Unicorns sneak in, Friars perfect finish

Posted on - Latest News, Featured, Division 2 Men's

Anna Pavlou

After a gruelling pre-season and 18 rounds of hard contested football, the finals are finally upon us and there are four sides standing with their eye on the ultimate prizes of promotion and the ultimate premiership glory.

With the battle for finals places only being settled late on the final day, the final four teams have earned the right to fight for the Division 2 premiership.

The challenge between the final four will be hotly contested with anything possible in finals football. Running sides, contested sides, attacking options, defensive structures and redemption will feature over the finals series and it will be great to see these teams battle it out for the hottest prize in footy.

SEMI-FINAL 2: WHITEFRIARS v BRUNSWICK NOBS

The Friars have taken all before them in 2019, completing a perfect home and away season finishing undefeated and convincingly overcoming every challenge thrown at them by all comers. They have averaged an astonishing 21 goals per game and done just as well at the other end, conceding a low average of seven goals per game. Their record against the top sides is impressive and after bowing out last season in the Preliminary Final, the club firmly has the flag in their sights. They do, however, need to overcome an impressive Brunswick NOBS who, after being relegated from Division 1 last season, have certainly put together an impressive body of work losing only three games and finishing in clear second place. Their recent form has been excellent and they would rate their chances this week.

In the two meetings between these sides, Whitefriars have run out convincing winners on both occasions winning by 48 and 49 points.  It has proven hard to stop their multi-faceted forward line with a wide range of goalkickers on the board each week led by James Connellan (41) and Sam Kieseker (37) and run-and-gun forward Michael Nitas (36), while nine players have kicked double figure goals and an amazing 29 players have kicked a goal this season. Brunswick, on the other hand, has also been prolific in front of goal with leading goalkicker Dom Sullivan (42), Jacob Atkins (38) and Chris Ford (33) proving great targets with plenty of others piling on the scoreboard pressure.

Both sides can score feely but it’s in the back half where this game will be won. In their two matches this season, Whitefriars miserly defence has held the Nobs to 10 and 11 goals, respectively, while heaping on the pressure booting 18 and 17 goals against the Brunswick defence. The Brunswick forward line is potent, but the Whitefriars defence is tight and will make the Nobs forwards earn every kick.

With a spot in Division 1 on the line, expect the Kristian Height led Friars to flex their muscles and earn a place in the Grand Final.

SEMI FINAL 1: GLEN EIRA v MHSOB

With fourth place up for grabs, Glen Eira had to wait until the last minutes of the season to find out that MHSOB would be their opponent in the first Semi Final this weekend. The Gryphons have been in red-hot form in the lead up to the finals, winning six out of their last eight games including a 21 point win over Melbourne High in Round 16. The Unicorns form has been patchy in the second half of the season, but they have found some form easily winning the last game of the season to sneak in to the finals.

In their two meetings this year, Glen Eira have won both by 31 points and 21 points and seem to have the Unicorns measure, but both games were tighter than the final score suggests. Melbourne High play a quick spread game style while the Gryphons roll-up and full-ground press has strangled most sides this year.

The key battle will centre around Gryphons superstar forward and competition leading goalkicker, Julius Waras Carstensen (51) plus his fellow forward Andrew Barrett (28), and how the Unicorns defence will restrict their strength and strong marking. The Unicorns attack is led ably by Ash Wijayakumara (28) and Tim Strickland (20) and they lead a forward line of small, fast and elusive runners.

The two sides defences are similar, tight and quick to spread, and the Unicorns forward pressure might stop the defensive run of Glen Eira. Melbourne High have worked hard over recent weeks to return to finals for the first time since 2017 and will be primed for a big showing. Finals football is hard earned and the Unicorns will be keen to step it up another level. Ever reliable James Tran, Tim Campelj and Brad Jordan will be key players in the pressure cooker atmosphere of finals.

The Gryphons, after winning the 2018 Division 3 Grand Final, are loaded with plenty of finals experience and will know exactly what is needed to win and advance to next week’s Preliminary Final with Stuart Carey, Nathan Dennis and Vaughan Collyer providing plenty of experience and class.

RESERVES

The final spots in Division 2 Reserves have been set for a few weeks now and the top 4 sides in the Senior competition are the same 4 sides that will contest the Reserves Finals.

MHSOB have been the pace setters this season dominating all comers until late in the season when they lost to Glen Eira (2nd) and drew with Whitefriars (3rd), so the finals are now an open race.