LEONGATHA coach Paul Carbis is bracing for what has become one of the biggest challenges in Gippsland League football this year, the journey to Sale.
The Magpies have lost just the one game to date, against heavyweight Maffra in round one. They survived a scare against Warragul in round eight, falling over the line by the barest of margins, but are a different kettle of fish at their home ground.
“Travelling to Sale will definitely test us and they’ve done well so far, but we’re really looking forward to it,” Carbis said.
But the reigning premiers have enjoyed a purple patch of their own in recent weeks, stringing together four consecutive wins.
Carbis admitted he didn’t “know a great deal” about Sale, having never coached against the Magpies before.
“Every week we go in and have a chat about the best players, but then we’ll really concentrate on what we have to do,” he said.
“Sometimes if you worry too much about the opposition you end up working into their hands, and if we do what we do well the result should take care of itself.”
Forward Chris Dunne and defender Josh Schelling have book-ended the ground for the Parrots week in, week out this season and will need to be at their best on Saturday.
Three Parrots will miss this weekend’s blockbuster with Sale. Rhett Kelly, Brok Davidson and Chris Verboon are out because of travel, with Ryan Olden and Joel Norton coming in.
Moe up for challenge
MAFFRA is the undisputed benchmark of the competition after running through to eight rounds undefeated, but Moe coach James Blaser isn’t shying away from Saturday’s test.
“No team are unbeatable,” Blaser said.
“It’s a very big challenge for us, but I’d be surprised if Maffra go through (the season) without losing a game and that’ll be the message this week.”
The Lions put in a scintillating six-goal first term to set themselves up with a 52-point win over Wonthaggi last weekend.
Blaser said he challenged a number of the core playing group leading up to the win, and was buoyed by the response from “a few players (who) weren’t playing to their potential and taking their spot in the side for granted”.
“We’re aware of how good Maffra are traveling but our plans will be as normal and we’ll go through the systems and structures,” Blaser said.
“While they’re very good, they’re not unbeatable.”
The Lions will carry “a few sore bodies” into the weekend’s clash with Maffra.
“Selection will be tough considering we’ve got a few guys coming back in like (forwards) Harry Sim and Ash Dugan,” Blaser said.
Moe is a game clear of Traralgon in fourth spot on the ladder.
The Eagles were tested at Traralgon last weekend, trailing at each break before a four-goal to one final term gave them an 11-point victory.
AFTER trudging through the first six rounds of the season without a win, Morwell will be looking for a hat-trick of victories when it hosts Traralgon.
Tigers coach Joel Soutar said the Maroons were “a quality side” and was wary of their well-oiled engine room.
“Over the past few years we’ve had some really good contests and they use the ball really well so we’ll have to try to slow them down,” he said.
“They have good inside mids and it’ll be a tough contest but we’re looking forward to the challenge and hopefully with that bit of confidence we can be up and about.”
The Maroons are in fifth spot on the ladder with four wins, but came within striking distance of ladder leader Maffra in round eight. They came within 11 points of the Eagles, the closest of any team so far in 2018.
Morwell and Traralgon will play for the Stanistreet-Hunter Cup, named after former club greats Brett Stanistreet (Morwell) and Terry Hunter (Traralgon).
WARRAGUL, kicking itself after an opportunity went begging in round eight, will be hellbent on returning from Bairnsdale with the four points.
Against Sale, the Gulls kicked 5.7 in the final term to go down by a point.
The Redlegs were no match for Leongatha, losing by 49 points.
The sides sit in sixth and seventh on the ladder respectively with three wins and five losses apiece.
A BOTTOM-of-the-ladder stalemate between Wonthaggi and Drouin will be broken this weekend, when the sides each vie for their second win of the season.
Drouin was competitive against Morwell last weekend, but fell eight points short, while the Power was blown out of the water in the first term by Moe.