well equipped to match it with the big boys of the competition.
“We’ve been inconsistent, and not playing our best footy over four quarters, but our best is pretty good and we’re working hard as a club to get more consistent and be even better,” he said.
“We haven’t proven anything as yet, but we’re all on the same page and remaining positive and pretty sure we’ve got much more to give.”
Gillespie rates his own squad as having an even spread with little or no weaknesses, but acknowledges that this week’s opponent falls into a very similar category.
“Garfield has got good players, like Wal (Michael Wallace) and (Matt) Rennie, but they’re very even and tough and rely on team effort which can be very hard to stop,” he said.
“They work hard and defend well. We have to be mentally ready to overcome that challenge and play our best football.”
The Seagulls appear more well equipped up forward, with Stewie Scanlon, Piva Wright, Julian Suarez, Andrew Dean and Blake Grewar hitting the scoreboard on a consistent basis, while Jimmy Trezise can pop up out of the ground like a sprinkler – such is his forward pressure and intent to tackle.
The Stars have been more reliant on one or two options this year, with Rennie the focal point and Dan Helmore and Ryan Hillard the sidekicks, while Sam Batson and Lachie Schreurs will hurt the Seagulls if the concentration levels drop.
The Stars are resilient – they haven’t scored or conceded 100 points in a game this season – so expect a real focus in the midfield on limiting the Seagulls supply.
You just get the feeling that the Gulls have too many weapons up forward and will get the job done by a fast-finishing 23 points.
Cora Lynn survived a tough challenge against Korumburra-Bena last week and should prepare for more of the same when Warragul Industrials pay a visit to the Cobradome on Saturday.
The Giants closed to within three points at the 11-minute mark of the third quarter, before David Main and his boys lifted their game to bank a very important four points.
Nathan Gardiner was the obvious standout with six goals, but it was the consistency of players like Chris Johnson and Brent Urwin that stopped the Cobras from having a minor disaster and slipping all the way down to sixth place.
Every win is so crucial in such an even competition.
The Dusties finished strongly against Kooweerup last week to break a three-game losing streak.
Shane Brewster has been a magnificent leader for the Dusties this year, while names like Bruhn, Debenham, Gibson and Mockett will bite the Cobras if they’re not switched on completely.
But the Cobras know how to win, they do it better than anyone else…they’ll win by 29 points.
It’s great to see Bunyip playing some good football again and the Bulldogs will be keen to bank their third win from four starts when they roll out the welcome mat for Kilcunda-Bass.
Wins over the Giants and the Dusties were positive signs for Tim McGibney and his crew, but last week’s solid effort against Tooradin, where the Dogs led at the final break, was the best proof yet that they’re back on the right track.
On paper, they’ve got the quality to beat anyone.
But it’s taken time for new players to gel and team balance to mix, with classy conveyances like Jackson Dalton, Dylan Quirk, Agape Patolo and Michael Collins starting to work out the strengths and weaknesses of their new teammates.
You get the feeling the Doggies might cause a surprise or two in the run-home this season.
Jake Weightman has found his best form for the Panthers, while Taylor Gibson provides an ever-present threat up forward.
But it’s the Doggies to survive a tough and absorbing contest and win by 11 points.
The remaining three games this week would appear pretty much easy to predict with Nar Nar Goon hosting Dalyston, Inverloch-Kongwak heading to Kooweerup and top-of-the-table Phillip Island making the trip to Korumburra-Bena.
The game between Phillip Island and Inverloch was impressive to watch last week, but it’s very hard to imagine that the hangover from such a tough and intense contest will damage their hopes against the Giants and Demons this week.
Both teams are very well coached and have great defensive structures, which was the unexpected highlight of the top-of-the-table clash week.
If defence wins premierships, then both teams are loaded and equipped to fight for this year’s crown.
The Sea Eagles and Bulldogs will win by plenty.
And the Goon will solidify its top-four ranking with a strong win over the Magpies.
Luke Young is doing a fabulous job with the Goon, who do have wins over Cora Lynn, Phillip Island and Tooradin this year. Expect the likes of Brent Hughes, Luke Bettio and Ant Young to have plenty of the pill on the weekend and take some good form into next week’s game against the Dusties.
It’s the Goon by 63 points.