Border Mail Elimination Finals – Preview
AL Austin believes the anticipation associated with the Billabong Crows first finals appearance since joining the Hume league can overcome their lack of finals experience against Culcairn.
The pair clash in an elimination final at Walbundrie.
The sixth-placed Crows have proved to be the surprise packets after finishing the season with a 10-8 record.
The Crows have never previously played finals since crossing from the now defunct Coreen league in 2008.
Austin said his charges will enter the clash as underdogs after Culcairn scored a convincing 41 point victory in their only encounter so far this season.
“There is a real buzz around the club about making finals and it is a massive achievement,” Austin said.
“There was a big turnout at training on Tuesday night and everyone is pretty excited.
“Obviously we are lacking finals experience.
“But will we head into the match knowing that we have got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“Nobody is expecting us to do much.
“We will definitely head into the clash as underdogs but there is a lot more pressure on them than us.”
The Crows were firmly entrenched in the top-six all season and scored their biggest win in round 11 after they stunned flag contender Osborne by two points.
Since that victory they have only played two sides inside the top-six for a win against RWW Giants and a loss to Holbrook.
The Crows were buoyed last week by the return of Josh Evans who missed the previous three weeks with a hamstring complaint.
The dangerous small forward bobbed up with four goals and will need to produce a similar result if the Crows are to spring an upset.
Versatile tall Ryan Davies is expected to miss with a hand injury.
“We hit a bit of a form slump over the past month,” Austin said.
“I thought we were back to somewhere near our best last weekend against Henty for three-quarters.
“Then we went to sleep for a quarter and paid the price.”
Culcairn were last week missing Nat Stroh, Shaun Turvey, Zach Mona and Jesse Sutherland from its strongest line-up against Lockhart.
High-profile recruit Adam Prior has been been in scintillating form over the past month with 45 goals.
Prior kicked eight goals last week to take his season tally to 99.
Austin could hand himself the task of curbing the in-form forward after playing on Myles Aalbers, Andrew Dess and Damian Cupido over the past three weeks.
Cupido kicked his only goal of the match after the siren to snatch the win.
LOCKHART coach Nathan McPherson has stepped down.
McPherson, who had just one season in charge in his second stint at the helm, has cited increasing work commitments for his decision.
The former Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong player had the Demons in the top-six for the majority of the season before the club stumbled in the run home.
They dropped their last five home and away matches to fall to ninth position on the ladder.
“‘Poke’ (McPherson) has a lot of respect at the club and would have gone on but he’s got a growing business and it was going to be too difficult,” club spokesman Ian Pertzel said.
“He’s done a great job this year.”
Lockhart has joined Osborne and Rand-Walbundrie-Walla in the market for a senior coach while Culcairn is yet to publicly declare its plans for next season.
Heath Ohlin (Henty) and David Miles (Howlong) have recently been appointed.
Saturday, August 31
Elimination final one
Culcairn v Billabong Crows
Sunday, September 1
Elimination final two
Rand-Walbundrie-Walla v Holbrook
(Former Brock-Burrum coach)
(The Border Mail)
(Holbrook life member)
Rand-Walbundrie-Walla and Holbrook will take some hot form into Sunday’s elimination final.
The Giants have won seven of their last eight matches with their only glitch being against Billabong Crows earlier this month.
Holbrook has had five wins, a draw and two losses in that time against some stiff opposition.
ASKING THE QUESTION
One prospective Hume league coach is believed to have asked a high profile player from a rival club about switching clubs next season.
The player in question was quick to reply that he was contracted and didn’t think the move would go down well.
Star Lockhart ruckman Neil Irwin has retired.
The Canberra-based veteran was a revelation in his first season in the Hume league, propelling the club into the top-six for most of the home and away series.
“Neil’s been great,” Demon spokesman Ian Pertzel said.
“It looks like he’ll be hanging them up but you never completely know.
“We have retained about 90 per cent of our players so it’s looking promising for next season.”
Former Howlong coach Beau Packer dissects Culcairn’s clash with the Crows.
BRETT KOHLHAGEN: Culcairn came desperately close to securing the double chance. Psychologically, how big a blow was it for the Lions to miss out on the double chance last weekend?
BEAU PACKER: I don’t think it would have too much of an impact on them to be honest, they would have liked the extra assurance of the double chance and a week off to rest up but I can’t see it having a bearing on how they play. Hillary will have them primed for hopefully a big few weeks ahead.
BK: Jye Shields and Adam Prior are Culcairn’s top two players. How much time would you put into them?
BP: Both Shields and Prior have been class players this season in the Hume league. Jye has to be favourite for the Azzi and has taken his game to the next level this season with his fitness and is a real barometer for the Lions. Adam has shown over the last month what damage he is capable of doing if he gets enough ball coming to him. He is a big game player and I expect him to step up to the pressures of finals footy.
BK: Billabong Crows will be playing finals for the first time since joining the Hume league. How do you expect them to react to that pressure?
BP: They have had a fantastic season which I think needs to be acknowledged. Al has done a fantastic job recruiting the right players and getting them playing a strong brand of footy. Externally I don’t think many would have had them in finals this year so they should be going into this game without any pressure or expectations and just enjoying the atmosphere of finals footy.
BK: Josh Evans has returned from injury. How important is his pace and goal-kicking nous to the Crows?
BP: Earlier in the season Josh cut us up to ribbons on his way to a bag of six goals and was ultimately the difference between the two teams. He is a quality small forward who can fly under the radar so Culcairn will have to put a bit of time into stopping his impact on the game.
BK: Finally, who do you think will win and why?
BP: This might be closer than many people think. Ultimately Culcairn should have too much class in the midfield battle with Shields and the two Hallinan boys having great seasons, but on the big Walbundrie ground, and the fast-running brand of footy that Crows have shown, they could spring an upset. Culcairn in a tight one for me.
Giants, Brookers can go deep, says Howlong coach Beau Packer.
BRETT KOHLHAGEN: Both sides have claimed some big scalps late in the season. Can either side go deeper into September?
BEAU PACKER: Both teams at their best have the ability to knock off anyone in the competition. After a slow start to the season the Holbrook boys have ticked along nicely just getting the job done. Sharp would be pretty happy with their season, especially their last month in how they finished heading into finals. On the same note Myles and the Giants have gone from strength to strength as the season has progressed.Both teams could make a charge for the big game in four weeks’ time.
BK: Do you expect Andrew Dess to play in the ruck or will Holbrook try and expose the Giants’ defence?
BP: I think they will need to start him on the ball – to get any ascendancy early I’d say they need their best players in the thick of the action. Once the sting goes out of the contest he might shuffle forward and create a few headaches for the Giants defence.
BK: How important is Myles Aalbers to the Giants chances of kicking a winning score?
BP: Myles is the Giants most important forward so Sharpy will need to put a bit of time into stopping him. Not only is he a great kick for goal but he also creates opportunities for his team mates with his clever play, if Holbrook can stop his influence and keep Josh Starr quiet, that will go a long way to deciding who wins.
BK: Who wins and why?
BP: This is going to be another cracking contest. Both teams have the ability to score heavily and quickly so it will take a four quarter performance to get the win. I would say Holbrook might just take this one, after a taste of finals last year, ‘Sharpy’ will be keen to keep the ball rolling for at least another week.