It looks likely that the five teams that will be playing finals football this year have been set with two rounds to go in the 2018 South West Football League Season.
Technically only three teams have confirmed their place in September – Donnybrook (for the first time since 2005), reigning premier Bunbury and this season’s biggest surprise packet Eaton.
The final two teams in the top five – South Bunbury and Augusta Margaret River – don’t look likely to drop out considering they both hold a two game lead over the three other teams (Carey Park, Busselton and Harvey Brunswick Leschenault) that remain in contention.
Check out our preview of the round’s games and let us know who you think will win.
Augusta Margaret River vs Carey Park
The clash between Augusta Margaret River and Carey Park looms as the most interesting of the round.
The Hawks would confirm their finals place with a win but a loss could be disastrous, with the Panthers the most likely of the three trailling teams to jump into the five if the Hawks slip out.
The good news for the Hawks is that they have been in good form over the last five weeks. During that time they’ve lost just the one game to Bunbury, while picking up wins over Eaton and South Bunbury in that time.
The secret to the Hawks’ success has been improvement across the ground. They’ve restricted their opponents to 52 points or less in each of those four wins, while kicking 11 goals in each of the last three games.
Carey Park, on the other hand, ended a lean patch of results with a dominating win over Harvey Brunswick Leschenault.
At their best, the Panthers play a free-flowing and high-scoring game style, which has been missing for most of the second half of the season. But they found it last week and will looking to carry it on against the Hawks.
However with captain Mitch Lynn in fine form and the Hawks’ forward line of Jack Hick, Matt Jukes and Mitch Payne regularly hitting the scoreboard, Augusta Margaret River looks likely to end the Panthers’ slim finals hopes.
Prediction: Augusta Margaret River by 18 points.
South Bunbury vs Eaton Boomers
The Tigers and the Boomers meet in the round’s only game pitting top five teams against one another.
Both teams are coming off losses last week to other top five teams – Bunbury and Donnybrook respectively – so both will be looking for a win to build confidence heading into finals.
The Boomers have been one of the biggest surprises this season. They’ve shown a tendency to score quickly and heavily, which has resulted in them being by far the highest scoring team this season. But on the other hand, they play a risky style which has also seen them concede the most of any top five team.
The Boomers have improved on the defensive side of the game over the last month – conceding just 51 points a game – but have seen a similar drop in scoring over the same period, kicking 10 goals just once in the last month.
The young Tigers team will be looking to turn around generally poor results against the other teams around the same position on the ladder.
South Bunbury has just a 2-5 record against the four other teams in the top half, and hasn’t claimed a win against a fellow contender since its 13 point win over Eaton in round eight. In comparison, the Tigers have a 7-2 record against the bottom half of the ladder.
A win would see South Bunbury confirm its place in the top five, but Eaton’s quick movement and potent forward line will probably be a little too strong for the young Tigers team.
Prediction: Eaton Boomers by 15 points.
Donnybrook vs Busselton
A win for the Dons this weekend will all but secure top position on the ladder come the end of the season.
But it won’t be easy for Donnybrook, as it will come up against a Busselton team that will be looking to bounce back from a poor couple of weeks.
The Magpies were on a charge towards a top five position until the last fortnight, where the Magpies have struggled to score.
The Magpies have had just four goal kickers – with Aidan Fraser the only multiple goal kicker with 5 – over the past two weeks and will need to find more players up forward to kick a winning score.
The Dons were boosted last week by the return of Jace Cormack and will be hoping its strong midfield and smothering defence will be able to limit the chances for Busselton’s forwards.
They will need all the help they can get down back, with the Dons ranking as the lowest scoring team in the top five.
Busselton will have a lot to play for as its season is on the line, but Donnybrook has shown time and time again this year that it is the team to beat.
Prediction: Donnybrook by 22 points.
Collie Eagles vs Harvey Brunswick Leschenault
The Collie Eagles and Harvey Brunswick Leschenault both come into their clash with very different levels of form.
The Eagles have turned their season around and found a forward mix that is working, resulting in the Eagles kicking their highest scores of the season in each of the last two weeks.
On the other hand, the Lions have the slimmest chance of making finals, which hasn’t been helped by the fact the team has won just two of its past eight games.
Scoring is the biggest issue. The Lions have a strong midfield but have failed to score 10 goals in a game since they last played Collie in round eight.
With Collie’s midfield, led by Teke Vernon, Kyle Shanahan and Blair Malatesta, giving the Eagles’ forwards plenty of chances to kick goals, the Lions will need to pick up their scoring to have a chance.
Prediction: Collie Eagles by 15 points.
Harvey Bulls vs Bunbury
The Harvey Bulls face the toughest challenge of the round when they host the in-form Bunbury team.
The reigning premiers have the strongest form of all teams in the competition, having won their past five games – with the last three being comfortable wins over fellow contenders Augusta Margaret River, Donnybrook and South Bunbury.
Scoring has been the key factor in the Bulldogs’ resurgence, with Bunbury upping its scoring output to 85 points a game. That has been on the back of the form of forwards Matt Martin, Brett Peake and Dylan Heasman, who are averaging almost eight goals a game between them over the last five weeks.
The Bulls will be looking to put in a good performance after a poor back half of the season.
Although they only won two games, the Bulls were regularly competitive, especially against the stronger teams, but that has dropped away over the last month.
Harvey will be looking to get more players kicking goals, with the Bulls kicking just 28 goals over the past five weeks – with 11 of those kicked by forward Ryan Nye.
The Bulls will put up a fight, the Bulldogs appear to be a little too strong and will be confident of victory.
Prediction: Bunbury by 60 points.
Catch up on round 16 of the 2018 South West Football League season: