By Todd Whelan
KNOCK me over with a feather local footy fans, it’s on again!
As if a 2017 Grand Final and two 2018 local derby’s wasn’t enough to suffice the appetite.
All of the action takes place this Sunday as fourth placed Darley host the fifth placed Bacchus Marsh in a sudden death BFL Elimination Final at Darley Park.
Mark my words people, it doesn’t get much better than this. A crowd big enough to warrant Darley with its own postcode for a day is expected to be lured to the ground for the must see clash. Attendance numbers will be ‘through the roof’ given Sunday’s stand-alone fixture will coincide with the AFL’s end of season bye.
Both clubs have enjoyed their moments amongst top two discussions throughout the season but the reality is, both have squandered their right to an automatic double chance and an opportunity to face East Point in a Qualifying Final this Saturday.
And so, we’re left with this scenario, the Devils and the Cobras in a head-to-head battle of the bridge per se, a script writers dream.
But there’s a lot to play out between now and then for these two clubs, there always is.
The Cobras have lost their way in the back half of the season having lost their last five meetings against top six opposition (Lake Wendouree twice, Darley, North Ballarat and Melton). While Bacchus Marsh were touted as flag favorites at stages earlier in the season it’s just their three wins against the top six sides from nine outings that is real cause for concern. Ironically their wins came against the minor premiers East Point (away) by 17-points, second placed North Ballarat City at home by 93-points and third placed Melton away by 108-points. Work that out!
The Devils enjoyed a better run with their nine meetings against top six opposition in season 2018 with six wins (Bacchus Marsh twice, Lake Wendouree twice, East Point and North Ballarat City) and three losses (Melton, East Point and North Ballarat City).
Hindsight says Bacchus Marsh and Darley had the hardest draw of their top six counterparts with games played against each other. The Devils (9), Cobras (9), North Ballarat City (8), East Point (7), Lake Wendouree (7) and Melton (6).
Looking ahead to Sunday and Bacchus Marsh should be buoyed by the return of Dylan Bishop while the jury is out on a likely return of busy midfielder Jacob Chisari from a hamstring strain suffered against Sunbury on August 11. Handy utility Alec Del Papa remains sidelined with an achilles problem but will be given every chance to come up.
Bacchus Marsh coach Travis Hodgson acknowledged the significance of Sunday’s meeting.
“(Sunday is) a great opportunity to earn some respect,” he said.
Darley on the other hand, have some thinking of their own to do ahead of Sunday’s do-or-die final.
How to replace Jake Edwards (hamstring) for one and an unlikely Heath Scotland will take the edge off a team that was just starting to look more like their best. Will they go with number one ruckman Dylan Reid who returned last week after a lengthy lay-off or risk keeping him on the sidelines for another week?
Darley coach Heath Scotland was frank with his thoughts ahead of Sunday’s game.
“The equation is simple, it’s all or nothing”, he said.
“We’ll need to bring our A-game.”
Both coaches and their support staff will be shuffling the magnets this week more than they have all year – trying to get it right, that perfect balance. Injury and form will influence the landscape I’m sure, but it’s likely to be a variable of the mental kind that has the last say on the first Sunday in September.
See you at the footy!
WEEK ONE FINALS SCHEDULE
Saturday 1 September
2.15pm – East Point v North Ballarat City (Eastern Oval)
2.15pm – Melton v Lake Wendouree (Darley Park)
Sunday 2 September
2.15pm – Darley v Bacchus Marsh (Darley Park)