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AFL Canberra: Fourth Grade’s race to the finals

The race to the finals is heating up in the AFL Canberra Fourth Grade competition, with only five rounds remaining and every club still in the hunt to snare a top four spot to battle it out in the fight for the flag.

Ahead of a massive five weeks of football, we cast our eye over your club’s season so far, and forecast what lays ahead in the ‘Race to the Finals’.

Harman Hogs

Current Ladder Position: 1st (10 wins, 1 loss, 251.40%)

Leading Goal Kicker: Joel Percy (30)

What’s worked?

The Hogs’ dominant season has come off the back of a strong midfield display after Coach Joel Percy altered the game plan in an effort to go all the way in 2015. Harman have changed their style of play to a short game, allowing them to move the ball well.

What hasn’t gone to plan?

Nearly everything has gone to plan in 2015 for the Hogs, with a loss to the second-placed Griffins the only hiccup in an otherwise brilliant season.

High Point

The Hogs ensured there would be no repeat of their four point loss to the Griffins in Round 4 as they completed a 101-point thumping of ANU. The visitors piled on 19 goals to establish themselves as Fourth Grade’s team to beat.

Low Point

In a season full of highs, the low point would be their lone defeat at the hands of the second-placed ANU Griffins. The Round 5 clash saw the Griffins knock over the Hogs by just four points on the back of a dominant third term. Harman’s third quarter performance in that clash has been the only real downfall in an otherwise perfect season.

Current Best and Fairest

Jeffery Toone: Toone has been named in Harman’s Best eight times in eleven appearances this season. Toone has provided the Hogs with plenty of dash off the halfback flank, and has played a major role in his side’s surge to the top of the ladder.

Forecast

Harman head in to the final stages of the regular season looking like safe bet for a Grand Final appearance. Having cracked 100 points on six occasions this year, opposition sides will face a tough task to shut down Harman’s attacking prowess.

 

ANU Griffins

Current Ladder Position: 2nd (8 wins, 2 losses, 172.79%)

Leading Goal Kicker: Tim Robb (48)

What’s worked?

Intensity. Defensive pressure all over the ground and fierce tackling at the contest have been two major characteristics of the second-placed Griffins all season as they mount a charge at the premiership.

What hasn’t gone to plan?

The Griffins were easily accounted for by the Hogs in the last clash between the two competition heavyweights. ANU will need to stay in the contest the next time the two sides meet.

High Point

A football side takes more out of a tight win than a blowout, so a four point victory over the competition front-runners would have to be one of the more satisfying wins for the Griffins this year. The Griffins head in to the business end of the season confident that they can knock off the Hogs.

Low Point

A 101-point loss to the competition front-runners in Round 10 is one of just two losses suffered by the Griffins this year, who went in to the clash undermanned. However, ANU wasted no time in getting back on track, putting 128 points on UC in a dominant victory.

Current Best and Fairest

John Mitchell: Mitchell has been judged as one of the Griffins’ best afield on six occasions in ten outings. Teammate Heath Moore has also been named in the Best six times in seven games, but has been out of Fourth Grade action in recent weeks.

Forecast

Currently second on the table, the Griffins have all but wrapped up a major semi-final appearance against Harman. Looking at the stats, it’s looking like a Harman versus ANU Grand Final, but the Griffins have been beaten by the third-placed Rams, suggesting anything is possible.

Woden Blues

Current Ladder Position: 3rd (4 wins, 7 losses, 81.66%)

Leading Goal Kicker: Brian Morton (23)

What’s worked?

Woden were able to outclass their opposition often in the early stages of the 2015 season. The Blues found success as they pushed the pace of the contest to tire out the opposition, and were able to reap the rewards with polished skills.

What hasn’t gone to plan?

A mid-season slump has seen the Blues go from minor premiership contenders to a situation where they are fighting to hold their spot in the top four. Woden will need to stop the rot quickly or they could be left wondering what could have been.

High Point

A 23-point win over finals contenders ADFA/RMC would be a highlight for the Blues in 2015. Trailing at halftime, Woden mounted a spirited comeback to give them four vital competition points.

Low Point

The Blues are currently enduring a rough patch, losing five of their past six matches, with the win coming via a forfeit from ADFA/RMC. In that time, they have surrendered wins to Molonglo and UC, both finals contenders that threaten to knock Woden out of the finals race.

Current Best and Fairest

Too close to call: Callum McRae and David Pevinsky partner their teammate Tim Mugliston as four-time vote getters in the AFL Canberra Best on Ground count. McRae’s four appearances in the count come in just five Fourth Grade matches.

Forecast

The Blues face a tough run home, facing the two competition leaders before taking on another pair of finals hopefuls in ADFA/RMC and the UC Magpies. The Rams currently hold a four point lead over of the Rams, Juggernauts, and Magpies, which may be enough to secure third spot on the ladder.

ADFA/RMC Rams

Current Ladder Position: 4th (3 wins, 6 losses, 78.30%)

Leading Goal Kicker: Matthew Dobney (14)

What’s worked?

Arguably the fittest side in the competition, fitness has allowed the Rams to topple oppositions late in the game, and stay in the contest against the top sides.

What hasn’t gone to plan?

The recent form of the clubs sitting below the Rams on the competition table would not be something that they would have been banking on. It sees the Rams embroiled in a battle to play finals football.

High Point

A 23-point win over the Griffins in the season opener is undoubtedly a season highlight for the Rams. A big win away from home over Molonglo in Round 10 will go down as a high point if the Rams manage to hold their place in the top four for the finals.

Low Point

Back to back losses early in the season to ladder leaders Harman and finals hopefuls UC would have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Rams, following a promising start to the season when they upset the Griffins in Round 1.

Current Best and Fairest

Harrison Clayfield: Clayfield has been named in the Best on three occasions, actually trailing the feat achieved by David Selvage, who managed it four times. Selvage has been out of action for some time though.

Forecast

The Rams are tasked with the daunting prospect of six games in five weeks heading in to the finals series. They will meet the three sides perched above them on the competition ladder, and take on UC before a Molonglo side gaining momentum on two occasions.

Molonglo Juggernauts

Current Ladder Position: 5th (3 wins, 7 losses, 63.66%)

Leading Goal Kicker: Warren Taylor (11)

What’s worked?

A blend of youthful exuberance and experience has Wade Williams’ men primed for a last-ditch assault on the top four. The backline is in ominous form, and confidence is building ahead of the do-or-die stage of the season.

What hasn’t gone to plan?

Injuries have left the Juggernauts undermanned on several occasions, with the side sometimes struggling to finish a game with the full quota of 22 players.

High Point

A thumping ten-goal victory over arch-rivals Woden in Round 8 was the Juggernauts’ first of the year, and catapulted the side in to top four consideration. Justin Westcott led the way with four goals in front of the Molonglo faithful.

Low Point

A five-game losing streak to open the season put Molonglo behind the eight ball from the get-go. Their start to the season could prove costly, if the side miss the top four.

Current Best and Fairest

Anthony Cutting: Named as one of the Juggernauts’ best five times in eight appearances, Cutting has injected the exciting backline with a lot of energy in 2015. Tom Hilyear has been named in the Best five times in as many outings for the finals hopefuls.

Forecast

The Juggernauts have two tough encounters with Harman and ANU before season’s end, coupled with two clashes against fellow finals contenders ADFA/RMC and one with the Magpies. If Molonglo can replicate their recent form, they are a strong chance to crack the final four.

University of Canberra Magpies

Current Ladder Position: 6th (3 wins, 8 losses, 52.55%)

Leading Goal Kicker: Ciaran Doolan (12)

What’s worked?

At their best, the Magpies produce a spirited effort that see targets being hit in the forward line, and a massive increase in defensive pressure on the opposition to create turnovers. There is a real belief that this side could lift another level in the push towards finals football.

What hasn’t gone to plan?

A mid-season slump saw the Magpies fall to last on the competition table as they dealt with injuries through all the grades, and threatened to leave them behind as the competition’s ‘also rans’ – but fortunes have changed for the Magpies, preparing what seemed like an unlikely tilt at the flag.

High Point

A Round 10 victory over the Blues saw the Magpies fly back in to finals calculations. Running out sixteen-point victors at home, the Magpies third win now has them level with the fourth-placed Rams and pushing for a finals berth.

Low Point

A 33-point loss to a fellow top four contender in Molonglo capped off a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season which could ultimately cost the Magpies their dreams of a spot in the top four.

Current Best and Fairest

Rory Markham: Six times has Markham been named in the Magpies’ best this season. He proved to be a pillar of strength when the club went through a raft of injury problems in the early going.

Forecast

The Magpies pit themselves in a battle for a spot in the top four as they round out their season with clashes against the Rams, Juggernauts and Woden. Round 18 has the Magpies playing top two side ANU, so one would think UC will need to claim at least two scalps before that clash to have a chance at making the four.

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ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR AFL CANBERRA: http://www.foxsportspulse.com/assoc_page.cgi?client=1-1051-0-0-0&&news_task=DETAIL&articleID=35355121

(PHOTO: The Queanbeyan Age)

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