Blowes Clothing Cup: Every side's road to the 2019 finals series

FRONT-RUNNERS: In theory Scott Johnston and his Bathurst Bulldogs should go on to claim the minor premiership, and major semi-final hosting rights. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
FRONT-RUNNERS: In theory Scott Johnston and his Bathurst Bulldogs should go on to claim the minor premiership, and major semi-final hosting rights. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

We've entered the final month of the 2019 Blowes Clothing Cup and while a couple of finals spots are already sewn up, the last three weeks of the season poses a number of interesting prospects for all the competition's sides.

Who will win the minor premiership?

Who will finish third and fourth?

Time will tell, but for the meantime here's a quick glance at who each side plays in the final three rounds and what they'll need to do to earn the finish they want, and need in some cases.

BATHURST BULLDOGS (first; 56 pts) - Forbes Platypi (A), Orange Emus (H), Cowra Eagles (A)

Thanks to a rampant season so far they're locked into a top two spot and considering they're six points clear of second-placed Orange Emus most would be predicting the Dean Oxley-coached side to go on and claim the minor premiership, and with it major semi-final hosting rights.

Of course, the biggest obstacle is Emus in round 14.

That penultimate round blockbuster looks like it will decide which finishes as regular season top dogs, although bonus points in the other two games could well play a decisive role too.

On form, the 2019 season so far and the fact Bulldogs haven't lost a game at home in the last couple of years, the fact that round 14 clash is at Anne Ashwood Park is tough to ignore, and it's tough not to move with the masses and assume they'll claim this year's first piece of silverware.

They'll be desperate too, because like you're about to read with Emus, playing at home's key to their success.

PREDICTED FINISH: Minor premiers

ORANGE EMUS (second; 50 pts) - Cowra Eagles (H), Bathurst Bulldogs (A), Orange City Lions (H)

Mathematically Emus can drop out of the top two if disaster strikes, but they will secure the one point necessary to cement that spot in the next three weeks, lock that in.

But where they finish in the top two, whether it be first or second, might just play a far bigger role in this year's title race than some might think.

HOME COMFORTS: Jamil Khalfan's Orange Emus will be desperate to finish first, not so much for the minor title, more for the finals hosting rights that come with it. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

HOME COMFORTS: Jamil Khalfan's Orange Emus will be desperate to finish first, not so much for the minor title, more for the finals hosting rights that come with it. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

With a top two spot comes a second chance come finals time but in this year's title race hosting rights for the major semi-final and grand final could, and probably will, be decisive.

Bulldogs' Endeavour Oval hoodoo is no secret but Emus haven't beaten the Bathurst side at Ashwood Park in a couple of years either, the two sides' strength at home has been a focal point of recent years.

While Cowra and Orange City will pose threats to Emus in the final three weeks it's round 14 at Bathurst that looks like it might make or break the greens' campaign.

A major semi-final at Endeavour Oval will more than likely lead to another grand at the Emus' nest.

Likewise, a major semi-final at Anne Ashwood Park will likely lead to the decider being there too.

PREDICTED FINISH: Second

COWRA EAGLES (third; 35 pts) - Orange Emus (A), Dubbo Kangaroos (A), Bathurst Bulldogs (H)

Cowra have, largely, been very good in 2019 but they've got the toughest run home of any side, particularly with two of those games being on the road.

They won't sneak into the top two but their 11 point buffer to fourth is a big one, and they'd need only win one of their last three games to cement third spot and claim minor semi-final hosting rights.

Will they do that though?

WINGING IT: Garrizo Gonzalo and his Cowra Eagles should finish third, but there is the real danger they drop their last three games. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

WINGING IT: Garrizo Gonzalo and his Cowra Eagles should finish third, but there is the real danger they drop their last three games. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

While they've proven they can beat Emus this year they did that at Cowra, not Endeavour Oval, and it would be difficult to not carry scars from last year's preliminary final loss to Bulldogs at Ashwood Park as well.

Their trip to Dubbo in round 14 is the one, and the fact that's on the road doesn't help the Eagles. There's a real chance they drop all three games and slip to fourth.

PREDICTED FINISH: Fourth

DUBBO KANGAROOS (fourth; 24 pts) - Orange City Lions (H), Cowra Eagles (H), Forbes Platypi (A)

This year's ultimate enigma.

At times Roos have been absolutely outstanding but they've been equally as ordinary in patches too, they were both against Emus last weekend.

They look to have found the right combination in Hamish Gordon at halfback, Luke Ryan outside him at five-eighth and Anthony Golding at fullback and in the final 15 minutes against Emus they did what they need to over the last three weeks - they threw the ball around.

BALL PLEASE: Tim Beach is the most dangerous winger in the competition, and Dubbo Roos need to let it sing in the last few weeks to give him a chance to shine. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

BALL PLEASE: Tim Beach is the most dangerous winger in the competition, and Dubbo Roos need to let it sing in the last few weeks to give him a chance to shine. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

They have the benefit of what you'd call the easiest run home of the three sides chasing the last two finals spots too.

They'll be banking on both Emus and Bulldogs beating Cowra and Roos should, in theory, knock off Orange City and Forbes, making their round 14 showdown with the Eagles the decisive one.

With the positive signs they've shown, they could just sneak up to third.

PREDICTED FINISH: Third

FORBES PLATYPI (fifth; 21 pts) - Bathurst Bulldogs (H), Orange City Lions (A), Dubbo Kangaroos (H)

Like any other season, facing Forbes in the finals would make any coach nervous, but the Platypi look like they've got a touch too much work to do to get there this year.

In short they need to win the rest of their games and last weekend's upset win over Cowra was an excellent start.

TOUGH ASK: There might be just a touch too much work left to do for Jock Grant and his Forbes Platypi. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

TOUGH ASK: There might be just a touch too much work left to do for Jock Grant and his Forbes Platypi. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

They should beat Orange City even though it's at Pride Park and they'll obviously be a chance in what could be an even-money game against Dubbo Roos, tough to see them beating Bathurst Bulldogs though.

If they can manage that I'd suggest they'll kick-start a winning run that will end up with a finals berth.

At this stage it's a little more they won't though, and if they don't their race will be run.

PREDICTED FINISH: Fifth

ORANGE CITY LIONS (sixth; 7 pts) - Dubbo Kangaroos (A), Forbes Platypi (H), Orange Emus (A)

The Lions can't make the finals, in fact it'd take a miracle for them to even move off the bottom of the table, so the only real hypothetical we can deal in here is the developing side potentially causing an upset that could impact the top four.

Although they drew with Emus earlier this year, it appears their best chance to do so is when they welcome Forbes to Pride Park in the penultimate round.

LONG-TERM KEY: Keegan Harding's return to Orange City's ranks was a welcome one this year, and he's a playmaker the Lions can build around. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

LONG-TERM KEY: Keegan Harding's return to Orange City's ranks was a welcome one this year, and he's a playmaker the Lions can build around. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Orange City have improved dramatically in 2019 and it's near certain that will continue as they look to finish the season in a positive fashion, but their focus has to be long-term because a number of their efforts have been encouraging and they've welcome some great recruits they can build around in future years, Lachie Blunt for one.

PREDICTED FINISH: Sixth

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