Warilla the Team to Beat Down South
Who can stop Warilla? The mighty Gorillas are in fine form, having won five from five and dropping only 2.5 rinks in the process. A healthy margin of +163 showcases the scoring power that this club has at its disposal. Yet the Gorillas will be wary of two upcoming fixtures against Dapto Citizens (7 April) and Merimbula (11 May). Both teams have enjoyed strong starts to the year, and if either of them can manage a win against the Gorillas, it would undoubtedly go a long way in their pursuit for direct qualification. For whoever finishes 2nd-5th, a round robin play-off will determine the next qualifier, and with a clear top four of Warilla, Dapto, Merimbula and WPWC, the elusive 5th place qualifying spot could go to any of the remaining sides. Towradgi Park are best placed to earn the spot, but with some teams having games in hand their position could easily change.
Terrigal on Top in Tight Start to Season
Another section, another tight ladder! Less than 10 points separates 1st from 5th, and with a Top 2 finish required for qualification in the State Finals there is still so much to play for. The pick of the teams would have to be the Terrigal Dolphins (30 points) who have recorded three convincing wins in their last three rounds. A single shot loss to Ettalong in the opening round may prove critical, but the Dolphins will have their chance to get one back on the Eagles this weekend in what is shaping up to be a crucial game for both teams (6 April). Teams finishing 1st and 2nd in this section play-off for qualification, with the loser getting a second bite of the cherry in a play-off against a side from the Newcastle/Hunter Conference, meaning that teams like Wyong, Avoca and Halekulani all know that their qualification hopes are well and truly alive. Wins against either Terrigal or Ettalong could see any of these teams leapfrog into 1st place, but so too can losses see them bow out of contention. Exciting couple of weeks ahead.
A Tale of Two Sections In Hunter/Newcastle
In the Blue Section, Soldiers Point (38 points) can feel most confident about claiming a top four spot having won four from four. Nelson Bay too remain undefeated in their first three rounds and Raymond Terrace have shown a promising start, having lost only one game to the top of the table Soldiers Point. Three teams all sit on two wins from four and look likely to fight it out for the final spot in the Top 4. Of these teams, Maitland City (18 points) are the only club to have qualified previously for State Finals in recent years so will take confidence from knowing they can perform when it matters. That being said, both Belmont (19.5 points) and Lambton (18 points) will have other ideas as they look to earn a place in the post-sectional play-offs.
In the Red Section, things are even less clear. East Maitland is the only team to maintain an unblemished record (4 from 4) and rightfully sits atop the ladder. Beneath them, chaos reigns supreme with Valentine, Charlestown, Warners Bay, Windale and Kurri all in contention. Going off previous years’ results, Kurri would be the logical choice to best challenge East Maitland for top spot, the Cannons having a wealth of experience playing in big games. The section though is wide open for the taking and any of the mentioned sides could place in the Top 4.
Ballina on Top, But Far From Safe
Here we go again. Arguably the closest of all the state sections is the Far North Coast, where all five teams are separated by 10.5 points. Note that only 2-3 games have been played by all teams, but with only 5-6 rounds left to play, chances can slip overnight. Ballina are the team to beat having won both of their first two encounters, but the slim margins of victory suggest that no game is a certainty. The 2nd place Play-Off Qualifying spot is currently held by Ocean Shores who are a mere 0.5 points ahead of Casino RSM and Kingscliff, but both of these teams have a game in hand on Ocean Shores. Even last placed Pottsville can consider themselves a chance to qualify, although to do so they will have to halt a recent run of heavy losses. Next rounds results could provide an insight into who are the real contenders for this section.
Washout to Prove Vital to Northern Conference
A washout between top of the table teams South West Rocks (19 points) and Park Beach (17 points) has prevented what would have been a game to determine who was the early frontrunner for this section. As it stands, Park Beach trail South West Rocks by 2 points, but with a game in hand will be confident of taking top spot. The two Port Macquarie teams are both still in the hunt as they chase qualification, but will need to string a couple of wins together if they are to feature end of season. All to play for in the coming rounds.
Upsets Headline Start to Metro Comp
As pennant season approaches the halfway mark, the race for qualification into the State Finals has become a little clearer. In the Metropolitan Conference, a string of upsets across the first five rounds has resulted in a tight ladder in which less than 10 points separates 5th from 10th. The Mt Lewis Lions (38.5 points) sit atop the ladder having won four of their first five encounters, with Cabramatta (37 points) close behind having won four from four. Level on points with Cabra, and arguably the surprise package of this year’s pennant season so far, are the Belrose Bulls who have claimed 3rd spot with hard fought wins over Engadine (9-1) and St John’s Park (8.5-1.5). Wentworthville, Engadine and Taren Point round out the Top 6 all having won three games.
Finding themselves in unfamiliar territory are powerhouse clubs Merrylands (20 points) and St John’s Park (22 points), who each sit just outside the Top 6. Neither club will be content with their position on the ladder, but with six rounds still left to play the Magic and the Saints will believe they have ample time to work their way into qualification. The same can be said for Northmead and Harbord who are both still in contention for qualification. With so few points separating so many teams, this section is set for a frantic finish.
Conference Qualifying Scenarios
Metro – Top 6 sides on the ladder progress to State Finals
Southern – 1st place directly qualifies for State Finals. 2nd-5th place enter a round robin play-off with the winner taking the second State Finals spot.
Newcastle/Hunter – Top 4 sides in each section play-off. 1st place in each section will directly qualify for State Finals. 2nd place in each section play-off for a third State Finals Spot. The loser of this game must play a qualifier against a Central Coast team for a State Finals spot.
Central Coast – Top 2 sides play off in a final. The winner directly qualifies, the loser must play a qualifier against a Newcastle/Hunter team for a State Finals Spot.
Northern – 1st place side on the ladder qualifies for State Finals, 2nd place must play off against 2nd place in Far North Coast Conference for State Finals spot.
Far North Coast – 1st place side on the ladder qualifies for State Finals, 2nd place must play off against 2nd place in Northern Conference for State Finals spot.
Article by our guest correspondent, current Keno NSW Blues player Billy Johnson