Premier C final four locked in … History suggests?

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Mitch op’t Hoog – @mitch_toog

After a long, gruelling season and with much still up in the air prior to Round 18 we have settled on a top four. While Caulfield Grammarians, Old Haileybury and Marcellin had the top three locked up, it was fourth place that remained up for grabs and of the five teams competing for the spot it was … drum roll, please … Williamstown CYMS who held strong, coming from behind to eventually overrun Old Ivanhoe and secure a finals berth!

With a win going to be enough to secure a place in the top four, the CYs would’ve had a few of their fans hearts racing (and some OGs supporters excited) as they were trailing by nine points at the first break. However, after the first term, the nerves were calmed and the CYs managed to kick away for the final three quarters, eventually running the game out as 96-point winners. Ten goalscorers peppered the CYs scorecard while Mal Mitris did the most damage for Old Ivanhoe with three of their eight goals for the day. Williamstown CYMS’ Russell Ackerly was awarded BOG.

Of the unlucky four who missed out on a finals spot, it’s Old Geelong who would be feeling the unluckiest. In Round 18, they defeated second-placed Old Haileybury to give themselves every chance of backing up their 2016 Division 1 flag with a 2017 Premier C finals appearance – however, it wasn’t to be. At the end of the day, fate was out of their hands and Williamstown CYMS got the job done to put Ogs’ hope a finals berth to rest. Despite not getting the desired result in other games, the Ogs were impressive in their own, leading at every change to run the game out as 13-point victors. League leading goalscorer, Nathan Waite, did everything he could to keep his team in with a chance, kicking five goals and making it 12 for him in two weeks. For Old Geelong, Edward Keach put in his best game of the year.

In a dead rubber, top of the table Caulfield Grammarians hosted bottom of the ladder Kew. The game went as expected with Caulfield running the game out 70-point winners. Surprisingly, Kew jumped out to an 11-point quarter time lead, catching Caulfield off guard. From then on, however, Caulfield kicked 16 of the next 20 goals and officially claimed the minor premiership. For the Bears, Brin Duggan and Sam Glover finished a forgettable season off on a memorable note, while Hugo Gates was best for the Fielders.

With a slim chance of making finals, Old Camberwell were facing off against an in-form Marcellin who proved too strong for the Wellers. 35 scoring shots to 10 spelled the story of the day as Marcellin dominated at every facet to secure a commanding 120-point victory. The Wellers were leading at the first change, but the Eagles exploded with 21 of the last 22 goals of the game, including 16 in the second half. With the win, Marcellin secured third spot while Old Camberwell locked in seventh place.

Old Mentonians were another side with a slim chance of scraping into finals, though they needed Old Geelong and Williamstown CYMS to lose. They gave themselves every chance, defeating Hampton Rovers by 28-points, however, other results failed to go their way. The Panthers kicked 13 of the first 18 goals to put the game to bed by three quarter time, led by Jack Davis who booted five goals. For the Rovers, who’ll be heading to Division 1 for season 2018, Sam Bradford kicked four of their 12 majors as they return to Division 1 with six wins for the year.

Finals Previews:

Semi Final 1: Marcellin v Williamstown CYMS

While the CYs have secured a spot in the finals, recent Premier C history suggests they face a tough battle to secure a premiership with only one team in the last five years coming from fourth to claim a flag. The CYs will come up against the high-flying, in-form Marcellin Eagles.

Throughout the regular season, the CYs have beaten Marcellin comfortably twice and hold the wood over the Eagles. The first time the two teams met in Round 4, the CYs won by 33 points and the last time these two teams met, which was in Round 10, Williamstown CYMS won by 54 points. After that game, however, Marcellin started to hit their straps and won six of the next eight games, while the CYs won just three for the remainder of the season. Based on form, you’d say that the Eagles head into this game as favourites despite not having beaten the CYs this year.

It’s a hard game to call, but should the Eagles be able to shut down the Gray brothers up forward and slingshot out of defence to using the run and carry of Jackson Green off the half back flank, they should be able to account for Williamstown CYMS. The Key for the CYs will be stifling Marcellin’s run and reducing the impact of Jono Blanch around the ground. The big and often windy ground of Sportscover Arena might suit the CYs who are use to playing on the wide and windy expanses of Fearon Reserve. On paper, it’s hard to call, but based on form alone, I’m tipping Marcellin to continue their form and make it seven wins from nine games.

Players to watch:

Jackson Green (Marcellin) – Half Back flank with 21 goals for the season.

Nick Blackney (Williamstown CYMS) big ruckman with clean skills below his knees. 15 games this year and featured in their best 11 times.

Semi Final 2: Caulfield Grammarians v Old Haileybury

History isn’t all in favour of the top two sides either, as the past four years has seen the loser of the second semi final bow out in straight sets. With form not on their side, having lost three of their last four games, could Old Haileybury’s fate already be sealed as they look to come up against a formidable Caulfield Grammarians outfit?

For those playing along at home, last year, it was Caulfield Grammarians who fell out of finals in straight sets, and I’m sure they’ll have that fresh in their mind, adamant to not let it happen again come Saturday.

Throughout the season, these two teams have played each other twice, each claiming one win. The first time they met, in Round 2, Old Haileybury comfortably accounted for Caulfield Grammarians defeating them by 83 points. The second time they met was in Round 10, and Caulfield made amends for their Round 2 defeat and won by 21 points thanks to Declan Reilly who led the way with four goals. Since then, Caulfield have only dropped one game, winning seven of their last eight, while the Bloods only claimed 50% of their remaining games with four wins and four losses.Again, based on form, you’d have to say Caulfield come into this game as clear favourites with Old Haileybury performing well below par in recent weeks with losses to teams they should’ve beaten in Old Geelong, Old Mentonians and Hampton Rovers.

If the Bloods are to make an impact on this game, they’ll have to turn their form around and put in a strong defensive effort against the powerhouse that is Caulfield Grammarians. In saying that, they can’t just focus on stopping one or two key players, it will have to be a strong defensive effort all around the ground. To put it simply, the Fielders have too many avenues to goal – from Tom Small off the half back flank with 17 goals for the year to equal league leading goalscorer Declan Reilly with 53 for the year, not to mention their midfield who has the potential to sneak forward too. Caulfield are an offensive machine! In fact, on their list, they have ten players who have scored more than ten goals for the year, and of those ten, seven of which have scored 17 or more. Old Haileybury too have the potential to be potent up forward with their equal-league leading goalscorer in Nathan Waite and will need him to shine come Saturday. Despite his team’s tough run, he’s been playing phenomenally well, kicking 12 goals in the past two weeks. In Round 2 when these teams met, Waite was a catalyst, kicking eight in a BOG display and leading his team to victory. If the Fields can shut him down, they’ll go a long way towards winning.

Since Round 4, these two teams have held first and second spot on the ladder and it was always destined for them to meet in the second semi final. I do fancy myself an underdog victory, especially in big games, but unfortunately for Old Haileybury, I think Caulfield are too strong. It should be a ferocious display of footy from both teams and I’m excited to see who stands up on the big occasion. If you haven’t got plans for your Saturday afternoon, I highly suggest you get down to Casey Field at 2pm.

Players to watch: Nathan Waite (Old Haileybury) and Declan Reilly (Caulfield) – equal league goal kickers at either end of the ground – what’s not to love?