Season-defining round

Scott Berechree

ROUND eight of North Gippsland football has the potential to be season-defining for many teams.

In a quirk that not even the best orchestrated fixture could produce, all bar one game on Saturday is being played between sides that are adjacent to each other on the ladder.

The one match which doesn’t adhere to this theme has top of the ladder Churchill making the trip to take on cellar-dweller Gormandale.

The highlight of the round has second-placed Yarram hosting third-placed Heyfield.

The Demons have so far been involved in the two biggest surprise results of the 2019 season – unexpectedly dropping a close game to Cowwarr, and last weekend rolling perennial powerhouse and second-placed Sale City by a whopping 136 points.

Heyfield coach Rick Galea began planning for his side’s clash with Yarram the day after the Kangaroos got the points in a close-fought contest over Cowwarr.

Galea was effusive in his praise for Yarram onballers Griffin Underwood and Jack Weston, and noted the Demons liked “to squeeze the zone up defensively and play a chip and possession game”.

In order to combat this, Galea was keen for his own midfield to “get their hands on the footy on the inside and at stoppages”, suggesting this would be in the domain of Jack Woodland, Adam Wallace and the Dinsdale lads, Nick and Joel.

Galea also praised his defensive unit led by Scott Anderson, Brad Berry and Brayden Woodland.

Two players the Heyfield defence will look to shut down are Lukas Jenkins and Jarryd Swift, who Galea said “worked well together against Sale City up forward”, which has one thinking the Kangaroos coach may have sent his spy to scout Saturday’s opponent.

Galea too has his own weapons up front, with Jesse Bedggood and Shaun Humphreys likely to occupy plenty of Yarram coach Matt Scholz’s time in the lead-up to the game.

Scholz said his side “controlled the footy well” in its win over Sale City and felt his side “didn’t let Sale in the game at all”. He also acknowledged “Heyfield have been playing some good footy of late” and was much improved under its new coach.

After such a monumental win, Scholz was also keen for his side to back-up its effort and suggested his team would need to be at its best to get the win this weekend.

THE clash between the fourth and fifth sides at Stephenson Park is expected to be a “strongly contested game”, according to Traralgon-Tyers United coach Michael Duncan.

Duncan expected Sale City to “come out pretty hard” after what can only be described as a disappointing effort last weekend, when the Bulldogs dropped the game, second spot on the ladder and 65 percentage points in their clash with Yarram.

Duncan said he would expect a big game from a talented Sale City side, which had a mixture of “great experience in their older guys” as well as some “exciting youth”.

Looking at his own side, Duncan highlighted the fact injuries had forced TTU to debut several senior players in recent weeks with the Bombers having already used more players this season than in all of 2018. It has had a positive effect as some of the injured brigade who are ready to return are likely to put pressure on the Bombers internally for a spot in the side.

These injuries have also provided several regular players the chance to play different roles with half-back-cum-onballer Ricky Cochrane getting among the goals last week finishing with 10.

The Bombers’ midfield will be required to pay much more respect to its opponent on Saturday than in last week’s romp against Gormandale.

The one shining light for Sale City last week was Nick Grainger’s effort in kicking three of his side’s four majors. He will clearly be a focus for the Bombers this week along with the Bulldogs’ array of goalkicking midfielders headed by their coach Jacob Schuback.

THE main beneficiary of the Sale City-TTU clash could well be Rosedale.

The Blues sit sixth and take on the seventh-placed Cowwarr knowing a win would likely edge them back into the top five nearing the halfway mark of the season.

Given it finishes the first half of the season by taking on the less-fancied Glengarry in round nine, a win over the Saints this week could set-up Rosedale for a finals berth. Cowwarr, however, will have plenty to say about that and would love nothing more than to stop its run of honourable losses.

Both sides have plenty of forward 50 firepower, so spectators could be in for a good old-fashioned shoot-out.

The usual suspects of Frazar Brouns and Brandon McDonald slotted seven goals between them last weekend, and were joined by Matt Royal, Brock Williams and Ben Jones as multiple goalkickers among the 20 majors the Blues booted against Woodside.

Cowwarr also has multiple goal kicking options, with Shane Morgan having 26 so far in season 2019 and Nick Wozniak 13.

Even though three wins separate these sides on the ladder, Cowwarr’s percentage of 93 highlights it does not get beaten easily very often. If Rosedale dishes up anything short of its best at home, the Saints may well just grab their second big scalp of the season.

IT is not too often both Glengarry and Woodside will enter games this year believing their best footy will get them the win.

That is exactly the scenario, however, this week.

Neither side head into the match in great form, with Woodside going down by 98 points to Rosedale and Glengarry 113 to Churchill, but Saturday shapes as a completely different set-up for both sides.

Woodside will have the superior big men in coach Ryan Foat and Tom Crosby, while Glengarry will back its outside run and leg speed over that of the Wildcats.

THINGS get no easier for the under siege Gormandale, as the top side in the league rolls into town.

Churchill have taken all before it so far and should easily have the home side’s measure.

The Cougars may well produce yet another debutant or two, with several younger players having pushed hard for senior selection in the past few weeks.

Losing to 143 points to TTU, perhaps the one positive to come out of last weekend for Gormandale was the fact two other sides had bigger scores kicked against them than the Tigers did.

Churchill was clinical in its defeat of Glengarry, with Ben Skinner pushing forward for five second half goals. Skinner’s arrival to the goal square pushed Blake Slater further up the ground to create space for Skinner and Aiden Sheers.

Slater, however, still managed to take several good grabs and helped himself to nine majors before the big guns took over.