By: Samuel Zito nfl.org.au
Thursday, August 27, 2015
The 2015 Division 1 finals series kicks off with two massive games at Preston City Oval.
The right to play Greensborough in next week’s second semi final is the prize for Macleod and Eltham when they meet in Saturday’s qualifying final.
It is the pair’ second meeting in as many weeks after the Panthers handed the Roos their first home loss of the season in Round 18.
Bundoora and Northcote Park meet in their third final in four years when they play in Sunday’s elimination final. – For the preview of the elimination final go to nfl.org.au
Qualifying Final: Macleod v Eltham – Saturday 2:10pm at Preston City Oval
There has been a changing of the guard in Division 1 throughout the 2015, with Macleod and Eltham each looking to re-write history when they meet in Saturday’s qualifying final.
Despite a preliminary final finish in 2014, this week’s match marks the first time in 44 years the Roos enter a Division 1 final with a second chance. The last time they did so was back in the 1971 second semi final, when they, coincidentally, played Eltham.
The Roos lost that match but did get their revenge a fortnight later however, downing the Panthers by eight points in the grand final to claim their sole Division 1 premiership.
Macleod has taken its game to a new level in 2015 and with Greensborough has been absorbed in a two-horse race for first place on the ladder. As recently as Round 16 it looked as though the Roos would claim the minor premiership, however successive losses in the last fortnight saw them slip to second.
Despite the recent losses, there is no doubt that Macleod’s best football is good enough to claim this year’s premiership – as outlined by two wins over the Boro during the home and away campaign.
Lucas Hobbs has had a standout year since crossing from Whittlesea – his fine season rewarded with Vic Metro selection back in June. The addition of Hobbs has helped Macleod strengthen its top end talent, alongside the likes of Justin White, Kane Shaw, Hamish Paynter, Jack Langford and Cathal Corr.
Another who has been a revelation this year is Laurence Schubert. Though unheralded, the 18-year-old is often given the big assignments by Garry Ramsay and has featured in the Roos’ best in eight matches this year.
The resurgence of Eltham has been one of the exciting stories in 2015.
Eltham has made a stunning rise up the ladder this year, in Mario Bandera’s second season at the helm. Regardless of this week’s result, the Panthers will reach the second week of a Division 1 finals series for the first time since 1977.
Despite fielding an incredibly young team, the Panthers are very much in the premiership equation on the back of seven-straight wins to round out the home and away season.
They head into this week’s final with great confidence following successive wins over Macleod – including a 49-point triumph at De Winton Park in the final home and away round.
The Panthers have continued winning in recent weeks without leading goal kicker James Kroussoratis – who has booted 65 goals in 16 matches. In his place, Matt Williamson and Jamie Doukas have combined for 18 goals over the past two weeks.
Co-captain Bradyn Taglieri has been a workhorse in the middle of the ground and adds a goal kicking presence, while the hard-nosed attack on the football by Billy and Lewis Glasgow, Mathew Evans and Anton Woods will only flourish on the finals stage.
The open expanses of Preston City Oval will likely suit Eltham’s style of play, with plenty of room for speedsters like Tom Rogers to roam into.
The winner of this week’s match earns the right to take on Greensborough next Saturday for the first place in this year’s grand final.