WITH the Gippsland League finals just around the corner, Sunday’s Battle of the Birds between Maffra and Sale will have more than just local bragging rights on the line.
There’s a high chance these teams will meet each other during the finals, so victory this weekend could provide the winner with a psychological advantage.
The Eagles would also be keen to avenge its 60-point round seven defeat to the Magpies. It was their biggest loss to the Magpies since 1999, while they kicked their lowest score, 3.8 (26), at Sale Oval since 1915.
Both teams are coming off strong wins in round 15 which could have been more if not for inaccurate kicking in front of goal, though the conditions did have an affect.
After being challenged early at home by Morwell last weekend, Sale was able to increase the pressure – and maintain it – to record a 60-point victory over another 2012 finalist. Such was the Magpies’ dominance, the Tigers were unable to score during the second term.
The Eagles were also under pressure during the first quarter against Moe, but were able to shake of the Lions for a 74-point victory.
With Maffra playing in the first half of the split round and Sale the second, it remains to be seen whether the extra week off heading into Sunday’s match will help the Eagles.
The Magpies have had the best defence and offence this season, while the Eagles have been slow starters.
While Sale, along with Leongatha, has been the measuring stick this season, local derbies have brought out the best in both teams, with Maffra keen to prove this season’s premiership race has more than two horses in it.
A win would virtually seal third spot for the Eagles.
IN matches tomorrow, a loss at home for Leongatha against Bairnsdale could hand Sale the minor premiership, after taking a major stride toward cementing a place in the finals, Traralgon will host Drouin, Wonthaggi heads to Morwell knowing its post-season chances lay elsewhere, and Moe heads to Warragul knowing it has won its past six encounters against the Gulls.
For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.