Oakleigh found the task of toppling Hampton on their home turf a bridge too far, as the most potent attack and the most miserly defence in the division held the Krushers at bay and prevented their remarkable streak stretching beyond seven. Ormond disposed of Therry Penola to restore the earlier season gap between the top two and the rest, and the NOBS and the Westies provided the thriller of the day for the locals in the Brunswick derby.
With three rounds to go, the story inexorably shifts to the three-way battle for the last remaining spot in the finals, delicately poised where Prahran Assumption, Preston Bullants and Oakleigh are locked on eight wins apiece. In an interesting quirk of the draw, none of these three will face each other in the run home, so winning and hoping for other results to go their way is how their fate will be shaped. On face value, the Bullants have the hardest draw, with both the Krushers and the Two Blues looking on track to win at least two. After analysing multifarious possible outcomes, I fancy Prahran Assumption to sneak in by virtue of percentage.
At Alec Gillon Oval, the Brunswick v West Brunswick game deemed as the least significant of the day in the overall scheme of things turned out to be the day’s highlight. A multitude of lead changes and some individual performances from Jethro Calma-Holt (five goals for the Westies) and James Schmidt (four for NOBS) kept the Brunswick locals entertained right to the wire. Eight goals were kicked in the last 20 minutes, but the two point margin to NOBS at the last break remained exactly that at the siren, after some impressive work from James Moverley and Nick Burgin for the hosts. Tom Stokes and Jacob Hyslop were most prominent for West Brunswick.
The losing margin of 13 points was the closest Oakleigh got to Hampton, all day playing catch-up after the Rovers set the tone by skipping to an 18-point lead in the first 25 minutes. Richard Atkins and Daniel Corp found plenty of ball, leaving Samuel Clements (3) and Anthony Folino (2) to finish their work in the forward fifty for the Rovers. Krushers like Zach Pearce-Thomas and Liam Gillard were relentless in their chase, Aaron Cloke hit the target three times, but they never quite looked like getting there. However, there have been worse days than losing by a couple of goals to a team boasting a percentage of almost 200.
In four of the five games this round, the team with the ascendancy at the first break held on, and that was the case at Ivanhoe where the home team faced an insurmountable 34 point deficit to Preston. The endeavours of James Lagreca and Conor Mitchell for the Hoes prevented that margin from stretching much further, eventually conceding by 38 points to the more accomplished Bullants. The winners were best served by Michael Sortino and Jordan Hull, while Patrick Smith got on the board with three.
Therry Penola surged within ten points of the Ormond at three-quarter time at Fawkner Reserve, but couldn’t sustain the momentum as the Monders kicked back to salute by an eventually comfortable 23 points, thus denying the Lions the opportunity to usurp the second rung on the ladder. Jeremy Simon supplemented his BOG status with three majors for Ormond, for whom Blair Atkins was also prominent. Liam Flanigan and Nick Castaldi shone for Therry Penola, with Jarrod Bannister adding another four goals to his already substantial haul this season.
Prahran Assumption’s version of Harry Taylor is featuring significantly more often than his AFL namesake this year, not only starring but booting four goals in the Two Blues’ relatively trouble-free dismissal of Kew at Victoria Park. Also ably aided by John Stocker, the Two Blues amassed 31 scoring shots to 20 in their 26-point victory over a brave but undermanned Bears. For the losers, Nathan Sambevski featured as always with two goals, while Brin Duggan was again among their best.
The most pivotal match of Round 16 is Preston taking on Hampton at Ruthven Reserve. A repeat of their first round heroics against the ladder leaders will see the Bullants in a box seat to snatch a finals position, a loss will leave them teetering and needing to not only win their last two, but handsomely. The stakes are not as high for Rovers, with top two safely locked away, but there are also plenty of reasons why they’re currently top dog.
It will be interesting to see if the loss that had to come has taken any wind out of Oakleigh’s sails. If it has, they will need to tread warily against a carefree Ivanhoe who may throw caution to the wind in attempting to notch a second success. Logic says the result should still go definitively in the Krushers’ favour.
All Prahran Assumption have to do to safeguard their incumbency of fourth spot is keep winning and maintaining their healthy percentage gap on the two chasing. Easier said than done, but they will have the motivation to down Brunswick NOBS at Toorak Park, although the latter will be buoyed after their second win in last week’s nailbiter.
West Brunswick have no role left to play other than try to finish the year on a high note, with games against Ivanhoe and Kew to come. First up though is Therry Penola who, having blown their chance to overtake Ormond last outing, will come out firing at Ransford Oval. It’s a task not beyond the Westies, but the odds are fairly stacked with the Lions.
Ormond will stay in the hunt for the coveted top spot if they can overcome Kew at Gunn Reserve. On exposed form, that scenario should prevail. A surprise win to the Bears could ostensibly see them jump over West Brunswick into seventh, so they won’t be surrendering tamely.