Stakes raised as Wollongong, Kiama lock horns again

AUSTRALIAN RULES

Premiers Wollongong and arch-rivals Kiama meet for the second time in seven days but the prize is a grand final spot at West Street Oval on Saturday.

Wollongong claimed the minor premiership from the Power with a 34-point win last Saturday, but the stakes are much bigger in the qualifying final.

The Power and Bulldogs have played out the past three grand finals, decided by a combined 15 points.

This season Wollongong have won both home and away games, but Bulldogs coach Lee Murray expects the toughest match of the season with a grand final spot up for grabs.

"While it was nice to win the minor premiership it's not what we play all season to win," Murray said.

"Any win over Kiama you are happy with but they had a few guys playing in different positions and looked to be trying a few things, so there's no doubt they'll be a better side.

"But we can certainly improve in a few areas, so I expect both teams to be stronger."

Murray was rapt with his side's attack on the footy last Saturday and the team which wins the contested ball will go a long way towards claiming a grand final spot.

Kiama and Wollongong have been the benchmark in South Coast AFL for several years and with Northern Districts and Bomaderry also strong, the overall standard of the competition is improving.

The third-placed Norths meet Bomaderry in Saturday's elimination final at Tom Smith Oval.

Norths have beaten Bomaderry twice this season but are wary after being knocked out by the Tigers in last season's elimination final.

Bomaderry have not beaten a top-three club in 2014 but with a rested squad following the bye, coach Sean Byrne believes his side can cause an upset.

The winner backs up against the loser of the Bulldogs versus Power in next Saturday's preliminary final.

Meanwhile, the Illawarra Lions finish their first season back in Sydney AFL First Division with Saturday's away clash with Southern Power.

The Lions beat leaders Balmain and fifth-placed Pennant Hills before being frustrated by a washout against Uni of NSW/Eastern Suburbs last Sunday.

The Lions (6-10) are seventh but are looking for a winning finish against the sixth-placed Power (8-9).

First bounce at Gwawley Oval is at noon.

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