Crunch time for footballers

FRONTRUNNER: Penola captain Caroline McGrath is in red-hot form and will be one to watch in Sunday's B Qualifying final against Kongorong. Picture: JAMES MURPHY

James Murphy

FINALS are here for Limestone Coast Women’s football and eight of the nine clubs will gear up for this Sunday’s semi finals at Blue Lake Sports Park.

Nangwarry misses out after finishing the minor rounds in ninth with a winless debut season in the competition.

As in previous years the finals series will be split into two segments, with an A and B campaign.

The top four teams qualified for the main – or A – finals, with the A qualifying final to be played between top two teams Mundulla and North Gambier.

The pair have been clear frontrunners this season, although North stumbled in its minor round meeting with the ladder leader.

The Tigers went down by a whopping 81 points – something they will want to rectify heading into Sunday’s clash.

There is no shortage of talent in both lists and on paper they are evenly matched.

However, Mundulla will take confidence from its previous encounter with the Tigers.

To name just a few, the likes of Zoe Hawker, Brooke Ballinger, Melody Maddern, Tegan Milligan and Erin Horsnell are all in good form and Mundulla has limited weaknesses across the ground.

The Tigers have a long list of talent themselves, with Tess Andrews entering off a strong outing, while Chloe Newton snagged 11 goals last round.

Alice Tentye has been equally reliable, while the likes of Penny Coleman, Maddy Bonanno and Georgia Gentile have also been in solid form.

Similar to Mundulla, that list only brushes the surface of the talent at North’s disposal and it will be hoped for a strong team performance when chasing that first spot in the grand final.

The Tigers finished their minor season with an easy win against Nangwarry, while Mundulla had the bye for Round 9.

As such it will could down to which team settles into the high-intensity game the fastest and the first quarter will be a key indicator to how the game will unfold.

The A elimination final has Casterton Sandford and Kybybolite locked in for a do-or-die battle.

Kyby carries strong form into the clash and has won four of its last five games.

The Cats have had a disrupted season and recently had its Round 8 game abandoned.

Player availability has caused some issues mid season, but it will be hoped for a full and fit roster come finals.

They impressively finished the minor rounds in third place with four wins even after those difficulties.

Last time the two teams faced was in Round 2, where the Cats had the better of the contest with a 38-point win.

Kyby has certainly improved since then, with its most recent outing against Kongorong a good example.

Despite some wayward kicking which had them score 16 behinds, they held their rival to just two points.

Amelia Frick was a highlight, while the likes of Dellie Brown, Taylor Ryan and Maryann Thompson have been in top form of late.

Casterton Sandford’s Holly Smith has been a standout, with Hinemoa Biddle-Maitland and Elise Thurman also impressing in the final minor round.

There are plenty of players able to step up in both rosters and it should be a more even match up this time around.

The Cats will enter as favourites, but a Kyby upset is certainly not off the table.

In the B finals, teams placed from fifth to eighth will compete for the consolation honours.

The B qualifying final will have Penola enter as the favourite over Kongorong.

The Eagles were unlucky to narrowly miss out on the main finals, after dropping into fifth by percentage alone as Kybybolite booked a last-minute ticket into fourth place.

While Penola should get the job done and book the first place in the consolation grand final, the last meeting between the teams was relatively close.

In the end the Eagles prevailed by 21 points, but the Hawks led up until half time.

Sarah Lucas, Evie Sealey and Zara Dirk were the best players for Kongorong in that game and they have all continued to impress since.

Eagles captain Caroline McGrath was the best on ground for Penola and she has found herself with that mantle many times since.

She will be pivotal to the outcome of the match, while the likes of Heidi Berkin, Angela Broad and Amanda Wurst have also been consistently among the Eagles’ best.

Based on form the Eagles should progress.

South Gambier and Millicent will meet in the B elimination final in a classic contest between the Demons and Saints.

The two met in Round 7 and after an arm wrestle it was South who prevailed by 23 points.

The Demons have the home-ground advantage this weekend and should be in the box seat for another victory.

Sophie Wight will be one to watch out for, while captain Jarrah Altschwager and Ella Guest have also been regular high achievers.

Millicent will look to the likes of Kate Patten, Chloe Gronn and Kelsie Wilkinson, who all impressed last round.

SEMI FINAL SCHEDULE – Sunday, March 24 (Blue Lake Sports Park)

B Elimination Final – South Gambier v Millicent, 10am; B Qualifying Final – Penola v Kongorong, 11.35am; A Elimination Final – Casterton Sandford v Kybybolite, 1.10pm; A Qualifying Final – Mundulla v North Gambier, 2.45pm.