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HDFNL: Great battles to come as Southern Mallee Giants and Harrow-Balmoral eye grand final day

Todd Heynen, Lah, gets tackled by Jack Landrigan as Tyler Lehmann closes in, Laharum vs Southern Mallee Giants.

Todd Heynen, Lah, gets tackled by Jack Landrigan as Tyler Lehmann closes in, Laharum vs Southern Mallee Giants. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER.

PHOTOS: WFL and HDFNL action from July 8, 2017

By Grant Kuchel
We enter a Horsham District bye round extremely comfortable in the fact grand finalists from last year are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Barring a miracle, Southern Mallee Giants and Harrow-Balmoral should again reacquaint themselves on grand final day.
Every side has now played each other once, and with five rounds to go there is still plenty of permutations and combinations that could play out in the bottom half of the top six.
Southern Mallee Giants sit atop the ladder unbeaten after doing a number on Laharum at the weekend and should finish their second season in the league on top of the table.
The Giants have a perfect run to finals in the next five weeks, facing second-placed Harrow-Balmoral and third-placed Jeparit-Rainbow, and three easy games, and will enjoy the first week of finals off.
The Giants will be short-priced favourites to go back-to-back and not lose a game in either season.
Harrow-Balmoral looked to have stitched up a double chance with a good win against closest rival Jeparit-Rainbow last week.
But a worry for coach Paul Cleaver will be inaccuracy in front of the big sticks – kick 13 goals and 22 behinds in a final and you might well be on the wrong end of a victory.
The Roos have one hard game against the Giants in the run home and face the bottom three sides, so a top-two spot should be a given.
Of big interest will be their round-14 clash against the Giants. If the Roos are to announce themselves as real challengers they need to either defeat the Giants or push them right to the limit.
For the third season in a row Jeparit-Rainbow will play finals football, but its biggest challenge now is being able to win a final, something it has not done since entering district league.
The Storm showed last week it can match it with Harrow-Balmoral for a half, before getting a football education in the second half.
The Storm faces one of the toughest runs home of any side, with the next outing against the Giants followed by games against fellow finals contenders Natimuk United, Edenhope-Apsley and Laharum before some respite in the final game against Pimpinio.
Jeparit-Rainbow would need to win three out of its final five games to make sure of a top-three spot and have the easier knock out first final.
Swifts nailed their finals spot with a thumping of Kalkee last week. The Baggies have been one of the surprise packets of the season and well and truly deserve to be in finals action.
Brilliantly led by Scott Carey, the Baggies have only dropped four games this season, and with games to come against three sides outside the top six, they can push plans for their footy trip back a few weeks.
Swifts will get a good gauge on how they are travelling as they make the trip to meet Edenhope-Apsley.
The Baggies were defeated by the Saints on home turf earlier this season and face off against fellow finalist Laharum in round 13.
The game against Laharum might well be a precursor to a knock out final as the Baggies and Demons are on target to finish fourth and fifth and thus meet in an elimination final.
Like the Swifts, Laharum sits on 28 premiership points but trails the Baggies on percentage. After a slow start to the season, the Demons have put a real solid block of form together.
Laharum has not been the only side this season to feel the wrath of the Giants, but after a week’s rest should bounce back into the winners circle against Pimpinio.
Laharum will enter its finals campaign on the back of some fairly tough games and should be match hardened with games to come against Swifts, Natimuk United and Jeparit-Rainbow before finishing the home-and-away season off against Noradjuha-Quantong.
Laharum has been a big player in recent finals series and will enter its finals campaign with plenty of experience.
Edenhope-Apsley is hanging in sixth spot and has its destiny in its own hands. The Saints were made to work extremely hard by Rupanyup last outing and any hopes of building a percentage buffer over the chasing pack was extinguished early in the contest. In the end it was a scrap to get the four premiership points.
The Saints’ best football is as good as a lot of sides in the six, but the big question is can they run out a full game?
Down to the wire
Edenhope-Apsley should be able to hold onto its finals spot, but it could come right down to the wire and its round-16 clash against Natimuk United.
The Saints play Noradjuha-Quantong, Kalkee, Jeparit-Rainbow, Swifts and Natimuk United – the bonus for the Saints is that they face both Swifts and Natimuk United on home turf.
Natimuk United and Kalkee both sit a game outside the top six and realistically everything will need to fall into place and the stars align if either side is to snatch a top-six spot.
Kalkee has a poor percentage and faces the top two sides in the run home, so you can just about mark it down that the red and blue will not play finals football for the first time in more than a decade.
Natimuk United would be ruing a few close losses. Had it won a couple of those it would be right in the mix.
The Rams have a healthy percentage and with games against Rupanyup, Jeparit-Rainbow, Laharum, Noradjuha-Quantong and Edenhope-Apsley to finish the year, they know they will need to win at least four to snatch a last-minute finals call up.
Although there has been some pretty one-sided contests during the year there is still plenty of action and fierce contests to be had before the top six is settled.
The next five weeks will see some intriguing games.
Sides still have control of their destinies, which means we are going to see some great games of football to round out the season.

The entire July 12, 2017 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Jul 12 2017

Posted by on Jul 12 2017. Filed under FEATURED, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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