SWFL 2018 preliminary final preview: One more chance to qualify for the grand final

Augusta Margaret River will look to survive finals elimination for the third week in a row. Photo: Thomas Munday.
Augusta Margaret River will look to survive finals elimination for the third week in a row. Photo: Thomas Munday.

With Donnybrook qualifying for the grand final with a 26-point win over Bunbury last week, there’s just one chance left to book a spot in the 2018 South West Football League decider.

Bunbury’s loss in the semi final means it is still a chance to claim back-to-back premierships, but it will have to get past an Augusta Margaret River side that is full of confidence.

Check out our preview of the game and let us know who you think will win.

Bunbury vs Augusta Margaret River

The Bulldogs and the Hawks head to Hands Oval for the preliminary final on Sunday afternoon.

Bunbury will be looking to rebound from its loss to Donnybrook on the weekend, while Augusta Margaret River will hope to continue its strong form that has seen it defeat South Bunbury and Eaton in close games over the past two weeks.

In order to win this weekend, the Bulldogs will need their forwards to fire again.

A key feature of the Bulldogs’ charge towards finals was their ability to hit the scoreboard, but that went missing against Donnybrook as Bunbury was kept to its lowest score of the season.

While the Hawks likely won’t present the same level of defensive pressure that Donnybrook did, the Bulldogs will still need to improve their forward fifty entries.

The Bunbury midfield put the ball into the forward arc enough times to kick a reasonable score, but it was regularly just bombed in and cleared by the Donnybrook defense just as quickly.

However Bunbury would have to be confident of getting the ball into the hands of forwards Brett Peake, Matt Martin and Mark Longbottom more often against a Hawks’ defense that naturally tends to play a more attacking style.

The Hawks have shown a tendency to give their opposition’s forwards a bit more space, and with a number of proven goal kickers in the Bunbury forward line, that could be a dangerous tactic.

But the trade-off is that the Hawks’ style means they have the ability to score quickly, especially when forwards Jack Hick and Mitch Payne are clunking big marks.

That’s not certainty though, with the Bunbury defence proving to be the highlight of last week’s loss. Co-captain Codey Hay and Kane Bumann were among the Bulldogs’ best as they kept important Donnybrook forwards Sam Lowrie and Sean Lynch goalless.

If the Hawks are going to win, they’re going to have to put in a strong four-quarter performance, which isn’t something they’ve really shown so far this finals series.

In both games, they’ve allowed their opponents to get on a run, which is not something the Hawks will want to see happen against Bunbury.

But it’s likely the game is going to be won in the midfield, with both teams boasting high-quality and influential leaders through the middle.

The Hawks will be hoping to see newly-crowned Hayward Medal winner Mitch Lynn get his hands on the ball in the middle, while Bunbury pair Jesse Gribble and Brad Blake have also put together strong seasons.

Both teams claimed a comfortable win on their home deck when they played throughout the season, but it will be interesting to see whether having to travel up the highway for the fourth week in a row will have any negative effect on Augusta Margaret River.

Prediction: Bunbury by two points.

Check out more from the 2018 South West Football League finals series