ONLY Strathfieldsaye and Golden Square are assured of finals berths heading into tomorrow's last round of the enthralling Bendigo Football-Netball League season.
Eaglehawk, South Bendigo, Sandhurst and Gisborne are all separated by just one game from third to sixth, with one of those teams to be the unlucky member of the “big six” that misses finals.
Gisborne is the side entering the last round sitting sixth ahead of its trip to Camp Reserve to take on Castlemaine.
Even if the Bulldogs win, they are still reliant on other results going their way to make the finals.
“We’ll go out there tomorrow and do what we can to get the best result,” Gisborne coach Kevin Fitzgerald said today.
“Unfortunately, we’ve put ourselves in this position, but all we can worry about is what we do at Castlemaine tomorrow and hope other things go our way.
“If things go our way and we get an opportunity to play finals, I honestly believe we’re still capable of frightening a few teams.
“With it being so even this year, the team that gets on the roll at the right time is going to win it... Sydney proved that in the AFL last year when they were the best side in the finals when it counted.
“So if we make it we think we can give it a shake, but we’ve got to get there first.”
● At Canterbury Park, Eaglehawk and South Bendigo will be playing for the double chance.
Whoever wins will play Golden Square in next week’s qualifying final, while the loser – particularly South Bendigo – runs the risk of finishing sixth if defeated.
The Hawks have the worst formline of the top six teams, having lost their past three games.
However, the Hawks will take confidence out of their last-quarter performance against Gisborne last week when they stormed home to cut what had been a 47-point three quarter-time deficit to eight points at the final siren.
Plus, their best performance of the season came against South Bendigo at the QEO in round nine when they won by 82 points.
“The response from the boys at training this week has been really good,” Eaglehawk coach Luke Monaghan said.
“The boys have really knuckled down and hopefully, the turn around is about to happen for us.
“We thought our last 15 minutes last week were really good. We were disappointed to have been beaten, but the boys came into the rooms really positive about how we finished, so we’ll take that into tomorrow.”
If the Bloods are to lose and miss the finals, it will signal the end of Rick Coburn’s seven-year, 136-game tenure as coach of South Bendigo.
● Sandhurst coach Shane Meade says the Dragons won’t be taking Maryborough lightly at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Dragons are red-hot favourites to win and sew up a finals berth.
“It’s simple – we’ve just got to win, but we don’t think the game will be simple,” Meade said.
“We’re trying to make the finals and Maryborough will be wanting to finish the season with a win, so they’ve got a bit to play for.
“We’re expecting a tough game. Our main focus is to get the win, but we want to make sure we play well.”
● Kangaroo Flat coach Tyrone Downie will end his two-season stint at the helm of the Roos when they take on minor premier Strathfieldsaye at Flight Centre Park .
It’s a tough round 18 assignment for the battling Roos in what’s a top versus bottom clash.
“I was pleased with our effort against Gisborne in our last game in what were conditions that are probably going to be similar to tomorrow,” Downie said.
“I don’t think the wet conditions suit Strathfieldsaye’s style and size, so maybe the wetter the better for us.
“As long as we have a crack, we can be competitive.”