On paper, the charge towards Murray Football League finals action looks set for an exciting finish.
But Musings HQ has pored over the remaining regular-season draw for each club and the final stages of the year may not throw as many curveballs as first thought.
After trawling through the Murray Netball League ladder last week, it is time for this column to stick its neck out — or not — for the football run home.
Lines have been drawn through any club that is more than a game behind the eight-ball, meaning Shepparton East, Tongala, Katandra and Deniliquin can already plan their end of season trips — this column recommends south-east Asia or Radelaide as great destinations.
As for the rest of the competition, each of the last six games of the season (or seven if you are Tungamah) will be vital to their finals and premiership aspirations.
Record: First, 11-1.
Most important game remaining: This weekend’s Super Sunday clash against arch-rival Numurkah is a good place to start. The Purples can lock in a top two finish — and most likely the minor premiership — with a victory.
Prediction: This column has the Purples continuing on their merry way and not dropping another game for the season. With Craig Kellow’s charges securing eight premierships from their past eight finals campaigns, it certainly shapes as ominous stuff for the rest of the competition.
Record: Second, 11-1.
Most important game remaining: The Hawks face Nathalia and Numurkah in the run to finals, but with no home finals there is not a large amount of difference to finishing first or fourth — save your opponent in the first week of the post-season. It makes a round 16 rematch against Cobram of higher importance for James Hazelman’s and Nick Flanagan’s side — revenge will be well and truly on the cards after losing to the Tigers in round one.
Prediction: The Hawks will be boosted by the inclusion of Cameron Cloke in attack, making them a dangerous prospect come finals time. Musings HQ has Barooga finishing equal with Numurkah on 15 wins (behind Nathalia’s 17), meaning percentage will decide which team’s name is listed first for their qualifying final clash.
Record: Third, 10-2.
Most important game remaining: Like Barooga, Numurkah’s fate in either second or third spot will be sealed if it cannot defeat Nathalia in the remainder of the regular season, but that does not make this Sunday’s game the side’s most important. In fact, and bear with me for a second here, a round 19 game against Katandra looms as crucial for Chris O’Dwyer and Jye Warren’s Blues. With a bye in the final round, Numurkah must get as much out of the clash with the Kats as possible in terms of team structures and competitive physicality, less the outfit risks heading into a qualifying final on the back foot.
Prediction: The Blues will edge Barooga for second spot on percentage and face the Hawks in the first week of finals.
Record: Fourth, 8-4.
Most important game remaining: The Tigers have a tough run home that includes matches against Barooga, Numurkah and Rumbalara. The key for Josh Noonan’s troops will be winning a round 18 fixture against Tungamah in order to remain at the top end of the elimination final schedule and avoid the likes of Mulwala and Finley in week one.
Prediction: Cobram should at least break even in its remaining matches, but will then have to rely on a small percentage advantage to stay above the mire and finish fifth.
Record: Fifth, 8-4.
Most important game remaining: The final round presents Rumbalara with an opportunity to snare a double chance. Kane Atkinson’s charges host Cobram at Mercury Dve, which is quickly becoming a fortress. A win there should give Rumba’s record the impetus it needs for a fourth-placed finish.
Prediction: This column has pencilled in Rumbalara for six more wins from six more matches, which will be an excess of the triumphs needed in the search for a double chance.
Record: Sixth, 7-5.
Most important game remaining: The Lions need to beat Finley this weekend to get back on track. Jason Sanderson’s side has lost three of its past four fixtures, and another loss against the Cats would spell the end of its top four chances.
Prediction: Although this column feels the Lions will indeed sink their teeth into some more success this weekend, clashes against Numurkah and Nathalia are not as enticing. Mulwala will stay sixth and attempt to avoid another early finals exit via an elimination final battle.
Record: Seventh, 7-5.
Most important game remaining: This weekend’s game against Mulwala will define where the Cats can finish. Like the Lions, if the result is favourable, a double chance remains on the cards. If not, Rob Daniel and his Finley outfit will have to make sure they do not slip up against lower-ranked opposition on the run home.
Prediction: The Cats should snare four more wins with their sharpened claws, putting them right in the mix for a fifth-placed finish and the generally accepted ‘‘easier’’ elimination final. More likely though Finley will slot in seventh and face Mulwala.
Record: Eighth, 5-7.
Most important game remaining: Every game left in the year is important for Guy Campbell’s Eagles. Inconsistency and injury has plagued the side and yet it still finds itself inside the eight. It is a nod to the class of Campbell’s list, which will need to shine through in round 18 against Congupna.
Prediction: Echuca United can certainly finish eighth this season. Games against Katandra, Congupna, Shepparton East and Tongala should prove fruitful enough to taste finals action. Losses in any of those fixtures will spell trouble though.
Record: Ninth, 5-7.
Most important game remaining: The Road has been an interesting group to assess this season. David Gee’s side has had its share of stellar wins, but also dropped the ball on a number of occasions. Unfortunately it has two games against Barooga remaining to go with clashes against Rumbalara and Nathalia, meaning even if The Road does beat Echuca United, it may still not be enough.
Prediction: Musings HQ has Congupna slipping to 11th at the end of this campaign.
Record: 10th, 4-8.
Most important game remaining: If the Magpies do not defeat Tungamah in round 15, they will certainly not play finals. Even if Mark Lloyd manages to get his troops up for that game the task will still be tough, but a loss against the Bears will spell the end of Moama’s post-season hopes.
Prediction: The Magpies still have at least three wins left in them this campaign and with a list full of stars can still make a charge for finals. But this column has not seen enough consistency from the Moama Recreation Reserve outfit, and therefore can only place them 10th.
Record: 11th, 4-7.
Most important game remaining: A clash against an old enemy in Mulwala could hold the key to Tungamah’s finals chances. Jeremy O’Brien and Craig Whinray will have their unit peaking at the right time of the season, and a win against the Lions in round 16 is a must.
Prediction: Musings HQ watched the Bears live for the first time on Saturday and was impressed. Bodhi Butts is a bona fide star, Ash Saunders is imposing to say the least and most of the team contributed when needed. But is it enough to play finals? No, this column says. Losses to Mulwala, Cobram and Finley on the run home will leave the Bears agonisingly short in ninth. Do not be surprised if that prediction is off the mark though.