Lions spearhead James Adamson will make a timely return as the premiers take on South Coast flag rivals Figtree in the final round on Saturday.
Adamson kicked 39 goals in five games this season, including hauls of 14 against Northern Districts and 11 against Nowra-Albatross, before injury and then an overseas trip pushed him out of the lineup.
But such was Adamson’s influence replacing premiership hero Alex Cotter at full forward, he’s still second in the league goalkickers list, even if he’s 20 behind Kiama rival Troy Cole.
Jake Hogarth will also come into the team, following a shock 23-point loss to cross-town rivals Wollongong Bulldogs.
“We can go back to the plans we were working on earlier in the season,” Lions coach Ray Burgess said.
“We’ve had to adapt without James, as any team does with key injuries.
“And Ramez (Dagner) kicked six for us last week, but having James and Jake in provides a boost to our structure up forward. It’s a big few weeks, but we’ve got one more game and then it all starts again for the finals.”
The Lions will finish second and meet Kiama in the major semi-final next week regardless of Saturday’s result against Figtree, with the Roos tackling Wollongong Bulldogs in the minor semi-final.
The showdown will come as veteran ruckman and defender Peter Veerhuis plays his 300th game for the Lions in division two on Saturday, just the fourth to make the milestone for the club.
Veerhuis played in the 2004 AFL Sydney premiership-winning team and has also won a flag with Campbelltown and a South Coast reserve grade title with Figtree. Son Kyle was part of the Sydney Swans NEAFL team which overpowered GWS Giants at North Dalton Park earlier this year.
“I’ve been lucky, I just enjoy playing footy and hopefully I’ve got another year or two left,” Veerhuis said, with 400 overall career games in sight.
Meanwhile, the AFL South Coast Women’s finals begin on Saturday and the Wollongong Saints push for a Sydney division one grand final spot.
AFL SOUTH COAST
Round 19 (final round)
Men: KIAMA v WOLLONGONG BULLDOGS at Bonaira Oval, NORTHERN DISTRICTS v SHELLHARBOUR at Hollymount Park (2pm); WOLLONGONG LIONS v FIGTREE at North Dalton Park (3.30pm)
Ladder: KIAMA 16-1 (339.35%), WOLLONGONG LIONS 14-3 (246.57), WOLLONGONG BULLDOGS 11-6 (176.40), FIGTREE 10-7 (142.78), Shellharbour 5-12 (84.12), Northern Districts 3-14 (44.68).
Team of the year (shortlist of 35 players, final AFL South Coast 22 names at presentation night on September 9): Courtney Ward, Jack Boxsell, Jordan Matthews (Bomaderry); Cameron Daly, Dan Daly, Daniel Perger, Nicholas Stacey (Figtree); Alex Perger, Benjamin Hoctor, Ben Rawson, Ben Williams, Callum O’Toole, Jack Mahony, Josh Walton, Lachlan Kirk, Nick Baggio, Ricky Neels, Troy Cole (Kiama); Lachlan Dent, Thomas Strong (Northern Districts); Carter Lovell, Jarod Falconer, Mitchell Bates (Shellharbour); Adam Weston, Cameron Bailey, Keegan Jenkins, Matthew Westaway, Samuel Schiller (Bulldogs); David Goodley, Jack Burgess, Jack Nugent, Jake Hogarth, Joshua Tier, Lachlan Maples, Rohan Watson (Lions). Ray Burgess, Rod Richards, Will Ryan (coach nominees).
Women: (Elimination final) WOLLONGONG SAINTS v WOLLONGONG BULLDOGS at North Dalton Park (10.30am), (Qualifying final) KIAMA v WOLLONGONG LIONS at North Dalton Park (12.05pm).
Women’s division one: (Preliminary final) WOLLONGONG SAINTS v EAST COAST EAGLES at Kanebridge Oval (10.50am)