Demons top tip but Rats on rise
There is little chance of Wimmera Football League fans having two bob each way when tipping a winner from Wimmera Football League’s preliminary final at Murtoa on Sunday.
Most punters, understandably, would have their money on the nose for Horsham to soundly beat Ararat and confirm its place in a grand final against Southern Mallee Giants.
But, as the old saying goes, don’t be too quick to put down your glasses.
We’re talking about finals here, not the home-and-away series, which means it is often best to expect the unexpected.
Ararat, in clipping Horsham Saints’ wings in a second semi-final last week, might have done enough to not only answer doubters, but also generate priceless self-confidence.
The Rats, who this year simply hoped to make the finals, let alone play in a grand final, have nothing to lose.
Horsham, unlike the narrowly winning Rats, go into Sunday’s game a narrow loser and as the reigning premier and 2018 minor premier, has everything to lose.
It will be a significant test of Horsham’s mettle if it can respond, as most people expect, and douse the fire from Alexandra Oval. The Demons, in their first finals appearance this year, had to endure a hard-hitting contest against the Giants in Ararat last week.
Despite ultimately having more scoring shots than the Mallee force, Horsham came off second best.
And although living to fight another day, the Demons suddenly find themselves in vulnerable territory.
Horsham lost its way slightly midway through the contest against the Giants and it proved costly.
But, importantly, established leaders Brad Hartigan, Ryan Kemp, Ben Lakin, Jordyn Burke and Rhona Conboy all featured in Horsham’s best.
It will be the ability of this backbone group, which also included Dawson Cross on Saturday, to bring team-mates into the game that will have a mighty say whether the Demons go on to defend their title.
Rats look good
Ararat fought its way to a gritty win over Horsham Saints, responding to the disappointment of a qualifyingfinal loss to the Giants earlier in the finals.
The Rats’ win on Sunday, which came after a tit-for-tat second-half battle against a side renowned for endeavour, proved they had hardened off considerably.
It also exposed how well an Ararat on-ball brigade led by Dan Mendes can perform in big games.
Jack Ganley, Nick Mendes, Jake Robinson, Riley Taylor and Tom Mills were others in the votes for the Rats and Lachie Hamilton provided an important goal-front target with five goals.
Could a preliminary final get any better? It’s city team against city team, old enemies rekindling rivalries dating back to the league’s inception.
Horsham loves being tested and will respond and will eventually win by five goals.
Watching the action unfold of course will be the Southern Mallee Giants, safe and secure with a spot in the grand final.
Getting to the grand final is an achievement in itself and represents the latest step up a remarkable regional football climb for the club.
The Giants have inherited a Mallee ruggedness, perhaps no better exemplified than through powerful Tyler Lehmann.
The team also has obvious talent through lines under coach Coleman Schache and on Saturday rover Clint Burdett bobbed up again in another good game with three goals.
Reece Mcnally, Sam White and Brock Orval were others to top best-player lists as the team now enjoys a rest.
REASON TO CELEBRATE: Ararat forward Lachie Hamilton pumps the air and celebrates one of his five goals. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER