With all 18 rounds of the 2018 South West Football League now in the books, this week will see the finals series kick off.
After ending its 13 year finals drought with an emphatic top of the ladder finish, Donnybrook will have the week off.
The competition’s form team and reigning premier Bunbury will face Eaton for the right to face off with Donnybrook next week.
In the week’s other game, South Bunbury and Augusta Margaret River will be fighting to keep their premiership dream alive.
Check out our preview of the weekend’s games and let us know who you think will win.
Bunbury vs Eaton Boomers
Reigning premier Bunbury will host the Eaton Boomers on Sunday afternoon in a qualifying final at Payne Park.
With both teams finishing in the top three this season, the winner will have the chance to play Donnybrook next week for a spot in the grand final while the loser will be playing for their season next week.
Bunbury arguably comes into the finals series with the strongest form. The Bulldogs have won their past seven games by an average margin of almost seven goals, including a 113 point demolition of Collie last weekend – the competition’s only triple-figure victory for the year.
An improvement in scoring in the second half of the year has been the key to the Bulldogs’ finals charge.
The Bulldogs improved their average score per game by almost four goals in the second half of the season, averaging 88 points a game over the final nine games after averaging just 66 in the first nine.
The scoring improvement can be put down to the Bulldogs’ potent forward line. A feature of Bunbury’s game has been its ability to find someone who will pop up and kick a bag each week.
This was shown by the fact that over the Bulldogs’ winning run, they had a forward kick at least five goals in a game on seven separate occasions – Matt Martin and Brett Peake did it three times each, while Malik Davis kicked five last week.
Cutting down that scoring ability will have to be the focus for the Boomers, who come into the game with some indifferent form.
The Boomers looked back to their free-scoring best last week with a 50 point win over Harvey – although the 16.26 scoreline implies it could and should have been an even bigger win – but the result ended a run of three straight losses to fellow finals teams.
The Boomers were unable to rise to the occasion when taking on Augusta Margaret River, Donnybrook and South Bunbury in the lead up to finals – although they weren’t embarrassed in any of the games either – but they will take confidence from being the only team to beat Bunbury twice during the season.
On both of those occasions, Eaton showed great fight and endurance – kicking 11 of their 29 goals in the final quarter.
But the Boomers have shown a tendency to get into shootouts and leak some big scores – they concede an average of 66 points a game, the most of any team playing finals.
With both teams having deep forward lines and a large spread of goal kickers – the Boomers lead the league in number of players kicking at least 10 goals this season, with seven – it’s likely this game will be decided by which midfield can dictate the game.
Prediction: Bunbury by 18 points.
South Bunbury vs Augusta Margaret River
South Bunbury will host Augusta Margaret River on Sunday at Hands Oval in an elimination final.
After 18 rounds of the season, there’s very little to split the two teams. They both claimed narrow wins at each other’s home grounds in the two times they met this season and they both finished the season with an identical 11 win and 7 loss record.
Augusta Margaret River made a late charge towards finals, having won six of its final seven games to qualify in fifth spot.
During that period, the Hawks only lost to Bunbury and knocked-off finallists South Bunbury and Eaton.
Defensive improvement was the key to the Hawks success. They’ve had a potent forward line all year, but they reduced the average score kicked against them to less than 60 points across the last seven games.
That defensive pressure, combined with the consistency of a forward line that has scored less than 60 points on just four occasions, will give the Hawks confidence to take on the Tigers.
But if there is one area where the game could get away from the Hawks, it is the fact they don’t tend to lock down the opponent’s key forward. The Hawks have allowed opposition forwards kick at least four goals in a game on a staggering 14 occasions this season.
That trend has a strong possibility of continuing this week, with South Bunbury’s Leigh Kohlmann in great goal kicking form.
Kohlmann has kicked 27 goals over the last four weeks and another bag this week would go a long way towards securing the Tigers’ spot in the semi finals.
The Tigers also carry good form into the game, having won six of their last nine games – although all three losses came against fellow finallists.
Part of that success has been down to a strong defence – they’ve conceded the second least amount of points all season – but also improved scoring that has defied expectation, given the number of young players given a chance this season.
Given the results both times these two teams met this year, it seems likely the key to the game will be how well the Augusta Margaret River defenders will be able to curtail Kohlmann and the Tiger forwards.
Prediction: Augusta Margaret River by five points.
Catch up on what happened in the final round of the 2018 South West Football League season: