The kid gloves are officially off as clubs prepare to contest the 2018 Alex Scott and Staff West Gippsland Football Netball Competition finals series this weekend.
Such was the chaotic nature of the final round of the home-and-away season, you could be forgiven for thinking the first round of finals took place last weekend.
But while the jostling for places created plenty of intrigue, the stakes are undoubtedly higher from this point on.
This year’s senior football series has a familiar feel about it, with four of last year’s top five again making the cut, albeit in different shape.
Reigning premier Inverloch-Kongwak fell from first to fourth in the space of one week and now face an unlikely grand final rematch against Cora Lynn in Sunday’s elimination final.
Phillip Island, which snuck into the inaugural finals series on percentage, stole in to secure the minor premiership and a week’s break this time around, while last year’s hard luck story Koo Wee Rup made sure there was no repeat of that pain by locking down its finals spot with two rounds to spare.
The Demons did slide from first to second then the third in the final two rounds, despite winning their final game by 107 points, but coach Ben Collins was delighted to have his side still in the race.
“We were the only team to have beaten Dalyston and Inverloch-Kongwak last year but missed out by percentage, which was pretty frustrating,” Collins said.
“We went away and looked at what we could rectify in terms of recruiting and game plan and here we are.
“Two weeks ago against Nar Nar Goon if we won we could have locked away top spot and we felt more nervous but now it’s more excitement.”
The Goon serve as Koo Wee Rup’s first opponent, with the pair set to add to an already storied rivalry in tomorrow’s qualifying final at Denhams Rd.
The pair last met two weeks ago the Goon emerging on top by 35 points on the back of six goals from Troy McDermott.
Koo Wee Rup’s search for a premiership dates back to 1981 and Collins said his side was aware of the hopes and expectations of the Demons faithful and how much success would mean to the town and people associated with the club.
However, he warned plenty would have to go right for any of the five teams still in contention.
“I’ve been around a while and I’m enjoying my footy as much as I ever have,” Collins said.
“There’s five really good sides in it and not much separating them and there’s a fair bit of hype in other leagues with people more interested in coming to watch our finals series so the league’s going from strength to strength.”
Over on the netball courts, Korumburra-Bena enters unfamiliar territory with an elimination final match up against Inverloch-Kongwak.
The traditional powerhouse was been a perennial grand finalist in the Alberton Football Netball League and made it to last year’s decider as a heavy favourite but will need to win three games in a row if it is to return to the biggest day on the calendar.
Inaugural and reigning premier Dalyston squares off against Koo Wee Rup in Saturday’s qualifying final for the right to get first crack at minor premier Phillip Island.
Qualifying Final – Saturday, 25 August – Koo Wee Rup Recreation Reserve
Seniors: Nar Nar Goon v Koo Wee Rup
Reserves: Nar Nar Goon v Inverloch Kongwak
Thirds: Phillip Island v Kilcunda-Bass
Fourths: Koo Wee Rup v Nar Nar Goon
A Grade: Dalyston v Koo Wee Rup
B Grade: Bunyip v Dalyston
C Grade: Inverloch Kongwak v Bunyip
17&U: Bunyip v Phillip Island
15&U: Cora Lynn v Korumburra-Bena
13&U: Inverloch Kongwak v Koo Wee Rup
Elimination Final – Sunday, 26 August – Inverloch Recreation Reserve
Seniors: Inverloch Kongwak v Cora Lynn
Reserves: Phillip Island v Kilcunda-Bass
Thirds: Garfield v Koo Wee Rup
Fourths: Bunyip v Korumburra-Bena
A Grade: Korumburra-Bena v Inverloch Kongwak
B Grade: Korumburra Bena v Cora Lynn
C Grade: Koo Wee Rup v Korumburra Bena
17&U: Koo Wee Rup v Dalyston
15&U: Dalyston v Inverloch Kongwak
13&U: Phillip Island v Bunyip