THE Loddon Valley league home and away season is set for a thrilling climax next weekend when the top five won’t be decided until 5pm Sunday.
With one round remaining Calivil United (first) and Bridgewater (second) are locks to stay as is, while Newbridge is also guaranteed to play finals.
However, whether the third-placed Maroons kick off their finals campaign in the qualifying or elimination is still to be determined.
The Maroons play fourth-placed Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the final round, where the scenario is simple – the winner finishes third and earns the double chance.
But while the Bears can finish third, it’s also still possible for them to drop out of the top five.
The final round features a Sunday clash between Calivil United and Pyramid Hill in a Worksafe Game of the Month, with that match to determine the finals fate of the sixth-placed Bulldogs (8-7) – and potentially the Bears (9-6) and Mitiamo (8-7) as well.
Marong won’t be playing finals, but caused one of the upsets of the season in toppling Newbridge by 20 points on Saturday.
The Panthers came from 12 points down at three quarter-time to defeat the Maroons 13.8 (86) to 9.12 (66) at home to win their fourth game of the season.
“The boys came to play today and were able to put four quarters together and run the game out well, so it was a good reward for their effort,” Marong coach Damien Lock said.
“Our pressure across the ground was really good all game and it was enough to get us in a position to win.
“Some of our young guys played really well today, so that was a bonus… Jake Ede was fantastic, Zach Turnbull played well, David Blume was good.”
Bryce Franzini was named best for the Panthers, with Lock praising his hardness at the contest.
Jarrod Fitzpatrick and Ryan Wellington kicked four goals each for the Panthers, who had trailed at the first three breaks, but were in front at the only time it mattered – the final siren.
Newbridge’s loss to the Panthers came a week after it ended Bridgewater’s seven-game winning streak.
“It was an insipid performance today… I’m lost for words, to be honest,” Newbridge coach Matt Dillon said.
“We undid all the good work of last week. They put a lot of pressure on us and we just didn’t handle it at all.
“Full credit to Marong, they played well across the four quarters and were impressive with their hard work and run and we were very lazy and undisciplined.
“It’s a good reality check today in that that one good win doesn’t mean you’re going to just cruise in and win finals.
“We’re confident our best footy is still very good, but today it was really poor and it was left to just too few.”
Jordan Gilboy and Kai Cavallaro headed the best players for the Maroons, who lost Ash Grant to injury.
• Mitiamo is back in the top five after inflicting a 116-point defeat on Inglewood.
With Justin Maddern ill and unable to attend, the Superoos were coached by assistant Liam Clohesy, who oversaw a 21.14 (140) to 3.6 (24) win at Mitiamo.
With no Maddern in attack, the Superoos needed to spread the load up forward and they did with 10 goalkickers – their most for the season – including Michael I’Anson, Jackson Falls, Brayden Baines, Mitch Sidebottom and Jarad Webster, who all chipped in with three.
“From what Liam told me it was a full 22-player effort today with a good spread of goalkickers, which is really pleasing,” Maddern said.
The Superoos restricted Inglewood to just one goal for the first three quarters, before the Blues – who lost by more than 100 points for the fifth time in their past seven games – added two in the final term.
Nathan Twigg, Ben Bacon and I’Anson were best for the Superoos, who enter round 18 in fifth position, but with a buffer of just 1.37 per cent from Pyramid Hill.
With the bye in the final round, the season is now over for Inglewood – despite it still being July.
Daniel Lloyd, Dylan Hawken in his senior debut and co-coach Ryan McNish were the pick of the players for the Blues, who end the season with one win and their sixth wooden spoon in the past seven years.
• Pyramid Hill co-coach Brad Fawcett was frustrated with the Bulldogs’ final quarter against Maiden Gully YCW Eagles that cost his side valuable percentage.
While the Bulldogs defeated the Eagles 18.18 (126) to 11.8 (74) at home, they leaked six goals against the breeze in the final term, having held the visitors to just five for the first three quarters.
Despite winning the game, the Bulldogs slipped from fifth to sixth on the ladder as they were overtaken by Mitiamo and are now in a scenario of likely having to beat top side Calivil United next Sunday or miss the finals for the first time since 2003.
“We had an opportunity at three quarter-time to really push hard and have a strong win, but YCW came out in the last quarter, played some really good footy and we didn’t respond well,” Fawcett said.
“We gave away a few undisciplined goals and those sort of things, so we’ve only got ourselves to blame for the position we’re in.”
The consistent trio of Steve Gunther (three goals), co-coach Gavin James and Billy Micevski (two goals) were the standouts for the Bulldogs.
Brayden Aitken played another fine game for the Eagles, who were also well served by Jake Klemm (two goals) and Luke Ross.
• Calivil United kicked away from Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the final term to win by 38 points.
The Bears had been within seven points of Calivil United at three quarter-time, but the Demons finished with six goals to one in the last to win 14.14 (98) to 9.6 (60) at Serpentine.
“We knew it was going to be an intense game of footy and Serp was really good in the first half with their pressure and run,” Demons coach Anthony Dennis said.
“But we got back in the second half to playing the brand of footy we’ve been wanting to play… we would have liked to have done it for four quarters though.”
Evan Ritchie on a wing, in-form defender Matt Magee and ruckman Chris Down led the way for the Demons, who had Bryce Curnow slot four goals and Levi Moss and Vincent Rodi kick three each.
Among the best players for the Bears, who led by one point at half-time, was mid-season recruit Lochlan Dhurrkay, while Josh Walsh and Charlie Gadsden also worked hard.