By David Nagel
The four biggest guns in West Gippsland football are set for a stunning shootout on Saturday as the build up to the first finals series in three years begins to heat up.
Fair dinkum…how good is football when the cracking contest between Phillip Island and Nar Nar Goon is relegated to the silver-medal dais.
But the gold-medal winner promises to be an absolute beauty, with Inverloch-Kongwak hosting ladder-leaders Tooradin-Dalmore in a sparkling contest at the Inverloch Recreation Reserve.
These teams have already met once this year, in what in our humble opinion was the best forecast, to this point in time, as to what might happen in September.
Tooradin won easily in the end, by 37 points, but the ebbs and flows that day suggested that Inverloch is as well-equipped as anyone to bring the Seagulls down.
“We went into that game with a few unknowns, but what became clear was that Tooradin was the best side in the competition at that moment,” said Inverloch coach Ben Soumilas.
“It would be nice to win every time we play football, but’s it’s also nice to know where you sit in the pecking order.
“If you’re going along thinking you’re the top side, but you’re not, that can be detrimental to how you train and prepare, so it was actually good for us to find that out.
“We also got a little bit better insight into how Tooradin play and what they’re trying to do, and hopefully that will hold us in good stead moving forward.”
Soumilas is not expecting too many things to change from an opposition perspective on Saturday.
“They’re the established benchmark of the competition so we all have to go and chase them,” he said.
“They’re the top dogs, they don’t need to change much to beat us…we need to change to beat them.
“What you want to say as a coach is we don’t care too much about the opposition, we’ll just do our own thing, but you only get to say that when you’re the top team…and we’re not that at the moment.
“We have to plan to combat what they’re doing, because they’re so good at doing it.”
Soumilas’s opposition number this week, Lachie Gillespie, has a huge amount of respect for the way Inverloch goes about its footy.
“Inverloch is always just a good, strong solid side and I think they’re a massive threat to be honest,” Gillespie said.
“They’ve got the mix of being very well coached and well structured, but they’ve also just got very good footballers that love playing with each other…it’s a huge challenge.
“Playing at Inverloch I believe they’re an even better side again, we haven’t won there, it would be a pretty major thing for us to tick off if we can go down there and win.
“It’s always exciting playing Inverloch, they play hard, tough football, but they’re a very fair football club.”
Gillepsie has been through the tough times at Tooradin, taking on some of the most powerful teams from the South East over the years.
Now the Gulls are proving to be a powerhouse themselves…which does take some adjusting.
“We probably get to plan on what we want to do more than being reactive, that’s probably the big thing,” Gillespie said.
“You’re not reacting to how you want to try and blunt a Berwick for example, and how do we be competitive for four quarters…but now we tend to focus on what we want to do and what does Tooradin footy look like.
“And I suppose we’ve got confidence now that well-executed Tooradin footy will get us pretty close to the mark.”
This one should be a beauty…we’ll go for Tooradin by 11 points.
The game between Phillip Island and Nar Nar Goon could also be a roof-raiser, with the Goon looking to back up its five-point win over the Bulldogs at the same venue last year.
Bulldogs coach Beau Vernon is expecting another stirring contest.
“They’re a quality team, I feel like they’re list is full of quality right now,” Vernon said.
“They’ve got a great midfield, they’re strong, they compete hard, they’ve got big targets up forward, smaller targets as well, and they’re backline plays a tight brand of footy.
“We have to be on this weekend…they beat us at our ground last year and I rate the Goon very highly.”
This one will be a ripper…it’s the Bulldogs by two points.
In other games, Cora Lynn should bounce back against Kilcunda-Bass, Kooweerup will make it two-on-the-trot against Garfield, while Bunyip and Warragul will chalk up wins against Korumburra and Dalyston respectively.