The battle for a top-four finish is heating up with only three rounds remaining in A Plus Solutions Division 2.
Both Bears, Thomastown and Lower Plenty, are vying for the final spot in the top-four, while the Fitzroy Stars’ finals position is still up in the air following last week’s defeat to North Heidelberg.
As it stands, North Heidelberg and Diamond Creek are the only two sides to have clinched finals positions, with the Bulldogs requiring just one more win to clinch the minor premiership.
That win is expected to come this week when North Heidelberg travels to Lalor. The Bulldogs were 175-point winners in the pair’s Round 7 encounter.
Round 15 was a stock-standard weekend for North Heidelberg. The ladder-leader recorded another win at home, Shane Harvey kicked six goals and one the Tardios was named in the Bulldogs best players.
Jesse Tardio has been named in the Bulldogs best on six occasions this year and was instrumental in last week’s win over the Stars. His younger brother Brody has been named in the best in 11 of 14 games this season, the same amount as Brent Harvey.
The Bulldogs face a Lalor side coming off its third win of the season. The Bloods sealed a clean sweep over Panton Hill for 2017 with a 14-point victory that was set up with a six-goal to one opening term.
Captain Shannon Smith was inspirational, booting five goals; while Scott Morrison was dominate in the ruck and then deep in defence as Panton Hill made a comeback in the last quarter.
Thomastown and the Fitzroy Stars will be looking to edge closer to securing a finals spot when they meet at Main Street Reserve. The Stars have won the previous two matches against the Bears, including a four-point thriller in Round 11.
Thomastown is in a position where its finals fate is in its own hands. Wins in its final three matches will guarantee a top-four spot.
A finals position may come down to the Round 18 match against Lower Plenty, but if it wins this week it will replace the Stars in third.
The Bears may have won last week but they weren’t as convincing as they would have liked against Watsonia, trailing at every break except for the final siren. Nick Horman and Sashe Spiroski both kicked four goals, while Adrian Natoli was best on ground.
The Stars will be looking to return to the winners’ list following defeat to North Heidelberg. With injuries mounting, they were unable to use the breeze to their advantage in the final term to fall to a fadeout 34-point loss.
Key forward Vaasili Tuifao suffered a head knock and is no certainty to play this week. Tuifao is the Stars leading goal kicker with 43 majors and his absence would be felt, given only he and John Hayes have kicked over 20 goals for the Stars this season.
Lower Plenty requires a win over Watsonia this week to end a two-game losing streak.
The Bears have struggled against the top-three sides in the competition, losing seven of their nine encounters. Against Diamond Creek last week, the Bears led by 15 points at three quarter time but were outscored five goals to one in the final term to go down by 10 points.
Patrick Flynn again proved his worth, being named in their best for the 12th time this season. He received strong support from Luke Stagoll and Corey Sleep.
Watsonia makes the short trip to Lower Plenty with the hope of ending a five-game winless streak. Since their victory over Lalor in Round 10, the Saints have been defeated by an average of 52 points.
Last week against Thomastown, the Saints were leading by 20 points at quarter time but failed to hold onto the lead. Kyle Page and Adrian Alfonsi both kicked four goals, while Kyle Kemp, Lewis Franz and Jamie Haber were the Saints best.
The round concludes with Panton Hill taking on Diamond Creek.
The Redbacks now look certain to finish bottom of the ladder following last weekend’s defeat to Lalor. They need to win their final three matches to avoid relegation.
Injuries have curtailed the Redbacks season but against Lalor they showed that the spirit in the club is still high, as they tried to fight back in the final term.
The Redbacks will need luck on their side if they are to upset Diamond Creek this week, particularly after being held goalless in the pair’s last outing.
The Demons secured a finals spot for the second-straight year following their win over Lower Plenty, where Bryce Adams and Ryan Pingree kicked two goals apiece and Oliver Parks was best on ground.
The Demons need to continue winning and hope the Bulldogs drop games to finish top of the ladder. But they do seem certain to have sealed the double chance, needing to win only one more match.