PFNL Finals: Baldivis v Mandurah | preliminary final preview

A spot in the grand final will be up for grabs when Mandurah and Baldivis go head-to-head in the preliminary round this Saturday.

The Mustangs are hot to trot having just dethroned the reigning champions Pinjarra, while the Brumbies will be looking to bounce back after going down to Rockingham in last week's semis.

Baldivis will be hoping to regain the league's top scoring duo in Ben Higgs and Blaine Johnson, after both missed the match against the Rams, while Mandurah appears just about at full strength as they look to cause yet another upset.

So who is primed to move on and face the Rams in the big dance? We take a look at some of the story lines below.

The track record

  • Round 4: Mandurah 15.9 (99) def. Baldivis 13.15 (93) - Baldivis Oval
  • Round 13: Baldivis 16.9 (105) def. Mandurah 12.7 (79) - Rushton Park
  • Round 16: Baldivis 14.12 (96) def. Mandurah 8.9 (57) - Rushton Park

Baldivis has the wood over Mandurah having won their past two meetings, but the Mustangs can take confidence knowing they got the job done earlier in the year.

Putting a winning score on the board has been the Mustangs' biggest hurdle in their past two clashes with the Brumbies, but given their form they'll be feeling upbeat about their chances of snagging enough goals.

For the Brumbies, they'll be hoping their top-three defence can keep the trend going.

Who is in form?

James Russell

The young tough midfielder was sensational against the Rams last week, finding a tonne of footy and also slotting a goal along the way.

His attack never eased up as he continued to battle hard for the Brumbies despite the team taking the loss, and you can expect Mandurah to have a plan in place should Russell's hot form seep through to the preliminary.

Next to Emmanuel Collard, Brendan Tingey and Aden Field, Russell helps top up a midfield that has enormous potential in any given game.

James Russell's contribution was enormous for the Brumbies last week. Photo: Justin Rake.

James Russell's contribution was enormous for the Brumbies last week. Photo: Justin Rake.

Daniel Cransberg

The defender received his share of plaudits from coach George Costello after doing a magnificent job on Pinjarra forward Nic Merritt, which followed on from an outstanding showing against Centrals the week prior.

Cransberg's form has been a big part of Mandurah's recent run of wins, and his ability to not only lock down in defence but move the ball smoothly when on the attack is a big asset for the Mustangs.

His value to the team will only increase should Higgs and Johnson both play this weekend.

Daniel Cransberg has been huge for Mandurah in the finals series. Photo: Justin Rake.

Daniel Cransberg has been huge for Mandurah in the finals series. Photo: Justin Rake.

Key match-up

The ruck battle

The clash of big men looming between Mandurah's Hamish Free and Baldivis' Josh Branchi shapes as a hell of a spectacle.

Both have had outstanding years, and both were among the votes on Ross Elliott Medal night.

Each has the ability to give their midfielders first use, but the more interesting part of the match-up will be what happens around the ground.

Can Branchi take control of the aerial contests? Can Free give Mandurah an edge? It's going to be worth the watch.

The fixture

Falcon Oval, Sunday, 2.30pm