Top five Carlton League places up for grabs

Thirroul’s Warwick Carter takes on the Collies defence last weekend. Picture: KEN ROBERTSONIt’s decision day for several teams vying for a place today in the 2009 Illawarra Carlton League finals series.About 4.45pm, at the completion of two crucial games in the last round of the regular season, observers may know who is in the top five, but not necessarily the order.Or it may go to points for and against to decide fifth place. It’s been that kind of season. Minor premiers Wests, Corrimal, Shellharbour and reigning premiers Thirroul are already there.Who fills fifth spot depends on the outcome of two vital matches – Thirroul vs Dapto at Gibson Park and Helensburgh vs Collegians at Rex Jackson Park, both kicking off at 3pm.Dapto and Helensburgh are on 14 points and Collies one behind them.As Collies coach Gavin Clinch said: “We have to beat Helensburgh and rely on Thirroul to beat Dapto, but we can’t worry about that. We just have to worry about us. Hopefully we win and go from there.”The Dogs will have fullback Kurt Fittler and prop Michael Blackwell back for the game, while lock Ben Cole remains a 50-50 chance of playing.Helensburgh are always hard to beat at home and this year, with a finals position up for grabs, the Tigers will be extremely difficult at Rex Jackson Park.This year, under the inspirational coaching of captain Stuart Webb, Helensburgh are in equal fifth place going into the last round of the regular season and on the brink of making the finals.Dapto also are walking a finals tightrope.Put simply, the Canaries have to win today, otherwise the winner of Helensburgh and Collies will grab the vacant spot.Dapto five-eighth Jason Kent and prop Chris Liekvoll were in doubt but have been named to play, as has Thirroul’s 2008 premiership captain and hooker Ben Linde.”We only know one scenario and that is that we have to win then worry about everything after that,” Dapto coach Dean Callaway said.”It’s always a tough task out there (at Thirroul) and even more so at this time of the year.”The Butchers are getting back to their best and it’s a big ask but I know that we’ll be up for the challenge. We’ve been in a sudden-death situation for some weeks now.”Shellharbour will host minor premiers Wests at 2pm at Ron Costello Stadium tomorrow.
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