The season has entered an interesting crossroad now with five games left and everyone to play everyone one last time. The top four is settled as the bridge to fifth and sixth is too far from West in fourth, and Central and Port will battle for the spoon. Cats will finish top. Lions will continue to keep South honest in the race for second spot but with two games plus percentage it would be unlikely South will fade enough to allow Lions in.
Solomontown v Prop Risdon
The best two teams from Pirie do battle on Saturday in what should be an engrossing clash. Solomontown are cruising through the minor round games as they fine-tune towards finals and won’t want to drop one to a cross-town rival. Lions have been on a steady incline from a slow season start having won five of their last seven. Their two clashes this season have been good battles with Sollies taking the honours twice, by 21 points in round three and 24 in round eight.
Lions must have their onballers on song to try to quell the running brigade of the Solly team. It’s hard to see how you wouldn’t tag Davey given his recent form but that may simply leave Bearman, Caputo, Francis, Hayes or the returning Redman free to cut loose. Coach Ash Dunkley may simply back his team brand of footy to win the day and hope his players can carry it off.
Lions also have plenty of class runners as well in Fuller, Patterson, Edwards and the Fulchers if they are back and will need to give key forward Bradley the chance to kick a bag if they want to win.
Lions defence is sound with Eyre and Harmer able to take the talls whilst Eckert may find himself on the livewire half forward Travis McIntyre but that may also restrict the Lions rebound through Eckert as they like to free him up if they can.
I'm sure Solly supremo Pollard will back his lads in to run and gun with Lions but this will be a sterner test than most they have had of late whilst Lions need to pull an upset to keep some pressure on South for an unlikely top two finish. It should be a good day Saturday but it will be Sollies carrying my cash though and will win by 32.
Port V South
There will be a victorious team of Bulldogs playing in Port Pirie on Sunday but sadly for the locals they will be carrying the red-and-white colours from the North. The teams meet with a victory each from the last two match ups but last time left the Port team shell-shocked after a 166-point romp that will take therapy to come back from. Port have improved but dropped their defence again last Saturday against Solly to get run over by 105.
Hopefully Port get a few back from injury and unavailability to assist and also steel them for a full four-quarter effort. Youngsters in Puddy, Dickeson, Finlay and Collins continue to get games in that will help for the future but a full effort from all is needed.
South are reigning premiers and star-studded with Downey high up in medal calculation taking all before him. Add to that the likes of Kildea, Ackland, McKenzie, Lukich and Brown if he plays. Brendan Colson is far and away the best forward in the comp and has kicked 41 in the last eight games without an obvious match up from Port. My tip is the blowout won’t happen again and whilst Port should beat Colsons' score they won’t beat South’s and it should be a 50 points coast for the travellers to all but sew up second.
In the SGL, the grand final venue is always in Augusta on odd years and Pirie for the even. The only exception being when both teams are from the other city (eg, 2010 when Central upset South in a grand final moved to Augusta from Pirie even though it was an even year.
If we sneak our eye forward to this year it is marked down for Port Augusta being an odd year and based purely on the table as it stands, that’s Solomontown v South. However I believe there is a high chance on current form we may end up with a South v Lion prelim and that would be in Pirie. South would be favourite but being in Pirie would sway it back heavily.
Could we see the first ever Solly v Lion grand final? And if so, then where? When Central Oval was being redeveloped the 2013 West v Central grand final was in Pirie, so could that mean the two Pirie teams play one another in Augusta or would it be at the smaller capacity Port Oval? Given the Port Augusta council and the SGL are not exactly on one another’s Christmas card list at present and a Pirie grand final would reap the SGL a bigger financial return, would they do it? Plenty of ifs, buts and maybes there, but it could interesting to see. All three of the Pirie sides would be happy to see it happen I'm sure but next week I’ll name a place that all Pirie players would struggle to embrace.