Wattle Park secure a spot in finals with two rounds to go

Posted on - Latest News, Featured, Division 3 Men's

Mitch Dyer

Finals Fever is ablaze for four of our Division 3 outfits, with only the question of where they’ll sit at the season’s end left to be resolved. I wrote last week that mathematically the race for the final position in the top four was up for grabs. However, after a dominant win from Wattle Park and a loss to Power House, it is now air-tight, with only the order of the top 4 up for debate.

For Power House, the task of keeping their season alive was always going to be a tough challenge as they faced second-place Hawthorn at home.

Power House had a strong start, managing to go toe to toe with one of the league giants, carrying just a 10-point deficit into the first break.

After that, however, it was Hawthorn and their consistently dominant forwards who stole the spotlight, with Will Meehan (6) and Justin Raiti (4) propelling themselves into the first and second positions respectively on the goal kickers’ list this season.

Hawthorn’s strength lies in their ability to push their opponents to the limit throughout the season, maximizing their percentage heading into a tight battle for a top-two position and a double chance in the finals at season’s end.

Hawthorn eventually emerged as 63-point victors.

Next up was the clash between Richmond Central and Swinburne University, with a victory holding great significance for both sides.

For Central, it was a chance to distance themselves from the possibility of slipping into a bottom-two position by the end of the season. On the other hand, for Swinburne, it was an opportunity to breathe life into their quest to escape that position.

The game kicked off with energy and pace from Richmond who have had a competitive season, managing to keep Swinburne scoreless in the first quarter while also amassing 28 points themselves.

As the game progressed, Swinburne came to life, mitigating any major damage to their percentage with Tyson Wiegold and Daniel Abbott shining for the home side. Meanwhile, Richmond Central’s Lachie Conboy kicked three goals, benefitting from Daniel McLinden’s tireless work rate.

Central secured a 53-point victory, settling comfortably with 6 wins for the season.

As previously mentioned, it was a crucial match for Wattle Park as they faced La Trobe University, with a win guaranteeing them a spot in the finals for 2023 after narrowly missing out on a position last season. The animals wasted no time in advancing the ball, scoring 7 times in the first half to put pressure on La Trobe right from the start.

Despite a valiant effort, La Trobe couldn’t quite match the inside ball work of the Animals, who are hitting their stride at the perfect time of the year. They clinched a 67-point victory over the University side.

When it comes to the finals, there will be no easy matchup against Wattle Park, as they aim to cause an upset early in the Division 3 finals campaign.

The final match of the round was undoubtedly the most captivating one, with 3rd-placed Canterbury taking on table-toppers Elsternwick in a game that now carries significant implications for the finals.

If you needed any indication of what the Cobras are capable of, look no further than their first quarter, where they scored a remarkable 56 points against the top-of-the-table Elsternwick, putting them under immense pressure, a situation rarely encountered in 2023.

While the first quarter belonged to the Cobras, Elsternwick managed to turn the pressure into an advantage, stifling the Cobras’ forward line and regaining the lead by half-time.

The second half of the game at Holmes/Todd Oval was a memorable affair, marked by back-and-forth exchanges. Players like Spencer Hankin for Elsternwick stepped up as major game changers, finishing with 4 goals. In response, Nick Szabo surprised as the leading scorer for the Cobras, netting 3 goals, while Elsternwick’s defenders managed to contain the perpetually dangerous Tom Lowden.

In the end, Elsternwick held onto the victory by a tight 9-point margin over the Cobras, pushing them back to third place based on percentage, with only two rounds of football remaining.

With Round 17 on the horizon, it’s hard not to be captivated by the race for a double chance in the finals. All eyes are on the remaining two games for Hawthorn and Canterbury, as percentage might be the sole factor determining their positions come the end of the season.