The Northern Football League Division 2 fixture returns to four games this weekend, with the top-four sides meeting in Round 14 in a potential finals preview.
Eltham returns from a week’s break to host fourth-placed Thomastown at Eltham Central Park. The Panthers have been triumphant by 45 and 63 points in the two outings between the sides this year.
Undefeated after 13 rounds, Eltham will hope none of its momentum has been derailed during the bye. However, it is likely the break will only aid the Panthers – who beat Lower Plenty by eight points in Round 12, without a host of key players including Anton Woods, Bradyn Taglieri, Tim Currie and Brandon Freeman.
Thomastown registered its eighth win of the season in Round 13 when it overcame inaccurate kicking, limited rotations and a fast-finishing Epping for a 14-point victory at Main Street Reserve.
The Bears opened a 34-point buffer at half-time, but a nervy second half saw the margin reduced to less than a kick in the final term, before the home side steadied late. Their inaccuracy nearly came back to bite them, finishing with 12.21 to Epping’s 12.7.
Dylan Chapman, Matthew Vasilevski and Joshua Lohse Tonna performed well to take Thomastown a step closer to a finals berth – now sitting a game and percentage clear of fifth-placed Diamond Creek. Anthony Capeci kicked multiple goals for the sixth time in 2018, booting three.
Lower Plenty and Banyule meet in a vital match at Montmorency Park South Oval. Lower Plenty was far too strong in the Round 6 meeting between the sides, winning by 64 points, but Banyule has since been in great touch.
Lower Plenty bounced back from a nail-biting loss to Eltham the previous week with a 63-point triumph over the Fitzroy Stars last Saturday. The result was never in doubt, with the Bears 50 points ahead at half time. The win retained their two-game buffer in second place.
Dale Nolan moved forward in the absence of Darcy Barden and had a day out, kicking seven goals. A three-goal haul from Ben Paterson and key contributions from Alden Meale and Jordan Sacco ensured Lower registered its 10th win of the year.
Banyule had similar success in Round 13, notching its third win a row with a clinical 84-point victory over Watsonia. Since losing to Eltham by one point in Round 10, the Bears have won their past three games by an average of 73 points.
Daniel Camilleri continued his strong form in defence against the Saints, while Brent Stanton and James Kroussoratis both booted five goal-hauls as their side retained third position.
The Bears are in great shape to become the first reigning Division 3 premier to play finals in Division 2 the next season – however three of their final five games are against sides inside the top-two.
Diamond Creek returns from a needed break when it hosts Watsonia at Coventry Oval.
Prior to the bye, the Creekers suffered their heaviest defeat of the season, trailing at every stage to fall to Banyule by 79 points. Not only was it their largest loss of the season, but it was also their lowest scoring first half – mustering only 18 points to Banyule’s 70.
With a 7-6 record, the Creekers now sit outside the top-four by one game and percentage and can ill-afford a slip up from now until the end of the season. They will likely have to win at least four of their final five games to feature in the finals.
Watsonia was no match for a rampant Banyule last week, as it suffered its 13th loss of the season. However, the Saints will take in some confidence into this week’s game, after challenging the Creekers all the way in their Round 7 match.
One positive last week was the form of Allan Young, who kicked a bag of six goals, whilst Jack Larkin and Graeme Hines also gave their all.
Epping and Fitzroy Stars meet for the third time this season at Epping Recreation Reserve. The sides have split the results, with the Stars victorious by one point in Round 4, before Epping romped to a 79-point triumph in Round 8.
The Blues have been very competitive against top sides over the past month but haven’t been able to claim a big scalp. Last week a very slow start was costly against Thomastown, with the Blues 30 points down at the first break, after managing just two scoring shots to 12.
Dallyce Taylor’s four-goal haul was vital as his side got back within a goal during the final term to nearly pinch an upset. The performances of Paul Dempsey, Jordan Wilkins and Joel Carter were also impressive.
Despite its best efforts with a host of players injured and unavailable, Fitzroy couldn’t reproduce its strong showing from Round 12 last week and was soundly beaten by Lower Plenty.
The Stars managed just one major to the main break but were more competitive in the second half – booting seven goals to Lower’s eight.
Hedley Smith was a shining light for the Stars and continued his outstanding 2018 campaign. He received support from Keith Morgan and Clinton Benjamin, who kicked three goals.