Sport

Outside The Box: Finals Forecast

By Alex Mitchell

There is something about finals time that just gets Outside The Box aroused.

While regular season football and netball is great, there reaches a point in July where too many games have little stakes attached to them - fans already know which teams are genuine premiership contenders and want to see them play for all the marbles.

With the Picola District Football Netball League finals startint tomorrow, now is the time to state - on the record - what OTB officially thinks will happen in the post-season.

As is generally the case in opinion pieces, this is just my opinion - let's check back in six weeks time and see how we go.

Football

Goulburn Valley League

A quick go at GVL ladder predictor produced this final six: Kyabram, Echuca and Shepparton firmly as your top three, with Rochester going 2-0 in the next fortnight to pinch fourth, from Seymour and Tatura.

Benalla is the most unlucky to miss, but will need to beat either Shepparton or Rochester to play finals, something the Saints are capable of doing.

Week one finals will have Kyabram easily beat Echuca once more, but the Murray Bombers will remember what happened last year and the fact you only have to beat the Bombers once.

Shepparton versus Tatura in an elimination final is tasty and hard to predict; while both have been majorly inconsistent at times, expect the Bears to prevail in a tight encounter.

Rochester will hit finals having won four straight and I expect the Tigers to carry that momentum straight through Seymour, setting up a hugely anticipated rivalry semi-final clash with Echuca.

That has game of the year potential - as well as major upset potential - but Echuca's year speaks for itself, and the Murray Bombers will prevail in a ripper.

After Kyabram summarily dismisses the Bears to earn a trip to a fifth consecutive grand final, Shepparton will meet Echuca in the preliminary final once more.

It is tough to predict anything other than a Murray Bomber victory; Shepparton might be the reigning champion, but it is tough to find any area of the ground where it can genuinely say it is stronger than Echuca, which has thoroughly earned a chance to play in a grand final.

But - and OTB does not like being a party-pooper, but will never not a be a truth-teller - Kyabram will beat the brakes off Echuca in the grand final, for its most comprehensive premiership win of its dominant era.

Forget the fact Kyabram is averaging 114 points for and 43 points against this season compared with Echuca's 86 points for and 53 points against, Kyabram has won its past 16 games against the Murray Bombers by an average margin of 58 points.

That includes a 5-0 record since Andrew Walker and Simon Maddox took over Echuca at the start of last season by an average winning margin of 56 points.

Murray Football League

Like in the GVL, we are watching one of the region's all-time great teams in Nathalia, and I expect the Purples to raise a history-making fifth consecutive flag.

A game-by-game breakdown seems unnecessary; Nathalia will play Echuca United in the decider, after the Purples win a grand final rematch against Numurkah and the Eagles see off Mulwala in the preliminary finals.

This grand final will be one for the ages, with two dominant teams that clearly do not like each other out for blood - and a premiership flag.

The Purples just have that premiership know-how as well as an insane ability to get it done in close games, having gone 4-0 in games decided by less than 10 points this season compared with United's 1-1.

For OTB - who has been thoroughly proven wrong after doubting the Eagles early in the season - it remains blasphemous to tip against Nathalia, particularly in September.

Kyabram District League

The KDL's top three - Tallygaroopna, Nagambie and Avenel - have separated themselves nicely, and I foresee the Redlegs being the first team to qualify for the grand final, with the Lakers and Swans to battle in a derby prelim final.

Flip a coin in that one, but there is something about Nagambie that catches my eye; while the Lakers lost to Tally in round two, they have come such a long way since that day it is irrelevant.

In a grand final rematch, OTB is tipping Nagambie to gain redemption and learn from last year's mistakes to knock off Tally in one of the games of the year.

Picola District Football League

While OTB sees Rennie and the Deniliquin Rovers winning well this weekend, expect the qualifying final losers - Katamatite and Strathmerton - to knock them out in the semis to set up the final four the Picola universe has been waiting for.

Katamatite and Berrigan is an intriguing game and an all-star ruck battle between John Woodcock and Adam Way will be important along with a midfield war.

But the Tigers are improving every week and they will produce the biggest win of their season to reach the grand final, where they will take on Waaia after the Bombers eek out a 20-point win against Strathmerton in the other prelim.

The Waaia-Katamatite grand final will be amazing, but the Bombers will playing for redemption and have put together an incredible season - expect a single-digit margin however.

Bonus quick-fire netball tips

GVL: Mooroopna d Shepparton United

MNL: Rumbalara d Moama

KDL: Stanhope d Dookie United

PDNL: Katunga d Katamatite