A top-six spot goes on the line when Deniliquin hosts old rival Finley in Murray Football League tomorrow.July 18, 2014 11:33am
For the last seven weeks Deniliquin Rams coach Troy Bartlett has been telling his charges they are about to play their biggest game yet.
His message couldn’t ring more true about tomorrow’s home game against Finley.
The Cats are flying high, winning their last five games and perched proudly on top of the Murray Football League ladder.
Deniliquin, meanwhile, is in fourth spot and has won seven matches in a row - the longest winning streak of any team in 2014.
All eyes are fixated on the outcome of tomorrow’s match, keen to see how much damage, if any, the Rams can make against a true premiership favourite.
‘‘Finley is definitely the benchmark of the competition. They’re sitting on top of the ladder without playing a home game (because new clubrooms are being built),’’ Bartlett said.
‘‘It will be a good test for us to see where we sit and how good we really are.
‘‘We haven’t beaten any side above us yet so our run home will determine if we are any good or not.’’
Last time the two met, in round two, Deniliquin led all day until the last quarter, when the Cats broke away to win by 10 points.
A loss this time would spell disaster for the Rams who would likely fall to seventh on the ladder, while Finley could slip to third if it loses.
Young backman Tom Dowling (Assumption College) is the only Ram unavailable for the match, while a number of players have put their hands up for selection.
Injury-recovered ruckman Anthony Bull and young forward Jake Marshall are two of them, while Darcy Biggs, Eddie Draffin and Benji Hardman are others.
‘‘Whether or not we can fit them in the side, I’m still not sure,’’ Bartlett said.
But one thing the in-form playing-coach is certain of is that the Rams cannot afford to kick down the line to a contest.
‘‘They have some good players who give them plenty of run so we will have to shut them down,’’ Bartlett said.
‘‘Getting on top early is very important.’’
Strong markers Nick and Cam Robertson and running defenders Steve Patten and Matt and Marcus Jackson lead the Cats’ defence.
The Robertsons have shut down some of the league’s top forwards this season and will give in-form Deni goalkickers Brett Macdonald (37 goals this season) and Hayden Barker (23) a run for their money.
The battle in the middle of the ground will be a good one with both sides spoilt for choice for quality onballers.
Finley big man Dane Maxwell, with support from Tim Robertson, regularly gives his runners first use of the ball and will line up against Deni’s Chris O’Connor tomorrow.
At ground level, the Cats boast hard-at-it footballers Ned Morrison, James Kennedy, Ollie Ford and Mikka Littlejohn, with a touch of class from Reid Crowe and the defensive style of Jordan Daniel.
Add to that the burgeoning talent of livewires Jess Koopman and Levi Middleton and Finley’s midfield depth is enough to stretch even the best sides in the competition.
But Bartlett says the Rams are ready for the challenge and will look to Todd Gallagher, Ricky Gittens, Darcy Bell and the ever-reliable Oliver Draffin for midfield dominance.
Speedster Ash Morris, coming off his best game for the season last round, will float between the middle and up forward, with Clay Howe and Lachie MacDonald streaming into attack.
Jake Cavallaro and gun 17 year-old Tyler Amor-Beale provide the Rams with tagging options.
Finley’s star centre half-forward, Tom Seccull, has booted 23 goals from his 10 games but only six of them have been on large grounds.
The job on Seccull will fall on any number of players throughout the game, Bartlett said.
‘‘We will just roll off and help each other out. They have a lot of good players to worry about.’’
Even so, the Rams have too much on the line and should procure a landmark victory in what is, hands down, Murray Football League’s match of the round.
Selection: Rams by two goals.
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