SWFL round 18 preview: Top five set in stone ahead of final round

Augusta Margaret River will be hoping results fall its way this weekend. Photo: Nicky Lefebvre.
Augusta Margaret River will be hoping results fall its way this weekend. Photo: Nicky Lefebvre.

This weekend marks the end of the 2018 South West Football League season.

With Augusta Margaret River coming from behind to claim victory over Carey Park and South Bunbury proving too strong for Eaton, the teams that will be playing finals have been locked in with a week to spare.

But there will still be plenty of drama, with Bunbury and Donnybrook competing for top spot and the three remaining finallists battling for third spot and the double chance.

Check out our preview of the weekend’s games and let us know who you think will win.

Harvey Brunswick Leschenault vs Augusta Margaret River

Augusta Margaret River secured its finals position with a win last week and the team will be hoping some results go its way this weekend, with the Hawks looking at the possibility of jumping into the top three.

Sitting about 10 percentage points behind Eaton and South Bunbury means the Hawks will need both to lose or beat the Lions by around 100 more points than either the Boomers or the Tigers beat their opponents.

That will be a tough ask, with the Lions showing some good form last week against Collie.

The Lions midfield did whatever they wanted against the young Eagles side and showed an ability to pile on goals in a short period of time.

Added to that is the Lions’ home form – Harvey Brunswick Leschenault has lost just three games at home this season and claimed wins over Donnybrook and Eaton.

But the Hawks won’t be intimidated by the challenge, having won five of their past six.

The key has been the sharing around of the scoring load by the Hawks forwards, with nine different Hawks players kicking multiple goals in a game over the past four weeks – with important forwards Matt Jukes (three), Jack Hick and Mitch Payne (two) each doing it multiple times.

Prediction: Augusta Margaret River by 14 points.

A win for Donnybrook this week will see the Dons finish the season in top spot. Photo: Sophie Elliott.

A win for Donnybrook this week will see the Dons finish the season in top spot. Photo: Sophie Elliott.

Carey Park vs Donnybrook

Donnybrook sits in the box seat to claim top spot and week off in the first round of finals, after it held on to win against a fast-finishing Busselton last week.

The Dons sit a game clear of second-placed Bunbury and have a healthy percentage advantage over the Bulldogs. It would take a Donnybrook loss and a Bunbury win by a combined margin nearing 20 goals to see the Dons toppled from the top.

The Dons do face a tough challenge this week though, as Carey Park has found its second wind this season after a poor stretch of results.

The Panthers were ultra-competitive against the Hawks last week, which backed up their slump-busting domination of the Lions the week before.

The Panthers have looked more dangerous heading towards goal – like they did early in the season – and it has shown with the team kicking 25 goals over the past two weeks after managing just 23 in the four games prior.

But the Dons come into the game with good form too, having claimed wins over Busselton and Eaton in the past two weeks.

With Panthers looking to be close to their free-scoring best, the Dons will be looking for their forward line to fire again and wouldn’t mind seeing Sam Lowrie carrying on his form after a 7 goal haul last week.

Prediction: Donnybrook by 11 points.

Busselton vs South Bunbury

South Bunbury currently sit inside the top three by the slimmest of margins – just over half a percentage point ahead of Eaton.

The equation is simple for the Tigers; they need a win and they need the margin to be greater than the Boomers’, presuming they beat the Bulls.

They will have a tough task when they travel to Sir Stewart Bovell Park on Sunday. The Magpies have a reasonable record on their home deck – including a win over Bunbury – but their three losses there have come against top five teams.

However if they’re to have any chance this weekend, they’ll need to get off to a good start.

The Magpies have been playing catch-up most games this season – having won the first quarter just six times in 17 games – and haven’t kicked a first quarter goal in the past three weeks.

On the other hand, the Tigers continued their impressive season with a win over fellow contender Eaton on the back of an eight-goal haul to the league’s leading goal kicker Leigh Kohlmann.

Kohlmann has been in fine form, with 22 goals in the past three weeks, and will be the key player to watch, but the Tigers will be hoping to see some more players get their names of the score sheet. 

Prediction: South Bunbury by 16 points.

The Harvey Bulls will be hoping to spoil the party for Eaton this weekend. Photo: Ashley Bolt.

The Harvey Bulls will be hoping to spoil the party for Eaton this weekend. Photo: Ashley Bolt.

Eaton Boomers vs Harvey Bulls

The Boomers will be looking to use this week’s game against the Harvey Bulls to turn around their recent form.

The Boomers have dropped from being a game clear in second place to fourth after a string of three losses against fellow top five teams.

Another loss against the Bulls, who pushed Bunbury to the limit last week, would see the Boomers possibly drop to fifth, while a win by a greater margin than South Bunbury could see them climb back into the top three.

The recent problem for Boomers has been their inability to kick a winning score. The Boomers have failed to clear 60 points in each of the last three games, a mark they passed 11 times in the previous 14 games.

However the Boomers will be facing a team that has become known for its all-or-nothing style of play. The Bulls have conceded at least 10 goals on 13 occasions this season so if Eaton is going to find its scoring groove, this should be the week.

However the Bulls won’t be the easybeats their ladder position may suggest. Facing the competition’s in-form team Bunbury last week, the Bulls led by almost four goals at three quarter time.

If they can continue to put on the pressure and find some goal kickers up forward, they have every chance of causing an upset.

Prediction: Eaton Boomers by 12 points.

Bunbury vs Collie Eagles

The reigning premier Bunbury is the only team that can topple Donnybrook from their perch on top of the ladder, but it would take a herculean effort.

The Bulldogs would need to beat the Eagles and rely on Carey Park to beat Donnybrook by something close to 120 points to take top spot.

It’s unlikely, but its a chance considering the Bulldogs have shown they are the biggest threat in the back half of the season.

The Bulldogs have won six in a row – including three against other top five teams – and nine of their last 11 games to put them right in the mix as premiership favourites.

Their improved forward structure – which has seen the team average almost 94 points a game largely on the back of 38 goals between Brett Peake, Matt Martin and Dylan Heasman during that time – will hold them in good stead against the Eagles’ experimental backline.

Collie has spent the last few rounds trialling players in different positions – and is likely to again on Sunday – so it is likely they’ll be looking to put a big score on the board, giving Bunbury the chance to do the same.

The midfield combination of Kyle Shanahan, Teke Vernon and Blair Malatesta has worked well for the Eagles of late and their battle with Jesse Gribble, Brad Blake and the other Bulldogs midfielders will be the key to the game.

Prediction: Bunbury by 48 points.

Catch up on round 17 action from the 2018 South West Football League season: