THE top four sides on the North Gippsland football ladder will do battle in a pair of matches on Saturday.
The top-of-the-table clash pits Yallourn-Yallourn North against a Woodside unit, which has been the surprise packet of the year.
After making the move from TTU coach to Wildcat coach, Michael Duncan has orchestrated a run toward the top of the ladder few would have seen coming.
Much of the Wildcats’ success has come about as a result of becoming masters of the close contest. The Wildcats have won four games by a goal or less and even their sole loss for the year, to Sale City, came by a single point.
YYN, which announced its arrival to the NGFNL with what was felt at the time to be an upset win over Yarram, has surged to the top of the ladder on the back of an offensive unit
which sees it sit some 350 clear of its nearest rival in the points for column.
To focus on the goal kicking prowess of the Jets via the likes of Dean MacDonald, Keenan Hughes and Mitchell Luck, however, undersells the remainder of the side, which boasts stars right across the ground.
Combine this list with the calming influence and experience of coach Barrie Burnett and it is easy to see why YYN has dropped only a single game to this stage of the year.
One worry for Burnett, however, will be his side’s slow starts of late.
In their previous two games, the Jets have conceded a collective 11 goals, five behinds in their first quarters, while managing a paltry five behinds themselves.
The Wildcats’ focus will likely be less on the Jets’ slow starts and more on their blistering finishes. After quarter-time in their last two outings, the Jets have kicked 33 goals, while giving up only four.
In what looms as a terrific contest where the highest scoring side in the competition takes on the most frugal defence, the Jets will go in favourites, but if the visiting Wildcats can manage to turn the game into an arm wrestle, they will be advantaged in the event of a close contest.
SECOND billing this week goes to the match between Churchill and Yarram, who have played off in the past two grand finals.
While the winner won’t receive any silverware, they will set themselves up for a top three finish, which will be crucial if either side is to challenge again on the final day of the season.
The Cougars might sit a game and a half clear of the Demons, but their rotten run with injuries is beginning to take effect.
With half a dozen first choice players missing, the Cougars were soundly beaten by Woodside last week. Adding salt to the wound was another few injuries during the
game which will test the home side’s resources on Saturday.
Yarram is coming off a beautifully-timed bye, and will have an almost full list to choose from. Any side with the likes of Jayden Shea, Griffin Underwood, Chris Bruns and a Vardy
or two in its line-up will always be strong, and if Jack Weston takes the field it might just be enough for the visitors to get a key away win and set themselves up for a run at their third grand final in as many seasons.
THE remaining games have a bit of a “one-way traffic” feel to them, with three sides still looking to play finals taking on the only three sides in the competition which cannot make the post-season.
Traralgon-Tyers United, coming off a strong win over Sale City, will take on cellar dweller Gormandale. With the Tigers coming off a 40-point loss to the second last team Cowwarr, it
is impossible to see anything other than a significant TTU victory here.
Bombers ruckman Kieran Jones will be able to set up the team’s midfield from the get go and it would not be unreasonable to expect with a huge amount of supply, the TTU forwards will rack up some big numbers. With percentage a chance of determining
whether or not TTU sees any finals action this year, it is unlikely the Bombers will show Gormandale any mercy.
AFTER some significant improvement during the previous four weeks, Glengarry may have taken a step or two back when thumped by a point short of 20 goals by Rosedale. Things do not appear to get too much easier for the Magpies tomorrow, as they welcome Heyfield to town.
The equation is quite simple for the Kangaroos — chalk up your first win since round four win or farewell your finals chances.
FOR the first time this season, Cowwarr is coming off a win, but sadly for the Saints, Rosedale is going along nicely itself.
With Brandon McDonald kicking nine goals at the weekend and midfield weapons like Rohan Diamond and Dale Fleming among the Blues’ better players, it looms as less than likely the Saints will go marching in two weeks in a row.
SALE City will have the bye.