The final round of Men’s Capital League 1 fixtures has plenty of intrigue and drama in the offing for supporters with an absolute array of scenarios still on the cards. The prescient organisers of the draw could not have been more diligent in their selection of these last round games. They clearly enjoy creating tension and there will be plenty of it in Round 21 at the National Hockey Centre in Lyneham as by Saturday evening, any one of three teams will be the 2016 minor-premiers. All games will be played on the Carter Field.

The minor premiership is up for grabs…
At present, Goulburn are on top of the table on 43 points but they have played their last game for the year and so they will have to watch with interest as their rivals Old Canberrans and Central do battle at 5.00pm. If Checks, who are currently on 42 points win this game, they take the minor premiership; if Central win, they will take their tally for the season to 44 points and in so doing, retain the minor-premiership. If the game ends in a draw, we understand that the Hockey ACT Senior Competition Rules state that games won is the first deciding factor for when teams have the same number of points (12.3). As a result, if there is a draw in this game, Goulburn will be minor premiers as they will have won more games than Checks.

…while 4th place beckons for St Pats and West.
If the intrigue in the late afternoon is not enough, the game at 2.00pm between St Pats, currently in 4th position, and Wests who are just two points behind St Pats, is equally fascinating. This encounter too promises no little drama as both teams will no doubt bring plenty of passion and enthusiasm as they vie for a victory which will guarantee a position in the final four. Again three scenarios are evident. St Pats need a win or a draw to qualify for the playoffs; for Wests, the task is manifestly more challenging: they simply must win if they are to participate in the semi-finals next week.

In the early game at 12.30pm, United meets Tuggeranong in a game which has no bearing on the playoffs. United will end their season in 6th position, an outcome which belies the quality of their performances, especially in the latter stages of the season. The Vikings will end their campaign on the bottom of the table. Tuggeranong and United are separated on the table by Albury who do not play this weekend and therefore end their season in 7th position on 22 points.

Round 21 matches
United vs. Tuggeranong, 12.30pm, Carter Field
St Pats vs. Wests 2.00pm, Carter Field
Old Canberrans vs. Central, 5.00pm, Carter Field

United vs. Tuggeranong
The United outfit must be shaking their collective heads and wondering what happened to their season. With only 7 wins and an extraordinary 11 losses (7 by a single goal) for the season, they have left their fine run of form too late to feature in the finals. Indeed the quality of their attack is unquestioned, boasting the second-best strike record in CL1, which seems at odds with their lowly 6th position. Defensive fallibility has undoubtedly led to their undoing despite the quality of their goalkeeper Brendan Hill who has discovered a rich vein of form.

In fact, Tuggeranong too have been leaking goals all season even though they too boast a fantastic keeper in James Lawrence. The Vikings’ woeful defensive record has been exacerbated by their inability to score goals. Bravely, they have brought in younger players into the squad and one hopes that this audacity serves them well next season. Both teams will hope that they can warm up for next season with a win, but their respective records suggest that United will take the spoils in this, their last game of the year.

St Pats vs. Wests
This is a game where the team in the minor placing may well turn the tables on its higher-placed opposition. Both teams undoubtedly play with unbridled passion. At times, this leads to over-zealous tackling and ill-timed, if unpropitious comments on umpiring decisions, inevitably resulting in temporary suspensions – a disadvantage they should endeavour to avoid in this crucial game.

St Pats have won both encounters with Wests this season by a single goal. The last time these teams met, Wests were careless, lost their composure and succumbed to defeat in an extraordinary final few minutes. This is a tendency which has characterised the last quarter of many of their games this season. Since that encounter, Wests have enjoyed 4 wins and a draw while suffering one heavy loss. They are playing with a confidence and fluency which has eluded them for much of the season and if they can bring this to their Round 21 game, they will be hard to beat.

Since the last time they played Wests when they seemed certain of a place in the finals, St Pats have stumbled and have only one win, one draw and two losses to show from their last 4 outings. This does not bode well for them. There is no doubting their strike power, defensive fortitude and hard-working midfield. Their major challenge seems to be to preserve their equanimity under sustained pressure and to get good clean ball quickly from defence to their attack. If they can do this and control the flamboyance of the Wests attack, they may be favoured. If not, Wests certainly have the firepower to prevail.

Old Canberrans vs. Central
This is a wonderful game to end the preliminary round of fixtures for the season. It features two teams which are led by canny, experienced and assiduous coaches who have developed their charges into exciting combinations, based on feisty and aggressive strikers, resilient and determined defenders and reliable goalkeepers. If anything, Central may enjoy a slight advantage in midfield, an area where Checks have struggled to achieve cohesion in recent weeks and which has led in no small measure to their inability to dominate the tempo of their games.

Checks dominated Central the first time the teams met in Round 7 but their Round 15 clash ended in stalemate, presaging something of a turning-point in the destiny of both teams. Since that encounter, Central have won all 5 games, while Old Canberrans have recorded 2 wins, a draw and 2 losses, the most recent loss being last week. Checks will need to improve on that effort if they are to end their season on top of the table. This may be a challenge as Central seem more settled and ready to assume the mantle of minor-premiers for yet another season.

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