By Nick Creely
VICTORIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
PREVIEW – QUALIFYING FINAL
WILLIAMSTOWN (1ST) V CASEY DEMONS (4TH)
SATURDAY 2 SEPTEMBER, BURBANK OVAL 2pm
There is no tougher place to play football in the VFL competition than at Burbank Oval.
Williamstown’s home fortress has been a cornerstone of their success in 2017, and the Gulls have lost just the one game at the ground this season.
It’s a tough ask for the Demons to topple the minor premiers, who ended the home-and-away season with a 14-4 record and a commanding percentage of 158.39.
The Gulls play the blustery conditions at the ground to perfection, averaging 106-points a game at the venue this year, and have only dropped under 100 twice – once against the Demons in their Round 1 win by 23-points.
Casey is a fantastic defensive and tackling unit, and can win the game if it can keep the opposition’s dangerous attacking players to as little influence as possible.
It’s easier said than done, but the Demons’ defense has held up brilliantly for the majority of the season.
But when a team-sheet reads names such as Ben Jolley, Nick Meese, Sam Dunell, Ben Cavarra, Arryn Siposs, Ayce Cordy, Joel Tippett, Adam Marcon, Willie Wheeler and Michael Gibbons, it is not surprising to see the Gulls sit in a prime position.
The Demons last lost a match back in Round 12 at Holm Park in Beaconsfield to a red-hot Richmond side. They have since won six matches in a row – including five at Casey Fields – in a stunning patch of football. Interestingly for Williamstown, their only loss in the last eight matches was against Casey, but has an average winning margin in that period of 53-points. Both sides are playing inspired, ruthless and team orientated football and will relish the conditions. In many ways they are similar in the way they play – using their elite pressure to suffocate the opposition and then use that as a basis to put away the game with faultless conversion when they get the ball in attack.
LAST TIME THEY MET:
The Demons and Seagulls met just two weeks ago at Casey Fields, with Casey winning by 24-points on a soggy Saturday afternoon. In a finals-like clash, the Demons were absolutely ruthless with their pressure, laying an incredible 135 tackles. The midfield group – Jay Kennedy-Harris (19 tackles), Tom Bugg (13), Jimmy Munro (13) and Corey Maynard (13) laid a whopping 58 tackles between them to strange the life out of the Gulls. Demons coach Justin Plapp remarked after the game that his side “out tackled them” “beat them in contested possession” and “were better in that area of the game”.
Casey hard nut Jimmy Munro is built for finals, and shapes as a key player for the Demons. The tackling machine has taken on some of the biggest tagging jobs on offer in the VFL this season, and may get a crack at containing Williamstown and former Frankston superstar Ben Cavarra, who has kicked 31 VFL goals this season. Containing man-mountain Nick Meese is another huge task for the Demons, and his battle with Mitch King and Jake Spencer could prove decisive in the contest. The dominance of AFL-listed Jay-Kennedy Harris around the stoppages will surely be a key focus for the Gulls too.
THE FINAL WORD:
Casey will take enormous confidence out of the last half of the season and have stormed into premiership calculations. But Williamstown are a tough beast at home, and should get the job done. But don’t expect Casey to lie down, it will be a fierce contest. The midfield contest will be fascinating, with the Gulls’ immense VFL experience in the coal-face a major asset.
PREDICTION: Williamstown by 18-points.
J.Charleston, J.Gresier, J.Tippett
B.Bewley, N.Sing, B.Myers
B.Jolley, M.Gibbons. L.Schultz
S.Dunell, A.Cordy, L.Masters
B.Cavarra, A.Siposs, T.Currie
N.Meese, A.Marcon, W.Wheeler
J.Chisari, J.Dorgan, P.Faulks, J.Newman, M.Norton
A.Brayshaw, D.Gordon, D.Johnstone
M.Gent, J.Hutchins, J.Munro
T.Bugg, B.Kennedy, B.Stretch
J.Trengrove, D.Keilty, A.Ferreira
B.Fritsch, S.Weideman, J.Wagner
M.King, J.Kennedy-Harris, C.Maynard
D.Collis, J.Spencer, M.Cox, B.Giobbi, L.Hulett