Finals fever has hit the Central Highlands with Week 1 of the finals series kicking off tonight in Clermont.
Below is a preview of the four games being played over the weekend:
Clermont Bears Ladies v Emerald Tigers Ladies
1v2 Women’s Major Semi Final
6.15pm Friday, August 18
This is the third consecutive year that both teams have met each other in the 1v2 clash and so far, Clermont have made it two from two.
The Tigers are heading into the match understrength and they are missing key players like Kelsie Parter and Stacey Kirkman.
After last week’s brutal and physical 24-24 draw against the Crushettes, Clermont would have been feeling it this week, but there are no major changes to last week’s side.
If last week’s game is anything to go by, the left edge is where they’ll attack with Tegan Rolfe, Carly Bell, Kailah Rogers and Mel Micallef running through the defence from almost any distance from the try line.
Charleigh Robinson has been promoted to the front row and Miranda Bartley makes her return from injury in the back row.
Kiri Samson’s experience will be much-needed off the bench, giving Jenny Whittaker a breather at hooker.
With so many outs for the Tigers, every punter would be backing Clermont to win 13+ at home, but then again … stranger things can happen around finals time.
Clermont Bears v Middlemount Panthers
1v2 Men’s Major Semi Final
8pm Friday, August 18
Clermont should be proud of the effort they’ve shown this year, going from wooden spooners this time last year to now holding the minor premiership.
They face a tough task against the in-form Panthers who are coming off a gutsy win against Springsure in hot conditions last Sunday.
Tonight’s game should be an interesting one with both teams having different strengths and weaknesses.
Middlemount should win the battle upfront in the middle, but must be tight in defence around the edges as Clermont’s back five are electrifyingly quick.
Their left edge is particularly dangerous and plays host to CH’s two top try scorers; Will Mohr at centre (15 tries) and Jack Slattery on the wing (14 tries).
On the other hand, Middlemount’s forward pack is their shining light with Leigh Coghill making a return to the side; showcasing two man of the match performances at lock in the final two round games.
Expect him to fire tonight with their big men; Dale Murphy, Joe Taotofi and Wayne Scott making metres up the middle.
Both spines are full of class but the mouth-watering match up to watch is Clermont’s Brodee Barrett in his debut year take on the ever-experienced Mitch Wyatte in the halves.
This game could go either way.
There is no hiding the fact that Middlemount will be big and strong upfront but if their edge defence isn’t water-tight, Clermont will capitalise and they might be in trouble.
Flip a coin to get a winner because the game could go either way.
Blackwater Crushettes v Emerald Cowgirls
3v4 Women’s Minor Semi Final
5.30pm, Saturday August 19
Bauhinia Park Springsure
The Crushettes face the Cowgirls once again in the 3v4 minor semi final, but this time, neither team has territorial advantage with the game being played in Springsure.
If we cast our memories back to this time last year, the Cowgirls came out of the blocks firing and led 14-0 early in the match.
After a tough fightback from Blackwater, the game was locked up at 20-20 after regular time and was forced to extra time with Blackwater then putting on a show to win comprehensively.
The Cowgirls have struggled with injuries this season and once again, they may be a little short.
Blackwater, like Clermont, may be feeling the pinch after last week’s physical affair with the Bears, but their side is relatively unchanged heading into the match.
This year is Blackwater’s best year yet to make it to the big dance and as long as they don’t defeat themselves, they have a great opportunity ahead of them.
Blackwater should start favourites and get the win.
Springsure Mountain Men v Bluff Rabbitohs
3v4 Men’s Minor Semi Final
7.30pm, Saturday August 19
Bauhinia Park Springsure
Much like the 1v2 clash, this game will be just as good, if not better.
Springsure really missed Jared Owens last Sunday against Middlemount and were good up until their last tackle options.
Matty Martell and Ash Travers made metres in attack and Charlie Mayne did his job well for a majority of the game.
Once Bluff finally got going last week, they put on a masterclass, scoring 36 points in 25 minutes against the Tigers.
Key players Peter McLaughlin, Jade Wogand and Chris Conway steered the side to a 42-26 victory after trailing 18-0.
The expected return of Dane Heron this weekend will provide a boost with more explosive attacking options out-wide if required.
This game could also go either way.
They may be some emotion within the Springsure camp considering it’s been a long time coming since they played finals footy whereas Bluff will want to rewrite the wrongs last year, going out in straight sets – this year though, there are no second chances.
If Ray Ebsworth can get the combination working early with Owens, it’ll be tough for Bluff to contain the blue men, but the same can be said for McLaughlin and Conway with Bluff.
Flip a coin for this game too in order to pick a winner.