By Matt Fotia
With Berwick booking their seat at next weekends Premier Big Dance, after a come from behind win over Narre Warren last weekend, there remains just one spot left for next Friday’s showpiece event and the Magpies will battle Beaconsfield for the last invite at Healesville this Saturday.
The Magpies will enter this game as deserved favourites. They sat atop the Premier Division for a lengthy period of time earlier on in the season, and just a fortnight ago they taught the Eagles a lesson in finals football, smashing them 13.5(83) to 2.9(21) allowing the Eagles to kick just two behinds in the second half.
That gave them a 2-1 lead over Beaconsfield across the 2019 season, but that result was the most convincing. In round two they ran out just eight point leaders at home, before Leigh McQuillen’s men were able to grab what was a defining win for this young group of Eagles at the time, in round 11 at Holm Park.
On that occasion Matthew Johnson popped up with six goals, an incredible effort given there were just 19 for the entire match. Most pleasingly for McQuillen was the fact that his side were able to halt the Magpies scoring in the last quarter, keeping Narre Warren to just four behinds for the last stanza.
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🏈 Narre Warren v Beaconsfield
📍 Don Road Sporting Complex – Healesville
🏆 TWW Berwick and Knoxfield #AFLOEPREM
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How Narre Warren Win
For the Magpies it’s fairly simple, just get back on the horse after last weekend and produce their best football. On paper and across the season the Magpies have been one of the runaway leaders at the top of the ladder and at their best player some scintillating team football.
One thing they will be looking to do well however is execute their forward pressure. The Eagles love to score from their back half with players like Jake Boyd and Ryan Bromley providing great drive off the half back line. If the Magpies can harass the Eagles ball using defenders and cause them to hurry their disposal Beaconsfield will find it hard to kick a winning score.
How Beaconsfield Win
Get the jump.
The Eagles know how to set up defensively against the Magpies, as their round 11 win highlights. Their coach Leigh McQuillen is known as one of the more detail oriented coaches in the competition, and will no doubt have a dossier full of notes ready on Narre Warren.
If they can come out breathing fire and get a buffer at the first break the pressure will be heaped on the Magpies and McQuillen’s meticulous planning can come to the fore. If it goes the other way they’ll have to come a little more out of their shells and that opens them up to the dangers of multiple Narre Warren attacks.
Narre Warren – The skipper, Dylan Quirk. The nuggety number one has had a wonderful 2019, which culminated in him being named on the bench in the Premier Division Team of the Year.
He sets the tone at the first bounce on Saturday. Whether it be the first clearance, an incisive handball, a crucial shepherd or a bone crunching tackle, if Quirk can show his fellow Magpies that all is well after last weekends second half fade out, the Magpies will be on their way to Toomuc.
Beaconsfield – Kyle O’Sullivan has had an underrated year for the Eagles, but he could come right into the spotlight this weekend.
A good wingman is worth his weight in gold, especially for sides like Beaconsfield that look to slingshot the ball from one end to the other in the blink of an eye. If O’Sullivan is able to find space for the release kick in the first stage of transition, as well as providing deep inside fifty entires at the other Beaconsfield will be content with how they’re playing their game.
Who would Berwick rather play?
As funny as it sounds, I think Berwick will be supporting the Magpies. Yes I’m aware that the Magpies are quite clearly their closest rivals and I for one have suggested on multiple occasions that they are actually the best team in the race, but let’s take a step back for a moment.
The Wickers have played just two games in the past three weeks, both against the Magpies. On both occasions they’ve finished up comfortable winners. They knocked off Narre Warren in last seasons SEFNL decider as well.
As much as the Magpies have impressed everyone this season its obvious that Berwick have the mental edge on them. I like the Magpies as a team, and tipped them to win the premiership in the mid season review, but last weekend will have hurt them.
But Beaconsfield, they might be a different kettle of fish.
They haven’t played each other in awhile, and the Eagles were just seconds away from a win over their arch rivals back in round four.
The Eagles are young and to some observers they’re just making up the numbers this weekend.
But if they sneak through they might have that unbridled confidence that comes from youth, and their fearless, well planned, approach might be more dangerous to Wickers than first thought.