Centrals will head into the finals with a second chance safety net after securing third place with a thrilling win over Rockingham on Saturday evening.
A massive third term saw the Rams come charging back into contention but fourth quarter goals to Grant Dunn and Lee Murray gave the Blues just enough to get the job done 11.6 (72) to 10.8 (68) at Mundijong Oval.
The two sides have grown accustomed to playing out close games with their finals-defining encounter following a three-point affair that netted Centrals a win just four weeks ago, with the Blues taking out another close call this time around.
We know our best is as good as anyone’s in the competition, we just need to make sure we bring that across four quartersRockingham coach Scott Franklin
But it was Rockingham hitting the scoreboard first when Jakob Janzekovic opened the day with the first of his three goals, before Centrals nailed three straight to notch the early lead.
The Blues took a seven-point lead into the first break, but the second term was where they really put their foot down booting four goals to Rockingham’s nil.
Daniel Wilson got the ball rolling with a pair in the quarter, with Collard and Matt Thompson following suit to see the hosts out to a 32-point lead at the long break.
The signs were ominous for a Rams outfit looking bereft of ball movement, but the visitors found their feet coming out of half time and blasted their way back into the contest with a six goal to one quarter.
Both Tyler Sutton and Fraser Millar nailed a pair of majors in the third term while efforts from Tim Taylor helped the Rams level the scores at three quarter time.
But despite their gallant effort clawing their way back, Rockingham were stung when Dunn and Murray conjured goals for Centrals early in the fourth.
Janzekovic scored his third to give the Rams hope but the Blues kept their composure to sure up third spot and set a qualifying final clash with Baldivis.
Rockingham coach Scott Franklin said he was happy with his side’s form ahead of the finals next weekend, but conceded they’ll need their best to top an in-form South Mandurah outfit in their do-or-die showdown.
“We know our best is as good as anyone’s in the competition, we just need to make sure we bring that across four quarters,” he said.
“I thought we used the ball pretty poorly in the first half and if you do that against these good sides like Centrals they’ll burn you, but I was rapt with the way we responded.
“The intensity we brought in the third term, we need that for the whole game if we’re going to keep our season alive against South Mandurah.”
Rockingham will host Souths in their elimination final at Anniversary Park this Sunday, 2.30pm, while Centrals travel to take on the Brumbies at Baldivis Oval at the same time.
C. Collard 3, G. Dunn 2, L. Murray 2, D. Wilson 2, F. de Lacy, M. Thompson
J. Janzekovic 3, T. Sutton 3, F. Millar 2, B. Dalgetty, C. Oliver
T. Gianatti, J. Martinez, L. Murray, B. Faulkner, C. Lee, C. Collard
T. Taylor, K. Havelberg, A. Stokes, C. Oliver, J. Williams, S. Kenny