BEAUFORT v. BUNINYONG Qualifying Final 1 - 19/08/2017
Last time: Beaufort 11.8 (74) d Buninyong 5.6 (36), round 4, 2017
Beaufort’s past couple of appearances in the Central Highlands Football League finals have amounted to nothing.
Quick exits at the hands of Hepburn in 2015 and 2016 ended promising campaigns on a sour note, but there’s a different feel as the club prepares for a third-straight playoff series.
Now under the care of first-year coach Rohan Brown, the Crows charge into this Saturday’s qualifying final on the back of a sensational home and away season that captured the minor premiership.
In total, Beaufort won 14 of its 16 games to finish percentage clear at the top of the table.
Brown said it’s an exciting time for the club, which is chasing its first senior premiership since 1996.
“It’s huge for the club and I’m so proud of them,” Brown said.
“But it’s also huge for another seven that are playing in the finals as well.”
The first hurdle for Brown and his boys is a red-hot Buninyong outfit that secured fourth spot on the ladder with a devastating display against Gordon last weekend.
That was the team’s 11th-straight success.
“We are going to play our style of game and we are going to give it everything we’ve got basically,” Brown said.
“We’ll just crack in and see what happens at the end and we will go from there.”
The Crows have named onballers Michael Foster and Tom Stapleton, ruckman Josh McDermott and defender Levi Cox to return to the line-up this weekend after they missed for varying reasons in round 17 against Newlyn.
Beaufort beat Buninyong by 38 points when the teams met way back in round four, but Bombers coach Jarrod Morgan is confident his squad can turn things around at Bungaree on Saturday afternoon.
“We are definitely confident that we can get the job done, but we have just got to make sure our game stacks up, I suppose,” Morgan told The Courier.
“We have got to make sure our defensive pressure is as high as it can be and we are going to have to play better again than what we did last week to beat Beaufort.”
Forward Lachlan Baker has served his three-match suspension for striking and is available for the Bombers this weekend.
At selection last night, he was named as the only change to the side that beat the Eagles by 71 points.
Baker replaces Josh Renga, who has been omitted from the senior 22.
WAUBRA v. DAYLESFORD Elimination Final 1 - 19/08/2017
Last time: Waubra 17.16 (118) d Daylesford 6.11 (47), round 3, 2017
North Ballarat Roosters-listed player James Lukich has been made available for Waubra’s elimination final rematch with Daylesford.
Roos coach Grant Luscombe said Lukich would return to football from an ankle injury, which has seen the key forward sidelined since mid June.
Also boosting the Waubra forward options is Jackson Kinna, who is back after missing the round 16 game through illness.
The team will meet a Daylesford outfit that managed to keep hold of eighth spot by the skin of its teeth. Dunnstown beat the Bulldogs on Saturday, but fell less than six per cent short of leapfrogging them into the finals.
Young winger/forward Max Risstrom and veteran utility Rob Rodgers were named as the two inclusions for Daylesford on Thursday night.
Last year, the Bulldogs upset Waubra from the same position on the ladder to progress to the semi-finals.
HEPBURN v. SPRINGBANK Qualifying Final 2 - 20/08/2017
Last time: Hepburn 14.13 (97) d Springbank 5.5 (35), round 9, 2017
Hepburn coach Jason Olver has indicated Nick Dal Santo will not play in the team’s showdown with reigning back-to-back premiers Springbank.
Olver said Dal Santo had commitments on Sunday through his roles in the AFL media, which is expected to rule him unavailable for the clash against the Tigers.
The former St Kilda and North Melbourne player featured in his third game for the Central Highlands Football League club last weekend, qualifying him for finals.
But he has been named as one of two omissions from the team that beat Learmonth in round 17.
“He will definitely play in the latter part of the finals series, if we get that far,” Olver said.
Olver kept Dal Santo’s appearance secret in the lead-up to the round nine clash with Springbank, which the Burras won.
Hepburn has named an extended interchange bench for Sunday’s qualifying final at Learmonth, with stars Andy McKay and Dan O’Halloran both selected to return to the team.
Despite a number of key players likely to be out of the Springbank side this weekend, Olver said the Tigers were still the benchmark of the competition.
He said the different make-up of the Springbank line-up made it unpredictable.
“They are the two-time premiership winners and they are just so finals-hardened,” he said.
Olver said while some people were doubting the Tigers, he certainly wasn’t one of them.
Star onballer Nick Couch will serve as acting senior coach this weekend in the absence of Michael Searl, who is overseas.
The Tigers’ 2015 premiership coach Terry Simpson will also help out on the sidelines this Sunday to fill the void left by Searl.
Searl flew out of Australia on Sunday bound for England, where he has family commitments.
Forward Billy Driscoll was unavailable for last weekend’s round 17 win over Creswick, but is the big inclusion into that side.
Fellow forward Mitch Couch hurt his shoulder against Gordon the week before, but has also been named to return against the Burras.
Couch, who was joint-coach alongside Searl last year before stepping down from the role, said he expected a much better display from his team than the one it produced back in round nine.
On that occasion, Hepburn handed the Tigers a 62-point defeat at Wallace.
It proved just one of two losses for the home and away season.
Hepburn heads into this clash on the back of a brilliant 13-match winning streak.
GORDON v. BUNGAREE Elimination Final 2 - 20/08/2017
Last time: Gordon 16.9 (105) d Bungaree 8.15 (63), round 15, 2017
Bungaree coach Heath Pyke admits it’s going to be hard for his side to reverse a recent loss to Gordon when the teams meet again in a knockout final this Sunday.
The Demons were beaten by 42 points at the hands of the Eagles in round 15, which came during a run of three-straight defeats.
“It’s going to be a tough ask, but one that we are up for that’s for sure,” Pyke said.
With the Bungaree senior list badly hit by injury, defender Chris Cowan is one of the key inclusions for this clash after overcoming what Pyke described as a corked thigh.
Pyke is also in doubt with a lingering back issue.
Gordon heads into this encounter following a poor performance against Buninyong last weekend that cost the side fourth spot.
Eagles coach Gary Learmonth said dangerous forward Ash Munari was a longshot to return from a knee injury, but he was named on Thursday night.