Intrigue centres on HFNL ladder positions from third to ninth as top two clear out

KOROIT coach Adam Dowie dismisses suggestions the Hampden league premiership race is down to two teams — Warrnambool and his Saints.

Everything points to Warrnambool and Koroit returning to Reid Oval as opponents on September 20.      140517LP57 Picture: LEANNE PICKETT

Everything points to Warrnambool and Koroit returning to Reid Oval as opponents on September 20. 140517LP57 Picture: LEANNE PICKETT

With four home-and-away matches remaining, the ladder says otherwise. The Blues have built a 13-1 win/loss record while the Saints are 12-2. The next best is North Warrnambool Eagles on 8-6.

“People go ‘it’s a two-horse race’. No it’s not,” Dowie said.

The former Warrnambool and Terang Mortlake premiership coach knows top sides can’t take anything for granted. He famously led the Bloods from an elimination final in 2004 to the premiership.

Dowie is not writing off the Eagles, even after  Koroit defeated them on Saturday by 53 points and given their winless record against his side and Warrnambool.

“I think North Warrnam-bool Eagles, they lose Jeremy Parkinson and Andy McMeel didn’t play. The last bit (of Saturday’s match) didn’t reflect the game,” he said.

“It’s very much a momentum type of season and taking your opportunities. We took ours, next time they play us, it might be the qualifying final and it might be different. You go away thinking ‘we’ve got them covered’, they go away thinking ‘we’ve got to improve, we’ve got to improve’. It’s like we are a sitting duck.” 

As teams build towards September, Warrnambool and Koroit, which square off in a highly-anticipated clash at Victoria Park on Saturday, are the only two sides assured of their finishing spots — the top two. 

They could swap positions if the Saints win this week and keep winning. But they are relying on the Blues stumbling because the percentage gap between the two is worth more than a game. It’s unlikely the Saints could claim the minor premiership for the second consecutive season but it is possible.

The rest of the ladder is about as murky as the Reid Oval centre square at this time of year.

Third-placed North Warrnambool Eagles can’t rise up the ladder. The prize for remaining third — a finals double chance — will be golden given the close season. But the Eagles, having lost three of their past four games, aren’t even assured of a finals berth with four rounds remaining.

Last year Camperdown finished fifth with 11 wins.  This year nine wins will be enough to play finals. The Eagles have eight wins already but based on Saturday’s performance, a ninth could be hard to find.

Fourth-placed Portland (7-7) and fifth-placed Terang Mortlake (6-8) are leading four teams on five wins racing to get to nine victories. Port Fairy, with a 4-10 record, looks out of the running for the finals. But apart from Portland and Terang Mortlake, Cobden, Camperdown, Hamilton Kangaroos and South Warrnambool can all reach the magical nine wins if they get on a roll.

The problem is, the only sides outside the top three that have won more than two games in a row are Cobden and South Warrnambool. And both those runs happened in the first half of the season.

Predicting which teams will finish from positions three to nine is anyone’s guess, adding more spice to an intriguing season. But it also furthers the argument it is a race in two — the same two which played off in last year’s grand final.