THE business end of the 2014 Alberton Football season is approaching with four rounds of matches remaining.
There is a fierce battle for the all-important top two positions between four teams, whilst another three teams fight for the remaining two positions in the top six.
This week’s draw was a bit of a lacklustre affair with the top four teams, Dalyston, Kilcunda-Bass Phillip Island and Korumburra-Bena all having their final bye of the season.
But in the next two weeks there are a number of important match ups between finals aspirants that will shape the final six.
With seven teams in the hunt for a finals berth, the Sentinel-Times had a look at each team’s chances.
Dalyston sit on top of the ladder by percentage but are on equal points with reigning premiers Kilcunda-Bass and Phillip Island.
Fresh from the bye, the Magpies host an improved Inverloch-Kongwak side this week that is fighting to stay within the top six.
A win will see Dalyston remain on top of the ladder before another tough match against Kilcunda-Bass the following week.
The Magpies finish up their home and away season against the struggling Toora and Stony Creek, which can be pencilled in for wins.
Michael Kraska: After kicking 80 goals last season, Kraska leads this year’s goal kicking with 54 goals at 4.5 goals per game.
The silky forward is equally as dangerous in the air and when the ball hits the ground.
Brad Fisher: The former Carlton player has continued to impress in his second year with the club.
He forms a lethal forward combination with Kraska as a strong centre half forward.
If Dalyston can give him clean delivery he will be hard to stop this finals series.
Hamish Dick: Dick is the general of the backline for the Magpies and has been a consistent performer in his first year for the club.
He turns defence into attack with his rebound from the backline.
Dean Wylie: The reliable utility has been a pillar of the Dalyston side for many years.
He can be used down back, up forward or in the midfield depending on the situation.
Wylie is an experienced finals campaigner who will be eager to taste premiership success this year.
The 2013 premiers are a massive chance to win their fourth Alberton premiership in a row.
The side has changed a little over the past few years but still boasts many big names.
This week the Panthers face Phillip Island in what will be the most important local derby in many years.
The winner will go a long way to sealing a top two position and the battle between two of the competition’s best midfields will be a great spectacle at the Bass oval this Saturday.
Chris Endres: The local product has been a star midfielder for the Panthers this year.
Endres can win the ball on the inside or outside and is a well-balanced footballer.
Ryan Fitzgerald: A consistent midfielder who has been a part of all three premierships and is named in the best players for Kilcunda-Bass most weeks.
Kael Bergles: The goal kicking machine is back to his best after a hand injury sidelined him for a number of weeks.
He has averaged five goals per game this year and does not look like slowing down.
Jason Wells: The small goal sneak simply loves kicking goals.
Wells is a lightly built forward/winger who can turn it on when needed.
He filled the void up forward for the Panthers in Bergles’ absence and will be looking to entertain the bigger crowds in the finals.
Phillip Island has put together one of their best sides in recent years under first year coach Brendan Kimber.
This week’s match against Kilcunda-Bass will decide their top two fortunes and the Bulldogs will take confidence from their Round 5 victory over their fierce rivals.
A win will see them more than likely finish in the top two, but a loss will see them relying on the results of upcoming matches.
Phillip Island was flying on top of the ladder until a mid-season slump saw them lose to MDU and Foster in consecutive weeks.
The Bulldogs are now close to full strength and the return of key players this week should make for a cracking contest.
Brendan Kimber: Kimber is not only the coach but also one of the best players on the Island’s list.
He is a strong-bodied midfielder who asserts his authority on matches and wins the hard ball.
The star was on the sidelines for a number of weeks through injury but has returned to bolster the Bulldogs’ line-up.
James Taylor: After a solid career for many seasons with the Casey Scorpions in the VFL, Taylor has come home in the past few years and has been a dominant onballer for Phillip Island.
He often attracts the attention of the opposition and can also be dangerous when resting forward.
Jaymie Youle: The captain of Phillip Island is an experienced campaigner and can be used as a rebounding defender or in the midfield.
Beau Runnalls: In his first year at the club, Runnalls has proven to be a lively forward option for the Island.
He is lightning quick on the lead and with good delivery he can finish the work upfield.
The small forward should return to the side this week after missing the last two matches and will cause headaches for opposition defences in the finals.
Korumburra-Bena is still within striking distance of the top two and will not come up against any of the teams above them in the remaining rounds.
They have played a good brand of football this year and victories in the next two weeks against Fish Creek and Inverloch-Kongwak will give them a chance for a top two finish, depending on the results of other games.
Chris Urie: The attacking player is a vital target for Korumburra-Bena and is a matchwinner for his side.
Urie often roams around the forward line where he is always a handful for defenders and can also spend time in the midfield.
Ben Fitzpatrick: A player who has come up through the Korumburra-Bena juniors and consistently racks up possessions.
Although small in stature, Fitzpatrick has clean disposal and shows composure in traffic.
He often goes head to head with the opposition’s best midfielders and more than holds his own in contested situations.
Paul Pattison: A skilful midfielder who has played senior football since a young age.
Pattison is a major ball winner for the Bulldogs and continually drives the ball forward.
Chris Redl: A strong forward for Korumburra-Bena who pops up and consistently kicks goals.
Redl is capable of kicking a bag and if the Bulldogs are to go anywhere this season they will need a big contribution from him.
The Sea Eagles had a nightmare start to the season losing their first five games.
To their credit they have bounced back to win seven of their last eight matches, including a big scalp in Kilcunda-Bass and a one point loss to Phillip Island.
This week’s match against Dalyston is another chance for Inverloch-Kongwak to beat a highly fancied team.
A win will give them some breathing space in the top six but a loss could prove costly to their finals aspirations.
The Sea Eagles also face the in-form Korumburra-Bena next week and could be relying on the results of other games to make the finals as they have the bye in the final round.
Dylan Clark: The playmaker for the Sea Eagles who consistently gets the job done.
Clark roams around the ground taking grabs and uses the ball very well.
He can also be damaging going forward and is a proven match winner.
Lucas McMillan: The big forward switched to Inverloch this year and continues to find the goals, kicking a goal in every match this season.
Andrew Seccull: The midfielder returned to the Sea Eagles this year after spending the past two seasons with Fish Creek.
Seccull is a proven ball winner who loves a contest and his experience will be priceless for his side if they make the finals.
Brad Hender: In his second year with the Sea Eagles, Hender is a versatile big man who can be used in the ruck or up forward.
He is an experienced player who won a premiership with Kilcunda-Bass and has a strong mark.
After winning just the three games last season, MDU has been the most improved side of the competition this season.
Despite an inconsistent year, the Demons are still a genuine finals chance which will be a good effort for the young side.
A win this week against Toora will do their chances no harm but upcoming matches against Kilcunda-Bass and Korumburra-Bena may leave them relying on other results to stay in the top six.
Thomas McDermott: In his second year at the club, McDermott is a tough, hard-running midfielder who can be damaging running forward.
He has helped win games for the Demons this year and is the type of player you want to have on your side.
Joel Sinclair: The midfielder has returned to the side after a serious knee injury derailed his 2013 season.
The injury has not slowed the tough onballer down, as he is continually amongst the best players for the Demons and is always in the thick of the action.
Ben Thomas: The youngster has been a consistent performer across half back for MDU this season.
Thomas has strong hands and reads the ball well, often playing a kick behind the play.
Matthew Robbins: The former AFL player is a match winner for the Demons and knows where the goals are.
He can also push up into the midfield and always provides a strong target.
Robbins’ experience will be important if MDU makes the finals.
Fish Creek are a developing side that sits one game out of the top six after an up and down season.
The Kangaroos will have to defeat Korumburra-Bena this week which is not out of the question and then upset Phillip Island at Cowes to seal a finals berth.
If they lose both these then their finals chances will diminish but one victory could see them sneak into the final six depending on other results.
Luke Damon: In his first season for Fish Creek, Damon has played a lone hand up forward for the Kangaroos, booting 48 goals at four goals per game.
He is a strong full forward who can take a big grab and convert in front of goal.
Ashley Snooks: The midfielder has taken his game to another level since transferring from Korumburra-Bena this season.
Snooks is a skilful hard-running onballer who has been named in the best on an impressive 10 occasions for Fish Creek this season.
Travis Manne: The long-time ruckman for Fish Creek is an impressive big man who wins the ball around the ground.
He brings a wealth of experience to the table which is vital for the young Kangaroo side.
Ethan Park: The young gun for Fish Creek has returned to the side in the past couple of weeks after a stint with Gippsland Power.
He is still eligible for Under 18s but is a handy player at senior level who can be used as a tagger or up forward.