Shoalhaven Football, Illaroo v Culburra, Ison Park - Saturday, 3pm
ILLAROO has the chance to take their place in the Shoalhaven District Football Association’s first grade grand final for the first time since 2008 if they defeat Culburra in this weekend’s preliminary final.
Or will Culburra be playing in their second decider in a row and have the chance to extend their record of nine premierships?
The answer to which team will play Shoalhaven United in this year’s grand final will be known by 5pm tomorrow.
The sides will be coming into the match with differing degrees of confidence. Culburra suffered a demoralising defeat at the hands of Shoalhaven United in the major semi-final after they looked winners on two occasions, only to eventually lose in a penalty shoot-out.
Culburra coach Steve Melocco will be emphasising to his charges that they had played well and were within seconds of winning in normal time against United.
Illaroo showed what they are capable of when they defeated Sussex 4-1 in the minor semi-final.
While the score was level at half-time, Illaroo dominated the second half to win the match quite easily in the end.
Aaron Crittenden was the star after scoring a hat-trick and there is no doubt the Illaroo side will go into this game full of confidence.
The sides have met on two previous occasions this year and there was little between them as both games ended in draws.
The first round was nil-all, while the second was 1-all.
The Culburra side should be similar to last week depending on the injury to Lindsay Higgins and Corey Ryan’s availability.
Scott Merrivale will once again be in goals and will be hoping he won’t have as much of a work load as he got last week.
The backline will include Jayden Witt, Aaron Mason and possibly Kasey Kulcsar. They will have the task of marking the Illaroo strike force of Andrew Timbs and Aaron Crittenden.
The midfield battle will be of great interest with Culburra’s to be selected from James Melocco, Dale Blundell, Blair Sutherland, Mark Williams, Kieran Witt and Rob Hill. They will be up against an Illaroo midfield that will include Evan Leedham, Brett Martin, Trent Bray and Daniel Leedham.
Culburra will have Steve Gray up front and it is likely super star striker Corey Ryan will return to the starting line-up in this sudden death match. They will need to get past the Illaroo defence of Sam Leedham, Joe Hockey, John Muggleton and Joey Leedham.
While Paul Maiolo was great in goals in the semi-final, if Adam Arnotts is available, it is likely he will take his place.
These sides are evenly matched, but how each of them handle last week’s results will determine this week’s winner and it may come down to who wants it more on the day.
Will Culburra be able to recover from the fact that victory was snatched away from them in the last seconds on two occasions, or will it be playing in the back of their minds?
Will Illaroo continue on from last week’s great form or will they be too confident?
Both sides have several players with a lot of finals experience and it will be up to these guys to guide their teams home.
Culburra will be desperate to get another crack at United and this could be enough to get them home in a tight one.