By David Nagel
Inverloch-Kongwak has been off Broadway in recent times but returns to the spotlight this week when the Sea Eagles welcome Nar Nar Goon for a crucial battle between third and fourth on the ladder.
The Sea Eagles stumbled slightly in rounds five and seven, being taken down by premiership favourites Phillip Island and Tooradin-Dalmore, but have steadied the ship to win their last three games on the trot.
Coach Ben Soumilas is now keen to test his team against a fellow top-four contender.
“The Tooradin game sort of showed us where we’re at,” Soumilas said.
“The pecking order is getting sorted and this week against Nar Nar Goon we finally get the chance to assess ourselves against all clubs.
“We’re not in the top two, and that’s fine, but now it’s about trying to fine tune the areas where we got caught out against Phillip Island and Tooradin and make sure we improve in those facets of the game.
“I’m happy with the blend of youth and experience that we have within our group, and that’s exciting for us moving forward.”
Following the Tooradin loss, Soumilas challenged his players with the following line immediately after the match.
“We’re not the best team in it right now…but we could be.”
When asked to clarify, the 2017 premiership coach replied with the following.
“If you talk to any person who has played footy for a long time, you reflect back and think it’s not every year that you’ve got a group that is potentially good enough to mix it over the last two weeks of the season,” Soumilas said.
“I’ve got no doubt that we’ve got a group that is good enough to be there, but my challenge to them is to not waste it.
“Opportunities don’t come around that often, so it’s important we do everything possible to take those opportunities when they present.”
This one should be a cracking contest, with both teams only losing two games – against the same opposition – and a top-three position on the line.
The prospect of catching Phillip Island in second place, and earning a coveted double chance, is also an attractive carrot for the winner.
The midfield battle will be a beauty with Oscar Toussaint and Ethan Park having super-consistent seasons for the Sea Eagles, while Trent Armour is really hitting his straps after a sluggish start the season for the Goon.
This will be close all day…but it’s the Sea Eagles by 13 points.
The other key battle in the upper echelon of the ladder sees sixth-placed Cora Lynn host fifth-placed Warragul Industrials at the Cobradome.
The Cobras – coming off a five-game winning streak – can lock away a finals berth over the coming fortnight with wins over the Dusties and Bunyip.
Win those two and even higher honours may be knocking on the door.
This will be one of the most even games of the season, with the team that takes their opportunities in front of the big sticks almost certain to get the prize.
The pressure will be on set shots from players like Nathan Gardiner and Cory Machaya for the Cobras…and Mason McGarrity and Anthony Bruhn for the Dusties.
We’ll back in Gardiner and Machaya to hold their nerve and lead the Cobras to a five-point victory.
In other games this week, Bunyip will bounce back to the winners list with a two-point victory over Dalyston, Garfield will get close but lose to Kilcunda-Bass at home by 14 points, while Phillip island and Tooradin-Dalmore will have comfortable victories over Korumburra-Bena and Kooweerup respectively.
It’s the Bulldogs by 100 plus, while the Gulls will make it 11 on the bounce with a 10-goal win over the Demons.