Goulburn Valley Bowls Division weekend pennant is scheduled to return today across the region.
Soaring temperatures look certain to delay the start of 2019 action, but the end of the Christmas break still provides a perfect platform for a mid-season review of the division one table.
With six matches remaining in the regular season, including today’s round as it will be rescheduled to February 23 if heat intervenes, there is still plenty of room for movement from all eight outfits competing in the top tier.
News sports reporter Tyler Maher has peered carefully into the crystal ball to assess just where each team might land by the time finals action rolls around.
Record: first, 125 points, +212 shots difference
Key clashes remaining: As has been the case for a number of years, the Golfers seem to comfortably have the measure of most teams in the competition. It means the final-round duel against Kyabram looms as the most important clash before finals, with the winner to take plenty of momentum into a likely repeat fixture soon after.
Prediction: A 15-point buffer to second spot is already enough — lock the Golfers in for top spot and almost certainly another grand final berth.
Record: second, 110, +214.
Key clashes remaining: As well as the round 14 fixture against Shepparton Golf, the Power must make sure they knock off Shepparton Park in the preceding match to stay on top of its game. By that stage of the season Kyabram should have enough points in the bank to be certain of a double chance though.
Prediction: The Power will flex their collective muscle in the next two months and roar into finals with plenty of confidence and momentum from second spot on the table. Will it be enough to scupper Shepparton Golf’s GVBD dynasty? Only time will tell.
Record: third, 79, +62.
Key clashes remaining: Round 12 against East Shepparton and a (likely to be) re-scheduled round nine against Hill Top (on February 23) will be matches which shape Shepparton Park’s finals hopes. Win both and the Parkers will finish third.
Prediction: Preseason concerns about the Parkers after they lost a host of stars have so far proved unfounded. The outfit has excelled on the greens and the handy addition of Lenny Kean — who has been named as a third for his Shepparton Park debut — will hold it in great stead moving forward. Should slot into third spot and face a cutthroat elimination battle in the first week of finals.
Record: fourth, 76, +25.
Key clashes remaining: While today’s fixture against Shepparton Park is likely to become Hill Top’s last before finals, the side must focus on a round 10 game against Kyabram and round 11 battle with Shepparton Golf. Even snaring three rinks across those two fixtures could change the entire complexion of the ladder.
Prediction: The Hillbillies can steal rinks from the top sides, but they must dominate the likes of Seymour and Nagambie to make sure that hard work is not wasted. Fourth spot is theirs for the taking.
Record: fifth, 71, +10.
Key clashes remaining: Every game is now crucial for East, but the round 12 clash against Shepparton Park is one which could swing the season back firmly into their favour. A win there will go a long way to sneaking into the top four.
Prediction: It is a tough back end of the year for East, especially after last round’s loss to Hill Top, and the side must do everything it can to jump back into the four as quickly as possible. Have them in fifth when the dust settles.
Record: sixth, 55, -82.
Key clashes remaining: The biggest game for Stanhope for the rest of the season is the one directly in front of it. There is no point circling dates in the calendar — maximum points are needed in as many matches as possible for the outfit to stand a chance of finals action.
Prediction: There is still life in Stanhope’s campaign after a huge, in terms of importance, win against Shepparton Park to close out 2018. That momentum needs to keep rolling though, and with a poor shots difference the side is likely to finish sixth.
Record: seventh, 32, -163.
Key clashes remaining: Seymour’s season was meant to go on the line today against Nagambie, but now the battle for the wooden spoon — and relegation — will likely have to wait until February 23.
Prediction: If Seymour puts it all together on any given day it can secure an upset and hold onto a division one berth. But that day does not look likely to come quickly enough and the side is on a path to division two.
Record: eighth, 28, -278.
Key clashes remaining: Nagambie must beat Seymour to save itself from relegation — it is as simple as that.
Prediction: The Lakers have what it takes to stay in division one and that is exactly what they will achieve come the end of the season.