AN UNPREDICTABLE HDFNL netball season below the top two, likely three teams, is providing hope for four teams still chasing their finals dream.
With two rounds remaining, Lockington-Bamawm United, Leitchville-Gunbower, Huntly and Heathcote are still locked in battle for fifth spot, with three of them possessing matching 5-9 records.
An increasingly intriguing second half of the season has seen the Cats, Bombers and Hawks all occupy fifth place at some point.
Who will end up there in time for finals is anyone's guess.
Here is what all four teams need to happen to lock in fifth.
Current position: Fifth
Win-loss record: 5-9 (90.03%)
Previous five games: WLLLL
Remaining two games: v Colbinabbin (H); v Elmore (A).
Needs: A win this weekend over Colbinabbin, which LBU defeated earlier in the season, combined with losses for Leitchville-Gunbower (against White Hills) and Huntly (against Elmore) would all but seal a drought-breaking finals berth. A loss against the Grasshoppers would find the Cats needing to upset Elmore in round 18, or in the event of a loss, hope that neither Leitchville-Gunbower or Huntly can win one of their remaining two games.
Current position: Sixth
Win-loss record: 5-9 (82.34%)
Previous five games: LWWLW
Remaining two games: v White Hills (H); v Heathcote (A).
Needs: A win of its own against White Hills, which would be an upset, or Heathcote in round 18, and a pair of losses for Lockington-Bamawm United and at least one loss for Huntly would enable the Bombers to contest finals for the first time since 2016. They would enter a likely elimination final against Colbinabbin with plenty of confidence having beaten the Grasshoppers a fortnight ago by eight goals. The Bombers will start as favourite in their round 18 match against Heathcote, after defeating the Saints' earlier in the season 47-31.
Current position: Seventh
Win-loss record: 5-9 (81.84%)
Previous five games: LLLWW
Remaining two games: v Elmore (H); v White Hills (A).
Needs: An upset win over Elmore or White Hills in its two remaining games and a pair of losses to Lockington Bamawm-United and Leitchville-Gunbower. Can afford to have the Cats or Bombers have at least one win, as long as the Hawks themselves win both games. Entering round 17, the Hawks have the worst percentage of all four teams still in the race for fifth spot, trailing LBU by a handy 8.19 per cent. Their draw is the hardest of all four teams chasing fifth, having lost to the Bloods by 37 goals and the Demons by 43 the first time around.
Current position: Eighth
Win-loss record: 4-11 (84.40%)
Previous five games: LLLWL
Remaining two games: Bye; v Leitchville-Gunbower (H).
Needs: Plenty, including a big win over Leitchville-Gunbower in round 18, two heavy losses for Lockington-Bamawm United (against Colbinabbin and Elmore), a Leitchville-Gunbower loss to White Hills this weekend and two losses for Huntly. A win for any of Lockington-Bamawm United, Leitchville-Gunbower or Huntly over the next two weeks eliminates the Saints from contention as the most they can finish on is five wins with a bye coming up this week.
Round 17 - Lockington-Bamawm United v Colbinabbin: If the Cats can replicate their earlier season victory over the Grasshoppers, it would likely be enough to lock in fifth spot given the percentage advantage over their rivals, unless Leitchville-Gunbower or Huntly can win two matches.
Round 18 - Heathcote v Leitchville Gunbower: If Lockington-Bamawm United can't find a way past Colbinabbin this weekend, the Bombers especially could nab fifth with a repeat win over Heathcote. And provided none of the three teams above it gets a win this weekend, the Saints (with the second best percentage) remain a live hope going into the final round, albeit a tough ask.
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