by Dale Shannon
It will be a historical day when the Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers and Ouyen United Demons clash in the definitive Mallee Football League Grand Final for 2015.
All clubs’ futures have now been settled with the dissolution of the league in 2016, making this game on Saturday even more significant. The Tigers and Demons have earned themselves the opportunity to go down in the history books as the last Mallee Football League premiership team.
The Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers have been a force of the league for a number of years now, and the 2015 season was no different. Dropping only 2 games for the year, finishing as minor premiers and winning through to the Grand Final with an 85-point demolition of the Cats, has established them as firm favourites.
A great deal of success in recent years and being able to maintain, and lure back a core group of players, gives the Tigers’ team a huge amount of solidity and finals experience. Their team this week could potentially have 18 of the 21 members that played in their premiership defeat of the Cats in 2014. To be able to retain such a high number of players from one year to the next in the league’s current climate is a testament to the club.
There is no doubt the strength of the Tigers this year has been Doering, Ryan and Arentz up forward. Take nothing away from the depth they have through the midfield and almost impenetrable defence, but opposition sides have rarely found the right combination of players to match it with the three power forwards. Doering has been the main destroyer with 77 goals from his 12 games. He has an excellent ability to take contested grabs, and is just as dangerous when the ball is on the ground. Arentz only needs a handful of touches to have an effect of the scoreboard and Ryan can be threatening around goal and when he moves further up the ground.
The Demons have found it hard to form a consistent back six. To be fair they have found it hard to form a consistent team, as injuries have ravaged them throughout the season. However, it seems during the finals series they have found an arrangement in their defence to resist against heavy scoring. Dean Jardine and Jace Monaghan are dogged defenders who will fight and scrap to ensure the ball gets to ground. Then the smaller defenders in Zac McGlynn and Alex Morrish have been able to run the ball out and hit up targets going forward.
In the back half for the Tigers, it is Luke Martin who has been the steadying influence. He has led a measly defence that averages just 65 points against per game. The underrated Ben Notting has also taken many scalps this season in his typical no-fuss manner. The luxury of having Col Durie and Matt Elliott running off the flanks has also complemented this impressive defence. However, to hold the in-form Brad Vallance and Aaron Morrish who bagged 10 goals between them last week will be no mean feat.
The height and strength of first ruck Zac May could be a major headache for the Demons. Undersized ruckmen Todd Barker and Simon Jardine commendably battled out of their weight division last week, and unless Ben Mole recovers from injury they will be asked to do the same again.
Match-ups will be important through the midfield. Jason McGlynn has started on the opposition’s most dangerous midfielder in the last two games for the Demons, so who might it be this week? He will be able to take his pick from Scott Weekley, Bryce Scott or one of the many others that rotate through. The Tigers’ advantage is that they don’t leave it up to one or two players. This allows them to constantly rotate forward, back and through the bench, not a privilege that the Demons have been able to utilise themselves. The intensity of Henry Armour, Peter Caldow and Dylan Fishwick will have to be at its utmost right throughout the game to ensure they at least break even with their counterparts.
It is on the wings where a distinct advantage may be held. If the line up is as predicted and the Tigers have Simon Weekley and Wes Harrison facing off against the much less experienced Tom Morrish and Kyle Monaghan, then on paper it could potentially be game breaker. The Demons will need to closely monitor these match-ups as Weekley and Harrison can be a marking option going forward, as well as having an impact on the scoreboard.
The Demons have won from underdog status 2 weeks in a row now, and we all know anything can happen in finals. With nothing to lose and confidence sky high we dare not right them off. However, the Tigers will provide a huge barrier between them and the premiership cup. The Tigers have class, depth and experience on their side, three things that never go missing on Grand Final day.
Last Modified on 19/09/2015 23:04