VALENTINE coach Darren Sills does not hold any great hope of avoiding the wooden spoon, but he would love to at least earn a chance with a win over Adamstown on Saturday.
Phoenix, beaten 4-0 by Charlestown on Sunday, are six points behind Adamstown and Lake Macquarie with two rounds left but can better only Rosebud on goals difference.
Rosebud have the last-round bye, meaning a win for Valentine at Adamstown Oval will give them an opportunity to edge ahead in the final game. The only problem is they face Edgeworth, who could wrap up a fourth consecutive premiership this weekend.
Sills’ more immediate concern, though, was the loss of Scott Carter, Reece Pettit, Zac Sneddon and Aaron Niyonkuru to injury, as well as Wilson Edwards to suspension this week. Matt Paul (concussion) was also in doubt.
As for 2019, Sills said the club was in talks with several players and “I think this time next year we’re going to be a lot better”.
** Lambton Jaffas and Maitland should welcome back key players for their crunch match at Edden Oval on Saturday.
Jobe Wheelhouse was a late withdrawal with his chronic ankle injury before Jaffas’ 1-1 draw with Hamilton on Sunday and Joel Griffiths was away with the Jets in Spain. They should return for the clash with Maitland, who should get Ryan Clarke back from a hamstring injury.
The Jaffas (34 points) are safely into the finals but Maitland (28) are still locked in a battle with Charlestown (28) and Hamilton (27) for a top-four finish.
** Hamilton coach Peter McGuinness was thrilled to see livewire attacking midfielder Jarryd Sutherland score the equaliser against Jaffas on Sunday.
Sutherland won the ball on halfway and did it all himself to score in the 89th minute at Darling Street Oval.
McGuinness believes Sutherland is an exceptional talent, which he showed glimpses of before a knee injury stalled his season.
“It was a good reward for him,” McGuinness said.
“He’s fought back from a medial ligament and got himself going again. It’s his first major injury and he’s had to psychologically deal with that and I thought he had an impact on the game.”
The draw kept Hamilton a point outside the top four with matches against Broadmeadow and Weston remaining.
“I don’t feel it’s going to come down to goals difference, I feel it’s going to come down to points,” McGuinness said.
“And it’s on again next week, it’s another grand final for us. That’s about five in a row now.”