THREE sides fighting for the final two spots in the five are throwing out the calculators and adopting a must-win approach as the Hampden league home-and-away season climaxes on Saturday.
With one win and 5.30 percentage points separating fourth to sixth-placed teams Terang Mortlake, Camperdown and Portland, the final-round draw that pits the Bloods and the Magpies in an early elimination final promises a dramatic finish.
Terang Mortlake coach Matthew Irving maintains his side has no room for error despite being a game clear of Portland.
“We are not going into this week trying to rest players. It’s too important to do that,” Irving said. “We go into Camperdown knowing we have to win to really secure our spot.
“We win the game, the result looks after itself. We can’t get knocked out if we win.”
That’s the simple scenario.
Opponent Camperdown, which defeated the Bloods by 39 points when they last met in round nine, is adopting a similar approach. The Magpies have the best percentage of the three contenders but coach Dan Casey knows it will be no help if they fail to win and Portland upsets second-placed Koroit at Victoria Park.
The Magpies will regain midfielder Luke Cardinal, who missed last week’s win over South Warrnambool because of a groin injury, but will lose impressive young defender Billy Arnold, who is on a snow trip.
Casey said the Magpies needed to keep their destiny in their own hands. They have won five of their past six matches but Casey has challenged a couple of his highly regarded players to step up on Saturday. Casey wants more output from midfielder Luke Mahony and class running player Fraser Lucas.
“It’s good to know we can get better,” he said.
“It will be a tight game. If we win, we will play next week but obviously they are a different side to nine weeks ago.”
If the Magpies win on Saturday they will play finals, but a loss leaves them vulnerable. The key number is 73 points. If the Magpies lose by less than 12 goals and Portland loses, they will retain fifth and face the Bloods for the second time in eight days in the first week of the finals.
Portland coach Jake Myles knows the Tigers need to defeat Koroit, not just to make finals.
“If you can’t beat a top-three side in six attempts we don’t deserve to be there,” he said of the Tigers’ 0-5 win/loss record against Warrnambool, Koroit and North Warrnambool Eagles so far this season.
“If we get over this one and get in, we deserve to be there.”
If the Tigers win, they need Terang Mortlake to defeat Camperdown. But if Camperdown wins, the Tigers will be relying on percentage and the Bloods losing by more than 26 points. The more the Tigers win by, the less Camperdown would need to defeat Terang Mortlake by to clear a path for Portland.
Myles said the Tigers were not without a shot at upsetting the Saints.
“I’m taking heart from the last time we played them (a 20-point defeat),” he said.
“We know we have to win and we will take the game on and if we fall short we fall short. We know we give ourselves a really good chance if we win. I’ve been pretty happy with the way we’ve been playing the last month. Our disposal was the best all season last week.”
The Tigers face a change at selection tonight with ruckman/forward Dennis O’Loughlin out for the rest of the season after dislocating his ankle last Saturday.