ROUND 12 of Gippsland League football looms as a tipster’s nightmare.
All five matches on Saturday feature teams in close proximity to each other on the ladder, meaning some close margins should be seen across the board.
SALE and Leongatha will clash in a battle of the birds.
The fourth-placed Magpies and ladder-leading Parrots are separated by just one loss, meaning a grandstand finish is likely at Sale Oval.
Having not played each other yet in season 2021, the winner will receive a huge boost as well as some serious street credit.
Both teams go in with form under their belt. Sale has won its past four games and is coming off a huge 121-point demolition of Warragul, while Leongatha has not dropped a game since round two.
A win to the Parrots should keep them on top of the ladder, and could also give them the chance to manage a few sore bodies in the weeks to come given it has a relatively soft draw, playing Warragul twice in four weeks before the return fixture with Sale in the penultimate round.
A win for Sale will move it to equal points with the majority of teams in the top three, and leave the Magpies feeling good about themselves with games against Wonthaggi and Moe to come in the next three weeks.
The Dessents, Jordan and Brad, have kicked 29 goals between them despite only being in the same team a handful of times this season, and either one of them could prove the difference for the Magpies.
MAFFRA makes the journey to Bairnsdale.
Pride will be the main motivating factor for these teams, as each look to get a win on the board.
The Redlegs have not won a game since the opening round, while the Eagles are not entirely dead and buried just yet, While a finals qualification remains mathematically possible, Maffra players such as Danny Butcher, Winston Gieschen and Kade Renooy will be out to ensure they aren’t part of the first Eagles team since 1999 to miss the finals.
Without looking too far ahead, the only top five teams Maffra play in the final seven rounds are Drouin and Sale, so if it can pinch one or maybe two games and win the remainder, the Eagles could sneak in with nine wins and seven losses.
If recent history is anything to go by, stranger things have happened. Warragul finished fourth in 2016 winning nine games and Drouin fifth in 2019 despite losing 10 of 18 games.
THE most anticipated match of the round will be between Moe and Wonthaggi.
Both teams go into the clash at Moe with just the one loss this season, both at the hands of Leongatha, and with little separating them in terms of percentage, points scored or points conceded.
While premierships aren’t won in July, a win in this game will give the victor confidence they deserve to be among the competition’s best, while a loss might not necessarily faze either team so long as the margin is close and the game style appears to be convincing.
Jack Blair has been in blistering form this season for the Power, and his ability to thread the eye of the needle by foot means he is often given the ball as the designated kicker.
The midfield battle promises to be hotly-contested, with Moe players likes Jacob Wood, Jordan Ceppi and Cam Manuel up against Aiden Lindsay, Tim Knowles and Jarryd Blair.
It has been a contrasting story inside 50, with Wonthaggi sharing the load between Troy Harley (17 goals), Lachlan Ferguson (15), Tom Davey (14) and Jordan Staley (12), while Kristian Jaksch (36 goals) has done most of the scoring for Moe.
Jaksch has kicked 26 more goals than the next best teammate.
TRARALGON has the chance to go level with a team in the top five when it plays Drouin.
The Maroons are coming off a character-building win over Maffra, and can take their ledger to five-five with victory on Saturday.
Again playing at Morwell as the Traralgon ground is under repair, the Maroons’ hierarchy would have been pleased with the performances of the younger brigade at the weekend.
Coming up against Drouin will present a new set of challenges. The Maroons will no doubt be looking to curb the influence of midfielder Ed Morris and stop ruckman Bob McCallum giving Morris the ball.
The Hawks were never really in the hunt against Leongatha, and will be eager to atone for that performance.
MORWELL will travel to Warragul.
While playing the bottom-placed team, the Tigers won’t be taking Warragul lightly, and will know the home team will bring intensity and effort as it looks to get its first win of the season on the board.
The Tigers would have been disappointed with how last week’s game panned out, but if nothing else, they should be well served to take some lessons from how Wonthaggi played and look to use them in this match.