By STEVE MENZIES
The contest for places in the top four are on in earnest with three games remaining in the KFC Alice Springs Netball Association.
There are only nine teams in the seniors, plus the eight teams in the 17-and-under divisions, guaranteed (on paper) to play in September.
A couple of other teams are probables but they cannot afford to lose their remaining three games if they are to retain their positions.
No team can be guaranteed its current position although three – Rovers Complete Construction A-Reserve Rovers Complete Construction B2 and Giants Bark”n”Bath 17-and-under – only have to win one of their remaining three games to be minor premiers.
Another team, Neata Glass Giants reserves, is guaranteed the double chance in the finals but has to win its three remaining games and hope Rovers lose its three to have a shot at top spot.
The Club Eastside A-Reserves is an interesting competition with two Wests teams and two Federal teams involved in a battle for the final two places in the top four.
Currently Wests Gillen is third on eight points and Wests Epilogue fourth on seven points. They are being chased by Federal Office National Angels on six points and Federal Club Eastside on five.
Throwing an extra interesting dimension to this grade is the two KFC A-Grade teams playing the reserves teams.
This week it is the Rovers Complete Construction A-Grade team against its A-Reserve team and Federal Club Eastside playing its A-Reserves team.
The latter of these games gives the Wests teams the chance to consolidate their finals credentials with wins.
But it will not be easy as Epilogue is pitted against second-placed Giants and Gillen plays Angels, which could be back in the top four if it can win.
Seasons CADS can move level on points with top Yeperenye B-Grade side Federal MPH, which has a bye, if it can defeat fourth-placed Rovers TDC, which needs a win to consolidate its place for the finals. This will be the match of the day.
The second Seasons team, Seasons Complete Fencing & Steel Deals, is one win behind CADS and will keep its challenge for the double chance alive if it defeats sixth-placed Sundowners Alice Springs Hospitality Supplies.
Fifth-placed Wests Jaws Contracting must defeat the eighth-placed The Alice Springs Brewing Company Giants, and Rovers lose, if it is to keep its hopes of a place in the finals.
Although the other B-grade game, between Wests LinkUp and Stratco Federal Queens, has no bearing on the finals there is interest in a game between two sides that have struggled through the season.
The B2-Grade is a four-way race for positions two to four with Neata Glass Giants an outside chance if results go its way. Top side Rovers Complete Construction cannot be caught after gaining two points from Seasons R&R Tax & Bookkeeping not being able to field a team.
The best game in this grade will be between Federal AKC (third) and Wests Ward Keller (second) with Federal needing to win to have any chance of grabbing second spot.
There is a must-win game for both Neata Glass Giants and Wests Loco Buritto if they are to continue challenging for fourth position.
It is also a must-win game for fourth-placed Rovers Spitzers against bottom side Federal Scorchers.
The Trophy Central C-Grade has two teams, Federal Swifts and Wests Jaws Contracting, level on points and battling for fourth positions.
This is not likely to change on Saturday as Federal plays third-placed Giants Dreamers and Wests faces second-place Federal P&V Flames.
A win to Federal will see it level on points with top-side Rovers BnTz, which has the bye.allowing P&V Flames to move level on points if it defeats fifth-placed Wests Jaws Contracting.
The bottom two teams, Neata Glass Giants and Sundowners Gap View Hotel, play in a game that will give the winner brief bragging rights.
The 17-and-under grade is different with both divisions only having four teams each, so they will all play in the finals.
Top Division I side, Giants Bark’n’Bath plays third-placed Seasons ASYASS which needs to win to maintain its challenge for a top two finish to the minor round.
Current second-placed side Federal Red went a long way to securing its position with a win against Giants and a repeat of that form should see it come out on top of Wests LinkUp.
The two Rovers teams, Ravens and Raptors, are dominating Division 2 and they play each other on Saturday.
Neata Glass Giants and Sundowners Elders Insurance will play each other in a game which will decide third and fourth positions going into the finals.
Netball begins with 8-and-under and 10-and-under teams at 9am followed by the 11-and-under at 10am, the 13-and-under grade at 11am and the 15-and-under at noon with the senior grades beginning at 1.30pm.