Battle for top title
Saturday, 2nd September, 2017
By Tyler Hannigan
It all comes down to this as South takes on North to decide the 2017 League season in front of a raucous Jubilee Oval crowd at 3pm today.
Last time they met:
SOUTH: 18.7- 115
NORTH: 7.6- 48
The clubs last met in the final minor round game of the season with South claiming a 67-point win at the Jubilee Oval although both sides were missing key players.
Cody Schorn had a field day with eight goals while Matt Reavill was fantastic before leaving the field with a minor ankle injury. For North, Jayden Kelly and Eddie Morgan battled hard and Matt Dempster was solid in defence but the Bulldogs had too few contributors.
North managed just the one win over the Roos this season and that came in round six at the Alma by 35 points. In their other five encounters South won by an average margin of 42 points.
While some thought that a drop in form and intensity might come at some point in the season, South actually improved as they prepared for a ninth straight grand final appearance.
In the final five weeks of the season they enjoyed massive wins over West (158 and 168 points), Central (119) and North (67) as well as a hard-fought five-point win over the Dogs in shocking conditions in round 15.
They’re now well rested after the week off and are sure to come out with all guns blazing today.
The Bulldogs have been less impressive in the latter part of the season with unconvincing wins over an understrength West in round 16 and just scraping by twice against Central, once in round 17 by seven points and again in last weekend’s preliminary final by 19 points as well as two losses to South.
They’ve also had to deal with injuries and some inconsistent play from their second-tier players which has not given them the best lead-in form but with a full team available today those recent results mean little.
Ins and Outs:
IN: J. Peters, C. Caldwell, A. Bird, M. Henderson, A. Collins
OUT: N. Brown, W. Burns, T. Boland, A. Crombie, H. Cannard
South have recalled experienced defenders Jake Peters and Cohen Caldwell along with young star Angus Collins. Arlen Bird comes in after missing South’s final round game, as does Mitchell Henderson.
Nick Brown is an unlucky out after a strong second half of the season. Harley Cannard and Tyson Boland drop back to the reserves while Wes Burns has gone from playing in both reserves and League in round 18 to not making the cut in either side for today’s finals. Anthony Crombie has missed out due to illness.
As is expected, the South coaching team has made the tough calls with the toughest being the decision to not select junior Connor Washbrook despite him kicking 25 goals for the year.
IN: L. Jones
North are virtually unchanged from last week’s side that defeated Central, with the only inclusion being that of Luke Jones who’s struggled with injury over the last few weeks.
They’ve also named a five-man bench although veteran defender Matt Dempster and League best junior Jack Larkins are
certainties. Word is that Thomas might be the unlucky man despite playing all 19 games and curbing South’s star Marc Purcell’s influence on more than one occasion leaving Dylan Harris and Patrick Langford remaining on the bench.
Of course the biggest out for North is that of Matt Garrick who suffered a serious knee injury in round 17. Garrick was best on ground in last year’s final and will be sorely missed.
Mitchell Henderson (South)
Henderson is the competition’s leading ruckman after a brilliant 2017 season that saw him finish equal fifth in the Lionel Johnston Medal with 10 votes and named in the team of the year.
He won’t have fond memories of last year’s grand final when he failed to have an impact in South’s 15-point loss to North but has the chance to redeem himself today.
If Henderson can do what he’s done all year and give his midfielders first use at the stoppages then South will be well on their way to victory. On top of that will be his work around the ground. He’s a strong mark and has good skills for a man of his height, making him very useful in filling holes in defence.
Quinton Beavan (North)
While he might not be the most popular figure in the league, there is no doubting Beavan’s ability. He’s long been one of North’s best and has again had a fantastic year, finishing fourth in the Lionel Johnston with 11 votes and being named on a wing for the team of the year.
Beavan is one of the toughest players to bring down in the tackle and he almost always finds a way to dispose of the ball, with his handballs often putting teammates in space and setting up attack from the middle. If North win then Beavan is a red hot chance to win the first ever Stan Brooks Medal for best on ground today.
This is for all the marbles, as they say, and we can be assured that both teams will throw everything at each other from start to finish.
North will need a marked improvement over what they’ve been producing in the last month if they are even to be competitive today. They’ve been far too reliant on Kelly, Beavan and Morgan. Even the great Codie Howard has been down of late although he’ll definitely lift for the big occasion.
More is needed from the likes of Jake Borlace, Keenan Ellis, Jordan Vella and Jedd Watson as well as forwards Ethan Slater and Anthony Henderson. Slater and Henderson are stars but if North are to kick a winning score then they’ll have to do the bulk of it.
On the other side South are running like a well-oiled machine as they seek revenge for last year’s upset loss to the Dogs. They’ve been blessed with a fit and healthy list that oozes talent and depth.
Many would say that they had the same last year but in fact they’ve added the likes of Matt Reavill and Cody Schorn to that side and Marc Purcell isn’t coming in underdone like he did in 2016.
There’s no doubt North are capable today and often save their best for when it matters most, but it would be an even greater upset than last year if they pulled it off.
The hot a gusty conditions predicted are sure to also play a part and South’s fitness is likely to play a major role in the result.