By David Nagel
Tooradin-Dalmore and Cora Lynn will light the fuse on a rocket-launching six weeks of home and away football on Saturday when the Seagulls and Cobras collide in a mouth-watering match of the day at Westernport Oval.
This is the first of nine enthralling contests between the top-six teams in the competition – with every battle crucial in forming starting positions for this year’s finals series.
After this week – every team has played each other once – with the remaining five weeks of the season absolutely dripping with top-of-the-table contests.
The cards have not fallen the way of the Seagulls and Cobras, who both face a tough run to the finishing line.
Cora Lynn coach David Main has a simple philosophy and message….Bring It On!
“There’s absolutely no point in getting caught up in the negatives, we’re up for the challenge and big games are what we play for,” Main said.
“It’s a huge block of matches, a mini finals series if you like, and we’ll take it one week at a time and see where we land.”
The Cobras will win next week against Dalyston, but following that face Inverloch-Kongwak, Phillip Island, Nar Nar Goon, before a dangerous trip to Warragul in round 16.
Now that’s tough.
But not as tough as the Seagulls, who take on Kilcunda-Bass next week before the elite stretch of opponents in Phillip Island, Nar Nar Goon, Garfield and Inverloch-Kongwak to round out the year.
It’s enough to make a grown man shudder!
Cora Lynn has certainly been strengthened in recent times with Brady White, Heath Briggs and Jeremy Monckton all returning from long-term injuries, while ruckman Billy Thomas sat four weeks on the sidelines before returning for one game before the Covid-lockdown.
Main explains that, from a purely football point of view, the lockdown couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Obviously there weren’t too many positives to come out of the Covid lockdown, and we wish it didn’t happen, but having that enforced break – from a footy perspective – was a massive bonus for us,” Main said.
“It allowed us to get some players back, allowed others to freshen up and allowed us to reset for the second half of the season.”
The Cobras also look dangerous again up forward, with Nathan Gardiner returning to his brilliant best with 30 goals from his last five outings.
Main said Gardiner’s impact on his team should not be judged on goals alone. The leading goal-kicker from 2019 is beginning to have an impact in other key areas of the game.
“His (Gardiner) role has changed and I actually think he is having a better year than 2019,” Main said.
“I think he is starting to work out how valuable he can be to the team, and how changing his role mid-game can really make things happen for us.
“He doesn’t always have to be the man, with that comes weight and pressure and even though he has carried that weight before; he doesn’t need to all the time.
“He’s really bought in to that philosophy and I think we’re better off for it.”
Main is fully aware of the overall threat this week of one of the most potent forward lines in the business.
Players like Andrew Dean, Stewie Scanlon, Piva Wright, Julian Suarez, Blake Grewar and Adam Oxley will inflict some harsh damage if the Cobras are not at the top of their game.
“They have some serious fire power, and it’s important we win the contest and get the ball going our way.
“We’re not shying away from it. Both sides know how important it is for the season and how important it is to claim a big scalp.”
Last week’s match of the day turned into a real fizzer, with the Seagulls far too good for Garfield.
But this one feels different. Two quality sides are ready to go head to head on a playing surface that always allows players to showcase their skills.
The finals build up begins…it’s the Seagulls to claim their first really big scalp of the season and win by three points.
Three other matches this week will dictate whether the top six is locked away – or if there is still life in season 2021 for those knocking on the door…Warragul Industrials and Bunyip.
Sixth-placed Garfield host an improving Kilcunda-Bass this week in a game that could go either way.
The Stars were terrible against Tooradin last week but have built up enough brownie points to be given a second chance.
They play an honest, hard-working brand of footy that just didn’t stack up against a team with all the bells and whistles.
Corrie Intveen was clearly frustrated with last week’s performance and will be driving the standards this week as the Stars look to bounce back.
Matt Rennie stood out like a beacon for the Stars last week and will be number-one on Stevie Wright’s list of players to nullify for this weekend.
Players like Jake Smith, Jayden Nolan and Sam Watson just go about their business each week and have played a key role in the Panthers recent rise in form.
But the Stars get one more chance…they win by 11 points.
Nar Nar Goon will also have a say this week when it hosts the Dusties at Spencer Street.
The Goon have a massive three weeks ahead, against the Dusties, Korumburra and Bunyip, where they should consolidate a top-three position before a tough run home against Tooradin, Cora Lynn and Philip Island.
Nothing to fear here…they’ve beaten them all before.
A loss here and will be curtains for the Dusties.
Expect T-Mac to kick another bag and the Goon to win by 43 points.
In other games, Phillip Island will crush Dalyston, Inverloch-Kongwak will be too strong for Bunyip, while the clash between Kooweerup and Korumburra-Bena might go all the way down to the wire.
The Demons form looks better, losing narrowly to Inverloch last week, while the Giants were given a complete football lesson by Phillip Island.
We’ll go for Nathan Voss to kick five and for the Demons to get home by 17 points.