A HIGHLY-anticipated top four clash between Stratford and Paynesville headlines round five of East Gippsland football.
The reigning premier is looking to increase the divide between itself and the rest of the league. The Swans have again taken all before them so far this year, with their closest encounter being a 15-point win over Wy Yung in the grand final rematch.
The Swans will come into their clash against Paynesville well rested, after being barely pushed in their 108-point thrashing of Lakes Entrance prior to a week off.
After a shaky start, Paynesville has re-emerged from their slumber, having suffered from what can only be described as a severe premiership hangover last year.
Prior to the season, coach Paul Carol said he believed there was enough talent on the Gulls list to re-emerge as a serious contender this year.
Four rounds in, they sit third on the ladder with a positive win-loss record of 3-1, but only just. The Gulls accounted for Boisdale-Briagolong by one-point and Lucknow by three points, while they also easily defeated Orbost-Snowy Rovers.
Stratford will start favourite, but expect Paynesville to make it a hot contest as it relishes the opportunity to take on the competition heavyweight.
WY Yung will face Boisdale-Briagolong in what should be an exciting clash.
The Tigers currently sit second on the ladder and have continued on with the form which had them reach the 2014 grand final, their only loss coming in round three against Stratford.
The Bombers have rebounded from a slow start to win consecutive matches and now sit in the top four for the first time since joining the league.
Coming into a new league as the unknown quantity, the Bombers were competitive in their first two matches but failed to salute against Stratford or Paynesville. Their last two performances have been far more satisfying for coach Matt Lee, with victories over Lindenow and Lucknow putting his side in a strong position.
While two wins on the trot will have the Bombers full of confidence, Wy Yung will present them with their most serious challenge since round one. Mark Sellings has been potent around goal for the Tigers, while their midfield has been a dominant force so far this year.
A win will see the Bombers announce themselves as a realistic top four chance, while the Tigers will be looking to definitively stamp themselves among the top two teams in the competition.
SEVENTH-placed Lindenow will host fifth-placed Lakes Entrance in what should be a close contest.
Lakes Entrance’s start to the season has been somewhat of a roller-coaster, alternating wins and losses throughout the first four rounds.
Last round, the Seagulls put in an appalling performance against Stratford, going down by 108 points. Anthony Woodland will have his team raring to go against a Lindenow side which defeated it twice last season.
Apart from a round one thrashing of Orbost-Snowy Rovers, Lindenow has looked nothing like the team that finished last year’s home-and-away season in second place. The Cats will be out to snap a three-match losing streak, a run which has included losses of 10 or more goals to Wy Yung and Stratford.
Offensively, the Cats have been poor, averaging just five goals a game over their last three matches. They will need to find new avenues to goal and capitalise on Lakes Entrance’s turnovers if they are to get the four points this weekend.
THE task doesn’t look like it will get any easier for Orbost-Snowy Rovers tomorrow, when it takes on a Lucknow side desperate for four points.
The match, originally scheduled to be played in Orbost, has been moved to Lucknow. The round 12 match between the clubs has been moved to Orbost.
The Magpies are 1-3 after four rounds, but could just as easily be 4-0 and sitting pretty on top of the league.
They lost to Wy Yung by two points in round one, Paynesville by three in round three and Boisdale-Briagolong by 10 last weekend. Despite playing competitive football every week, their only win came in round two against Lakes Entrance by 65 points.
For Orbost, season 2015 has unfortunately followed the script from recent years. The young Blues side heads into round five winless, however, they have been competitive in patches, starting strongly and taking a lead into quarter-time in their past two matches.
Playing coach Dave Waddell has seen his team improve every week, however, taking the next step to get over the line appears a tough ask tomorrow.
If Lucknow can begin to win the close matches, it is a serious finals chance. Shaun Ryan leads the goal kicking tally and could be in for a big day out.