Sunday’s knockout first semi final features Eltham and Northcote Park – two sides who didn’t feature in last year’s finals series.
The winner will claim a place in this year’s preliminary final and a chance to continue their remarkable run at this year’s premiership.
Continue below for a preview of this week’s semi final.
First Semi Final: Eltham v Northcote Park – Sunday 2:10pm at Preston City Oval
Despite finishing last year ninth and eighth respectively on the ladder, one of Eltham or Northcote Park will win through to the 2015 Division 1 preliminary final.
After both enjoying markedly improved campaigns this year, the Panthers and Cougars will see Sunday’s first semi final as a golden opportunity to move one step closer to this year’s premiership decider.
Eltham suffered a hiccup in last week’s qualifying final, outbodied by Macleod in heavy conditions in a 25-point result.
The Panthers had entered the contest on the back of seven straight wins but never truly adapted to the heavy conditions.
After a slow start, the Panthers played their best football in the back half of the first quarter. Four straight goals turned an 18-point deficit into an eight-point quarter-time buffer.
However, they could only muster one more goal after the first change as the Roos took control.
Co-captain Bradyn Taglieri was superb in defeat and never stopped trying, while Daniel Coffield was a tower of strength in defence – overcome a strong start from his opponent Cathal Corr to again marshal the Panthers inside defensive 50.
Sean Brazzale was perhaps the biggest shining light in defeat, locking down on Justin White and curtailing the classy utility’s influence.
On the back of that performance, Brazzale is certain to get another important run-with role this week.
Northcote Park won a nail-biter over Bundoora – holding on for a three-point win after Ricky Dyson’s last-ditch shot at goal cannoned into the post for one behind.
The Cougars had earlier looked home when Aaron Shaw’s fourth goal put them 17 points ahead approaching time-on in the last.
Without VFL contingent Ash Close, Ben McNiece and Jordan Collopy, the Cougars began as outsiders.
However, on the back of strong showings from Dylan Campbell, Luke Svarc and Lachlan Boscarini, they took a two-goal lead into the main break.
Harmit Singh’s side overcame a lacklustre opening 15 minutes in the third term – where they conceded four unanswered goals – and regained their composure with three of the last four goals in the third.
The last term was a shootout and by registering six straight goals, an accurate Cougars outfit was able to advance to the second week of this year’s finals series – ending Bundoora’s campaign at the same stage as it was halted in 2014.
Head-to-head form doesn’t count for too much going into the first semi final, after each side recorded a comfortable win in their two outings this season.
Eltham flew out of the blocks in Round 2 before easing to a 43-point win at Eltham Central Park. Northcote Park then reversed that result in Round 10, booting the last nine goals of the game to claim a 57-point triumph.
Northcote Park will hope Eltham’s line-up is again without James Kroussoratis – who has booted 21 goals in his past four against the Cougars.
It was another key forward who got a hold of Northcote Park last week, with Bundoora’s James Lord booting seven goals.
A preview of the Second Semi Final Greensborough v Macleod is at nfl.org.au