Last chance for glory shot

ARM WRESTLE AWAITS: West Gambier and North Gambier lock horns in what is shaping up to be a thrilling preliminary final this Saturday. Picture: JAMES MURPHY

James Murphy

A GRADE – WEST GAMBIER v NORTH GAMBIER

IT is crunch time in the Western Border football competition with West Gambier and North Gambier headlining this weekend’s preliminary finals at McDonald Park in a do-or-die A Grade contest.

The Roos stumbled against a rampant Millicent in last week’s qualifying final and will now use the double chance in hopes of securing a rematch.

They finished the home-and-away season as minor premiers and will feel as if they have unfinished business with the Saints.

Despite entering this weekend as the favourites, they should not underestimate the Tigers and their finals experience.

The core group at North has tasted plenty of success together over the years and their most recent flag came at the expense of West back in 2019.

The Tigers enter the match fresh after a week off, following a solid first semi-final win over South Gambier.

Having had a couple of close results against the Roos, this weekend looms as a blockbuster.

West won all three minor-round encounters, but the margins were considerably less on each occasion.

The latest match-up had the Roos on top by a slim three points in torrential conditions.

While the forecast looks kinder this week, North will take confidence from the result.

The loss of playing coach and star ruckman Daron McElroy to a season-ending knee injury pre-finals was huge for West, but Todd Lewis and Braiden Ousey are more than capable in the position.

They will match up against North’s Mitchell Kelton, who has returned to the mix after an ankle injury kept him sidelined in the lead up to finals.

Both teams boast rock solid defences, with the likes of Lewis Lean, Brandon Newton and Jesse Pfitzner at West, while North’s Jake Schutz, Jordan Hollitt and Brett Shepherdson are renowned for their defensive pressure.

Josh Jenner provides plenty off half back and is a vital link through the midfield, while the likes of Nick McInerney and young-gun Mackye Baron have been dominant in and around the contest.

Up front Sam Stafford looms large and will need to be shut down to some extent to prevent a blowout.

He is dangerous from anywhere around the 50-metre line, while his long-range accuracy is also deadly.

In their last outing the Tigers looked to Toby de Wit, who slotted an impressive eight goals, while Justin McConnell is another reliable avenue.

They are all well matched by the Roos’ roster, with Lawry Bradley-Brown and Kyle Giddings a couple of standouts through the middle.

The likes of Tom Holmes, Michael Minuzzo and Joseph Ferguson-Lane come off solid outings against Millicent, with Jordan Williams and Minuzzo the top goal scorers for West this season excluding McElroy.

The Roos are quite diverse in front of goal and this can both play to their advantage and also hinder them depending on the day.

Both teams boast talent in all areas of the ground which will likely produce another tight contest.

However, going off track record and season form, West should progress to the grand final in a thriller.