By Russell Bennett

The inaugural WGFNC home and away season is set for a stunning crescendo this Saturday with percentage set to decide the make-up of the top five.
While Inverloch-Kongwak, Dalyston, and Cora Lynn are all locked into top-three positions, Kooweerup, Phillip Island, and Kilcunda Bass are in a three-way battle for the fifth and last finals spot.
In two defining clashes on Saturday, the fourth-placed Goon (10 wins, 7 losses) will play host to the sixth-placed Island (9-8) at Spencer Street while the fifth-placed Kooweerup (9-8) hosts Dalyston (13-3). The Goon is currently a game clear in fourth and has a big percentage gap to the Demons and Bulldogs. The Panthers are in seventh with an 8-9 record but they have a potential percentage-boosting clash with the lowly Korumburra-Bena looming.
Top side Inverloch-Kongwak took care of business at home on Saturday with a thumping 57-point win over the Demons – a result that was effectively set up by 11 scoring shots to one in the opening term.
Kooweerup midfield ace Dave Collins made his long-awaited return from injury on Saturday and made it through the game, but the same can’t be said for crucially-important big man Daniel Calteri who succumbed to a calf injury midway through the contest.
The Sea Eagles kicked with the aid of a strong breeze in the first term and made the most of it, leading by 35 points at quarter-time.
The Demons couldn’t return the favour in the second with the home side using its run and creativity to great effect.
The contest was essentially over by half-time, with the Sea Eagles ultimately cruising to a near 10-goal win, 15.18(108) to 7.9(51).
Young jet Travis Bindley showed plenty of run and dare for the Demons, while Ben Miller and Mitch Collins filled in admirably in the ruck for Calteri. Star on-baller Nathan Muratore toiled hard without much reward, and captain-coach Ben Collins proved the only consistent source of goals inside 50 – finishing with four, in addition to a screamer of a grab in the highlight play of the day.
But the Sea Eagles were dominant across the field, led by midfield aces Josh Purcell and Andy Soumilas, alongside forwards Toby Mahoney (four goals) and Tom Bartholomew (three) and ruckman Clinton McCaughan. Santo Joma was another to make a real impact – alternating from key back to a pinch-hitting ruck role.
While Purcell and Soumilas were superb with their ball use, it was their defensive work across the ground – particularly in contested situations – that was just as noticeable, with each of them finishing with a dozen tackles.
“You could tell on Thursday that there was an edge to your training,” Sea Eagles coach Ben Soumilas told his group in the rooms straight after they’d reversed their Round 8 loss to the Demons at Denhams Road.
Saturday’s Sea Eagles lineup was arguably their best for the season.
“That was a real team effort today with a lot of guys playing good footy,” Soumilas said.
“Look at the standard we’ve set over the past few weeks (wins against Kilcunda Bass, Dalyston, Phillip Island, and now Kooweerup).
“But we all know the job isn’t done.
“We want top spot and the week off to prepare.”
That’s the first time this season that Soumilas has been open about the importance of securing top spot.
He told the Gazette in the rooms right after the team song that his side’s intensity against the Demons, right from the outset, was the key on Saturday.
“One of the big differences was that we haven’t been able to get our full side together all year,” he said.
“Today was probably the strongest lineup we’ve had, and that would have surprised them – they wouldn’t have really known what to expect so we thought we had a bit of an element of surprise.
“Our guys went about their jobs … but we wanted the same response whether we kicked a goal or had a goal kicked against us.”
Joma’s performance on Saturday was all the more remarkable given the freakish foot injury he suffered the day before the game.
Elsewhere across Round 17, an in-form Cora Lynn stretched its current winning streak to nine games with a 30-point win over the Panthers at Bass despite missing a group of key players including the likes of Shaun Sparks and Ryan Spierings.
Though the Cobras were held to below their best by the likes of Taylor Gibson (three goals), they still had enough class to bounce back from a three-point three-quarter time deficit to win by five goals, 15.10(100) to 10.10(70). Key forwards Nathan Langley and Ryan Gillis booted four goals apiece, while young Heath Briggs also shone with three of his own.
Nar Nar Goon, meanwhile, booted 10 unanswered first-half goals in its demolition of Korumburra-Bena at Spencer Street, 19.3(117) to 3.8(26). Key forward Matt Stevens was simply brilliant with his seven-goal haul while the likes of Jordan Stewart, tough-as-nails skipper Brent Hughes, young ruckman Eamon Trigg and the silky-skilled Cooper Sheppard and Brendan Hermann also had a huge impact.
In the other two games of the round, Phillip Island survived a real scare at home to defeat Bunyip 14.13(97) to 10.9(69) off the back of another brilliant performance from Brendan Kimber; and Dalyston proved far too strong in the second half for Garfield, winning by 57 points, 17.19(121) to 10.4(64).

WGFNC – Round 17 Seniors
KILCUNDA BASS               2.4      5.7      7.9      10.10 (70)
CORA LYNN                        5.1      7.4      7.6      15.10 (100)
Kilcunda Bass Goals: A. Stock 3, T. Gibson 3, D. Wells, J. Breen, J. Wells, M. Moore. Best: B. Macaffer, B. Law, B. Aldwell, J. Breen, J. Burgess, T. Gibson.
Cora Lynn Goals: N. Langley 4, R. Gillis 4, H. Briggs 3, T. Woodfield, J. Toan, J. Dalton, T. Payne. Best: R. Gillis, A. Green, B. White, H. Briggs, B. Weller, N. Langley.
PHILLIP ISLAND                 2.4      6.7      8.9      14.13 (97)
BUNYIP                               4.3       5.5      9.8      10.9 (69)
Phillip Island Goals: A. Edwards 3, J. Taylor 2, B. Johnston 2, N. Higginson 2, S. Pimm, M. Jones, C. Batt, A. Redmond, B. Kimber. Best: B. Kimber, N. Higginson, J. Taylor, A. Edwards, J. Taylor, B. Johnston.
Bunyip Goals: J. Gibson 2, N. Lieshout 2, D. Wright, J. McLeod, M. Laszczyk, J. Williams, M. Whyte, B. Jostlear. Best: J. Gibson, L. Petch, J. McLeod, Z. Vansittart, B. Walker, N. Lieshout.
DALYSTON                          4.4     8.8     12.10     17.19 (121)
GARFIELD                           1.1     7.1      9.2        10.4 (64)
Dalyston Goals: M. Kraska 4, B. Carew 3, K. Butler 2, K. Kirk 2, M. Marotta, J. Loughridge, D. Belsten, J. Legione, M. Rosendale, A. Bernardo. Best: J. Alexander, S. Coldebella, K. Butler, T. Krause, M. Marotta, K. Kirk.
Garfield Goals: T. McMillan 2, N. Glen 2, T. McDonald, J. Drew, J. Sauze, D. Helmore, D. Johnson, T. Payne. Best: T. Payne, A. MacGibbon, H. Lacunes, D. Helmore, S. Batson, S. Whibley.
INVERLOCH KONGWAK    6.5      9.8      12.14    15.18 (108)
KOOWEERUP                    1.0       2.6       2.7           7.9 (51)
Inverloch Kongwak Goals: T. Mahoney 4, T. Bartholomew 3, W. Hetherington, A. Cross, T. Hams, T. Wyatt, L. Rankin, A. Soumilas, D. Houston, S. Hawking. Best: J. Purcell, R. Sparkes, T. Bartholomew, A. Soumilas, T. Mahoney, C. McCaughan.
Kooweerup Goals: B. Collins 4, N. Voss, D. Calteri, M. Collins. Best: B. Harding, N. Muratore, B. Collins, M. Collins, T. Bindley, B. Miller.
NAR NAR GOON                6.1      10.2     15.3        19.3 (117)
KORUMBURRA-BENA       0.1       0.4       2.6           3.8 (26)
Nar Nar Goon Goals: M. Stevens 7, T. Dovaston 4, K. Fletcher 3, C. Tyler 2, M. Van Roy, C. Sheppard, B. Hermann. Best: J. Stewart, M. Stevens, B. Hughes. E. Trigg, C. Sheppard, B. Hermann.

TEAM                        W   L   D   %         PTS
Inverloch Kongwak  13   3   1   158.24  54
Dalyston                    13   3  1   143.69  54
Cora Lynn                 13   4   0   144.85  52
Nar Nar Goon            10   7   0   116.29  40
Kooweerup                 9   8   0   102.37  36
Phillip Island                 9   8   0   102.35  36
Kilcunda Bass              8   9    0   96.22   32
Garfield                        5   12  0   85.11    20
Bunyip                          3   14  0   55.70   12
Korumburra-Bena        1   16  0    46.42    4

This week: Bunyip v Cora Lynn, Garfield v Inverloch-Kongwak, Kooweerup v Dalyston, Korumburra-Bena v Kilcunda Bass, Nar Nar Goon v Phillip Island.

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