NORTH BALLARAT CITY V DARLEY
at City Oval,
North Ballarat City (2nd): 11 wins, 5 losses
Darley (4th): 11 wins, 5 losses
LAST MET: round 17 - City 14.10 (94) d Darley 8.15 (63)
North Ballarat City has pulled the trigger on defender Ryan Luke’s return – selecting him to face Darley in the Ballarat Football League first semi-final at the City Oval on Sunday.
City named Luke ahead of its qualifying final clash with East Point, but he was probably never going to play with a double chance up its sleeve.
With no more second chances, there is no point holding back given he is fit and ready to go again.
Luke has not played since fracturing his jaw against Darley in round 10 on June 30.
He is a huge inclusion as one of the competition’s best defenders and for the versatility and football-smarts he provides North Ballarat.
Luke is likely to get the job on Darley coach Heath Scotland if the Devils’ leader again lines up as a deep forward.
While North Ballarat will still be rueing its late capitulation against East Point, when it gave up a 42-point lead to lose by one point, there were still plenty of positives in that game.
City took the Roos apart, with ability to shut down a dangerous combination.
It will need to take the same approach again, with the impetus provided by Daniel Jones, Simon McCartin and Tom Speirs instrumental and a lot of room for improvement from dangerous tall forwards Will Young and Sam Dunstan.
Darley’s pace via the likes of Luke Delahey took Bacchus Marsh down, but North is much better equipped to combat that as well a closing down the space that Steve Kennedy and Brian Graham repeatedly find.
Last time these outfits met in round 17, North Ballarat City saluted by 31 points.
City coach Shane Skontra said while North had naturally learnt plenty about Devils, each side had made several changes since would create nnew scenarios.
He said the competition had been tight from the outset, and he did not seen any reason for this to change now.
An unchanged Darley stacks up much bigger with the return of ruckmen Dylan Reid and Abe Kur since that latest clash, although Jake Edwards is missing.
Reid played his first senior game since an extended overseas against Bacchus Marsh. He was eased back, but can be expected to make a much bigger impact this time.
For North Ballarat, Marcus Darmody and Will Young have been equally important inclusions over the past few weeks, with Darmody sure to be better for his run in the opening week of finals.
PREDICTION: North Ballarat City