Can Kyneton and Kangaroo Flat stay in the top five or will one of them slip up? Picture: NONI HYETTThe BFNL finals race took an unexpected twist last weekend.
Eaglehawk’s upset win over Strathfieldsaye turned the battle for the minor premiership and the fight for fourth and fifth on the ladder on its head.
With six rounds remaining, Sandhurst, Golden Square and Strathfieldsaye are in a three-way scrap for the minor premiership.
The BFNL’s big three are 10-2 afte 12 rounds, with the Dragons in the box seat to claim the minor premiership on the back of their huge percentage of 234.14.
History shows the minor premiers generally go on and win the premiership.
13 of the past 18 BFNL premierships have been won by the minor premier. The last minor premier not to make the grand final was Maryborough in 1997.
Kangaroo Flat, Kyneton, Eaglehawk and, to a lesser extent, Castlemaine are in a four-way contest for fourth and fifth.
The magic number is 11 for those four teams. 11 wins will definitely get you into the finals, while 10 wins and a good percentage could also be enough to be part of the September action.
SANDHURST (10-2, 234.1%)
Run home: Castlemaine (away), Golden Square (home), Strathfieldsaye (h), Kangaroo Flat (a), Eaglehawk (a), Kyneton (h).
The Dragons are the in-form team of the competition, but they also have the toughest run home.
Back-to-back home games against Golden Square and Strathfieldsaye will go a long way to determining the minor premiership. The Dragons can’t afford to have another slip-up like it did against Kyneton in round six.
“Only five weeks ago people were saying we hadn’t beat a side in the five,’’ Sandhurst coach Wayne Primmer said.
“We’re slowly getting better and progressing to where we want to be.”
GOLDEN SQUARE (10-2, 198.2%)
Run home: South Bendigo (a), Sandhurst (a), Kangaroo Flat (h), Maryborough (h), Kyneton (a), Eaglehawk (h).
The Bulldogs haven’t been at their best in recent weeks, but the opportunity to play back-to-back games at the QEO might be just the tonic they need to spark them into action.
The round 14 game against the Dragons is the most intriguing of Square’s run home. Sandhurst exposed Square’s lack of leg speed and depth when the teams met earlier in the year.The Bulldogs have recruited strongly since then in a bid to alleviate the depth issue.
“Top spot is a chance to have a week off, but that’s probably it,’’ Golden Square coach Nick Carter said.
“We set our goals on finishing top three and if things continue the way they are we’ll achieve that goal. The season starts again in the finals.”
STRATHFIELDSAYE (10-2, 166.2%)
Run home: Maryborough (a), South Bendigo (h), Sandhurst (a), Kyneton (a), Kangaroo Flat (h), Gisborne (a).
The Storm certainly don’t have that invincible aura that they carried the previous two years, but they’re still well and truly in the premiership race.
Injuries and a lack of firepower up front are the club’s biggest issues heading into the final third of the season. The Storm have a favourable run home which will give them the chance to bolster their flagging percentage. Defeat Sandhurst and they should finish on top.
“We’re not worried about top spot. We’ll just keep playing and see what happens,’’ Strathfieldsaye co-coach Darryl Wilson said.
“We need to regroup this week against Maryborough. We’re hoping to get Jayden Donaldson and Ash Trollop back and Jake Hall will definitely play. Tom Bartholomew is probably a 50-50 chance to play.”
KANGAROO FLAT (8-4, 128.4%)
Run home: Kyneton (a), Maryborough (h), Golden Square (a), Sandhurst (h), Strathfieldsaye (a), Castlemaine (h).
The Roos have a tough run home, but their finals destiny is in their own hands. Two more wins should be enough, while three wins will certainly lock up a finals berth.
The Maryborough game in round 14 will take care of one of those wins. The big question for the Roos is can they hold it together down the stretch?
They’ve been expected to play finals all season, but all of a sudden they’re under pressure from Kyneton and Eaglehawk.
KYNETON (7-5, 126.4%)
Run home: Kangaroo Flat (h), Eaglehawk (a), Gisborne (a), Strathfieldsaye (h), Golden Square (h), Sandhurst (a).
The Tigers’ season hinges on their next two games against the Roos and Hawks. Win both games and they should make the finals.
Two losses would see the Tigers needing to upset at least two of the big three in the final three rounds.
EAGLEHAWK (6-6, 128.8%)
Run home: Gisborne (a), Kyneton (h), South Bendigo (h), Castlemaine (a), Sandhurst (h), Golden Square (a).
The Hawks have come from the clouds to be a genuine finals contender.
Their home game with Kyneton in round 14 will be a mini-final for both clubs. On current form you’d expect them to win their next four games which might be just enough to squeeze into the top five.
“We’ve taken finals out of the equation. We’re just focusing on playing a good brand of football that’s suited to our list,’’ Eaglehawk coach Luke Monaghan said.
“We just want to enjoy our footy. We got bogged down in the middle of the year, worrying about winning and losing and structures.”
CASTLEMAINE (5-7, 77.2%)
Run home: Sandhurst (h), Gisborne (a), Maryborough (a), Eaglehawk (h), South Bendigo (h), Kangaroo Flat (a).
Where there’s light, there’s hope and the Magpies still have a glimmer of hope.
If they were to win all six of their remaining games they’d make the finals, but that appears unlikely considering they play Sandhurst this week.
The final five games are winnable for the Pies. They’d need to score massive wins against Gisborne, Maryborough and South Bendigo to bolster their poor percentage.
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