The final week of the regular season for the Black Diamond AFL Womens has arrived, and with it comes a three-way tie for the final two places in the league’s playoff series.
A rising Warners Bay currently find themselves missing out on a place in the final seven due to their percentage, but the perfect opportunity to make that last step comes just in time for the Bulldogs – they will be facing sixth placed Maitland at Max McMahon Oval on Saturday.
For the Saints, its a must-win as a resurgent Singleton look likely to claim victory on the road against Muswellbrook, putting them on a comfortable 40 points and confirming they will be one of the two teams breaking the deadlock.
Saints head coach Mark Curran believes the team can bridge the gap into the top seven, despite being surprised the race for the playoffs has come down to the final match-day.
“There was a point a few weeks ago where myself and the girls were looking at the ladder and we thought if we won our last few games we’d be in,” he said. “Obviously some upsets for Singleton and Warners Bay have put us in this position, but it’s great to see the top teams are beatable, even if it leads to this.”
He also believes the team will have what it takes to cross the finish-line against the Bulldogs this weekend, even if their recent pedigree, and thinks once Maitland make the finals it will be anyone’s game.
“The squad we have, if we play to our strengths, can beat anyone on the day and I think we can turn up when it matters most,” Curran said. “Once we’re in the finals I think it can go anywhere, Singleton beating Nelson Bay last week could be an upset from an eventual seventh placed team against first.”
“That shows that if you turn up and do your own thing against the top squads there’s no reason you can’t get the result. We have a lot of strengths and we play a strong style. We can make it to the finals and go far from there.”
Luckily for the Maitland squad, they also boast one of the most accurate kickers in the coastal comp in Sarah Burns, who has scored 47 goals in just 15 games and sits just two majors off potential golden boot plaudits for 2018.
Curran explained Burns wouldn’t be the only focal point of the squad however, and pointed to Amy Worth as another danger-woman down the flank.
“Worth has been great at creating a lot of the chances we’ve had all season,” he said. “She’s been struggling with a few knocks in recent weeks, but she should be okay to play on the weekend. Amy brings her best game and she has it in her to get six or seven on the weekend I think.”
Elsewhere, Nelson Bay face a fight to retain the top spot as they come up against third placed Wyong Lakes, who could draw level with the Marlins and the Stars if they can cough up another upset to close out their season.
With the Marlins’ squad numbers plummeting as the injury count rises, there’s never been a better time for the Magpies to secure a key four points, and one final shift in the top four could happen by weekend’s end.
The Stars have an easier fixture in that regards, as they face eleventh-placed Terrigal Avoca in one of the region’s oldest rivalries. Despite the disparity in standings however, the Panthers are sure to put out a major effort to finish their season, and a chance to play spoiler against their old enemy will be a driving force for the team.
Killarney Vale will play Wallsend-West Newcastle away from home for another chance to create a shift in the top four, with a potential Wyong Lakes defeat give the Bombers the opportunity to slide into third place with a confirmed four point victory, while Gosford look to put pressure on the top seven with a match against The Entrance Bateau Bay.
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Finally, Lake Macquarie travel to square off against the Novas at No.1 Sportsground, while Cardiff make the trip north to see off their season against the Port Stephens Power at Ferodale Park.
Also of interest, the Tigers’ Angela Jones currently leads the goalscoring leaderboard with 49, while Burns sits two behind. Sarah Halvorsen is also in contention for the golden boot, with a 40 goal haul from 14 games.
ROUND 17 TABLE: Nelson Bay, Stars (52), Wyong Lakes, Killarney Vale (48), Novas (44), Maitland, Singleton, Warners Bay (36), Gosford (32), Cardiff (28), Terrigal Avoca (24), Lake Macquarie (16), Muswellbrook (12), Port Stephens (8), The Entrance Bateau Bay, Wallsend-West Newcastle (4).