A grade – South v West
PREVIOUS MEETINGS – Rd5: South 16.17 (113) d West 12.10 (82), rd10: South 20.13 (133) d West 15.10 (100), rd16: South 19.13 (127) d 5.8 (38).
Preview – Write off West at your peril
THE BULLDOGS machine surprising so many at the beginning of the 2016 SGL season - including the coach - continues to roll on during the final week of the season.
No one predicted South would make the grand final this season, let alone have the week break leading in.
It was a bleak picture painted during the summer, with such big names as Brock Laube, Simon George, Tom Carling, Mark Horner, Daniel Dohnt and Cassius Stuart wiped off the club's squad list.
No one thought the Bulldogs were capable of replenishing their list so successfully in such a short period of time, to the point where the new recruits have all but carries the to this weekend's decider.
Matt Downey, Brendon Colson, Lionel Brown, Darcy Kildea and Vinny Urbancic have been invaluable to South this season.
But their impact has been complimented by Brandon Hurt, Caleb Ritter and Liam Bury - 2015 fringe players now integral to South’s success.
Hiccups this season came against Lions, who they soundly defeated in the second semi final.
Now the reigning premier is out of contention, it’s just West standing in the way of a memorable unlikely 2016 flag.
It would be easy to point to the stats and suggest South healthy favourites – their 4-0 record this year is a good place to start.
But the Hawks outfit South successfully negotiated over the minor round were a shadow of the determined group defeating the minor premier last weekend.
Despite a spate of injuries leading in and during the finals series, West continues to build towards its best football at the most important part of the season.
They had some luck in the first semi final, escaping with a narrow win against Central, and profiting from weather more suited to their game.
But the question mark hovering over West is whether they can continue to find a way to win.
That will mean continuing to have the game broken open by Ray Stapleton and Tyron Warren, while moving the ball forward forward with class from Ty Starky-Treloar and Nick Collins.
And embracing the return of Jordan Warren, Joe Packard and Dempsey Kelly.
It’s still a big ask for West, but a 2016 flag tilt was a big ask for South at the beginning of the season.
One will enjoy a flag won in fairytale circumstances.
Key players – South smalls hold the key
Brenden Colson, Lionel Brown - South’s small forward have kicked around 100 goals between them in 2016 and are heavily relied upon to get South to a winning total.
The midfield chips in, but a firing Colsen and Brown makes the Bulldogs a better side by up to 10 goals.
Jordan Warren - Potentially the most important of the Warren brothers, Jordan has the ball on a string at half back.
Matt Downey – Can’t be stopped when he’s at his scrappy best. Might now have the best skills of the league’s big men, but he makes up for it in endeavor.
Tyron Warren – Has been booting long bombs from outside 50 recently to add to his invaluable work in the ruck and around the ground.
Brandon Hurt – The best shut-down player in the league has had plenty of scalps this season.
Ty Starkey-Treloar – Led a depleted backline all season with class, and could get some help with inclusions this weekend.
Nick Collins – Has the ability to turn a game on its head - silky and hard working in the midfield and dangerous up forward, there needs to be plenty of work put into him wherever he plays.
Darcy Kildea – Dangerous in rebound attacks because of his running ability. Will need to be wary of Hawks midfielders floating forward.
For South to win, it needs to …
- Get first use. The battle in the middle will go a long way to deciding this one. Downey needs to give Roach, Grantham and Kildea first use.
- Kick straight. There’s no hiding in grand finals. Inaccuracy hasn’t hurt South yet this year, but there’s no worse game to risk it.
- Don’t leave it too late. South can’t rely on blowing the Hawks away in the final term like they have other sides all year. The step up in desperation from the Hawks last week suggests the Bulldogs won’t be given any freedom.
For West to win, it needs to …
- Be desperate. West’s ferocious attack and desperate scrambling when they didn’t have to ball got them over the line against Lions, who move the ball better than any other side in the competition.
- Stay in touch. Giving up a three-goal lead at any stage of the game is not an option against a South side usually hitting it straps during the final term.
- Kick it to T-Bone. The Hawks big man has been in solid form in the ruck, but his best work is happening around the ground and on the 50-metre arc.
TIP – South by 15.
B grade – Central v South
PREVIOUS MEETING – Rd 13: Central 18.15 (123) d South 4.5 (29).
Preview – Unlikely decider offering belter
WHATEVER Central achieves this weekend, season 2016 will still be remembered for the side’s remarkable turn around from a 2015 season to forget.
Much of that is thanks to the regular availability of co-captains Alex Hosking and Ryan Harrison, who have led from the front in the midfield.
Dylan Warren and Max Clarke have also been stellar recruits this season, while the injection of Joel Struck 2015 club best and fairest Joel Struck and bustling forward Sam Carter throughout the season has worked wonders.
Stalwarts Brad Baker and Lindsay Puddy continue to provide the good, but but with a raft of capable players in support.
It’s been a different story for South this season, with its B grade side regularly struggling for players during the minor round.
Ryan Struck, Todd Kernahan and Liam Dodd have been the regular contributors, but the class of the side usually dropped off a pretty steep edge beyond them.
But a healthy list has meant the club’s A grade is firing on all cylinders, leaving Slade Laube, Jake Collins and Adam Bentley without a spot in the club’s main side.
The Bulldogs did enough to sneak into the finals, but the injection of class means South is on the cusp of an unlikely tilt at defending its 2015 flag.
The story of their season runs in parallel with last year, with South knocking off the undefeated Lions on the big stage.
The big question will be whether the Bulldogs have put its struggles throughout the minor round behind them enough to take it up to the best team all season.
Look out for some early niggle in this one.
These two sides, particularly in the B grade, hold perhaps one of the biggest rivalries in the SGL.
TIP – Central by 22.
Under 18s – Port v Central
PREVIOUS MEETING – 1st semi final: Port 5.13 (43) d Central 5.3 (32).
Preview – Underdog Bloods have all to do
CENTRAL has been the form team all season, but a few uncompetitve losses on the lead up to its defeat against Port in the second semi final throws doubt over the side’s chances.
Jack Dalgleish, Jackson Nance and Tylar Digance are the regular contributors and have done enough all year on their own to suggest the Bloods are capable.
Fraser Collins holds the key for Port, but his side will need to be far better by foot this weekend, after booting a wasteful 5.13 (43) during the side’s previous meeting.
But Central will have an influx of young guns and regular A graders in Ronald Fuschtei, Thomas Finlay, Liam Nelson and Isiah Fielding will provide a big boost for the Bloods this weekend.
Watch out for a big injection of speed for the Bloods, and some handy work around the ground from ruckman Finlay.
Port will have a head of steam after its most recent contest.
TIP – Central by 18 points.
Under 15s – Central v Port
Preview – Central looking for perfect finish
CENTRAL Augusta is on track to claim the premiership double this weekend when it takes on Port for the SGL under 15 premiership on Saturday morning.
The Bloods recently took out the Port Augusta Colts Football League title, and remain in the hunt to finish the entire 2016 season undefeated.
Led by league best and fairest Karl Finlay, Central goes into the contest against a Port side it brushed aside by 10 goals during the second semi final.
The clash kicks off SGL grand final day at Central Oval this Saturday at 9am.
TIP – Central by 24 points.
SGL grand final probables
MATCH OF THE ROUND – South v West – two local sides playing a similar game built on hard work and pressure, with stars capable of playing match-winning roles.
SURE THING – Port v Central – The Bloods won’t be easy beats, despite a forgettable outing against Port in the second semi.
POTENTIAL UPSET – Central v South. Arch enemies. The Bloods, hovering around the top all year, versus the Bulldogs, sneaking into the four against the odds. No holds barred.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO – Port Pirie football. Finishing the 2016 without a premiership in all four grades - including the under 15s.