As we head into the second last round of the season, we have a couple of games that will have some influence on the finals, while the other game will go a long way to testing the future of one team. Are we likely to see another upset? Will the finals picture become clearer? Will the Crusaders have to seek out competition interstate to receive any serious challenge? How can I really have any idea about any of these games, or what should be a likely outcome? All of these questions, and much more, are not likely to be answered, addressed or even cared about in this week’s “flip of the coin”.
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Croydon Rangers 3rd (4 – 4) vs. Melbourne Uni Royals 5th (2 – 6)
Last time: Rangers won 24 – 7
Dear Croydon, which team will be coming to the field this week? Each week I refer to a bogey side for opposition teams, and it appears Croydon is my “tipping bogey”. One week this team will show you a well-balanced versatility that tests the diversity of their opposition. Then there is “the other Rangers”, one which is clearly struggling to compensate for injuries as we head towards the finals. On their day, and with a full squad, I still believe this team can beat any team besides the Crusaders. The Rangers Off has not just stuttered, it has absolutely fallen apart. That is not to say that they can’t get 1st downs, or get some good yards from great plays, but it appears as though the Rangers have developed a mid-season allergy to the Red Zone. For the Rangers to get back on track, they will likely need some BIG inclusions. The Rangers have the luxury of knowing that they will play the semi-final of 2nd vs. 3rd, so a big plus is that they do not need to rush any players back too early. The negative will be the harmony of the unit when we get to the pressure cooker that is finals football. In the meantime, the Rangers will have to continue being supported by a Defense that is actually doing an amazing job at repelling several tight situations, and they were not the unit that lost the game against Geelong.
Speaking of impressive Defenses, teams should pay closer attention to the evolution of the Royals’ “Quiet Achievers”. This is a unit that kept the Crusaders to 34 points, which is an impressive outcome when your Offense has not troubled the scoreboard – not once. Defensively, the Royals played a solid game that was caught out by some great plays by some of the best offensive weapons in Australia. The Royals were yet again without key players, and their team sheets are starting to look more like admittance forms for the Emergency Department. While this Defense has shown great growth, the Offense needs to start taking responsibility for the workload they must shoulder. Every team has its fair share of issues, and each week it becomes apparent that the Royals appear more likely to score when the ball starts in the opposition’s hands. This unit must start developing “First Down” plays rather than seek the “Every Play is a TD waiting to happen” mentality. The Royals must also source alternative running play options so that they can free up talent that belongs on the end of a passing game. Without knowing if the injuries are long term, surely several players must be due to return in a game that the Royals have to fight for. Every game, every series and every play matters for the Royals and this desperation must surely be enough incentive for Melbourne Uni to finally earn a top 4 berth, rather than to sit back and hope for results to keep falling their way. Let’s just hope all the players are aware of the venue change and turn up at the correct ground.
Prediction: Royals to sneak into 4th place by beating the Rangers 17 – 13 in what I shall refer to as the “Casualty Ward Cup”.
South Eastern Predators 6th (1 – 7) vs. Western Crusaders 1st (8 – 0)
Last time: Crusaders won 66 – 0
The Crusaders came off a 21-day break and shut out a potential finals team. Stop for a moment and consider just how impressive that is in our amateur environment. Defensively, the Crusaders continue to apply pressure on almost every play. With a well-planned rotation of players, and an ability to nullify their opposition’s momentum, this unit will surely collect several positions in the GV “Team of the Year”, if those voting do so based purely upon what takes place on the gridiron. I am not a fan of calling players out by name, as the best teams are not about individuals. But, in saying that, surely I can’t be the only person not associated with this team that enjoys the skills of Coleman and Garnham. Whether the ball is in their hands or thrown in their direction, these 2 players are fantastic to watch. This is not to take anything from the OL, other receivers or RBs, or the QB, but every Offense in GV would triple in potential if they had this compliment of players. It is extremely unlikely the Crusaders will have any concerns about their game this weekend, and they should take this opportunity to trial additional plays as they ramp up their preparation for their next Vic Bowl.
On a side note, many thanks to the Crusaders for the coverage of their games. In fact, the rest of the clubs should ask themselves why they too have not taken a similar path and given additional value to their sponsors, their club’s presence in this sport and measures that will help promote our sport.
Kudos to the Preds, not a forfeited game in what has been a very tough season. It is always hard to get back up after a 50 – 0 loss, and then wake up to the realisation that you must now come up against the 2017 powerhouse. The Preds must continue on their path of development, and stick together as a playing group. Understandably this must be very tiresome each week, but there is a far greater reward for those that put in the hard work. An early Sunday morning game in Melton, in what should be reasonable playing conditions, should again test the mettle of the Preds. Just remember, the last place in Div 1 is always higher than 1st place in the “Development Division”.
Prediction: Crusaders to continue their undefeated season by a score of 60 – 0 in what I shall call the “Top to Bottom Bowl”.
Monash Warriors 2nd (6 – 2) vs. Geelong Buccaneers 4th (3 – 5)
Last time: Warriors won 26 – 20
Monash appears to slowly be getting closer to the team that we have come to expect. A whitewash of the Preds was always on the cards, but it was good to see Monash finally able to put up a score that was more indicative of what they feel they are capable of. Are we seeing a return of a few injured players? Are we seeing a unit that is starting get back some rhythm coming into the finals? There is no doubt that the Warriors have moved out of the “meh” category into more of a “so what else can you do” bracket. The Warriors can’t finish lower than 2nd, and extremely unlikely to finish 1st, the last 2 games of the season offer what for the Warriors? This week offers a chance to test momentum against a team that SHOULD put up some resistance. As a finals preparation game, Geelong provides a strong opponent who will test you both physically and mentally, from the first play until the end. While I have been impressed by the Warriors’ Defense, with consecutive shout-outs, Geelong is the team who will exploit any breaks in concentration or repeated weaknesses, and thus help the planning for Monash as they prepare for yet another finals campaign. With football returning to the Clayton campus, Monash can enjoy the ever so slight home ground advantage that may exist.
Seriously? From forfeit to the biggest upset of 2017, the Buccaneers refuse to allow any semblance of consistency. Beating the Rangers at home, with a pick 6 in the dying seconds of the game sounds more like a story told by embellishing old men to the wide eyed children who questioned if that wrinkly old man had really ever played any sport. Geelong provided the credence to the saying of “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”, and not just in their last game. All season we have written off Geelong, just to have them come back and steal that 4th placed spot. True to form, and given it should be a big loss coming their way against their greatest arch-rivals, will we get a game that equals the dying seconds’ decision of their last encounter? Probably not, because that is what is meant to happen. Will we see Geelong crumble and hand Monash a walk in the park as 2nd place takes on 5th? Even less likely. What we will see are 2 teams who will play against each other as they have for the past decade, with a tough committed game plan that demonstrates an underlying respect that neither team is willing to acknowledge. If Monash are not on song, Geelong could potentially cement their place in the finals and turn the last round into a “let’s all play nice so we get no more injuries” round, but it just feels like scheduling gods have given us potential for a great final round for 2017 – so don’t stuff it up with any heroics Noonan et al.
Prediction: Warriors enjoy the return to their campus with a score of 32 – 14 in what will be known as the “Never Liked You, Never Will Trophy”.