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MFNL finals race: The run home

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Top effort: Moama’s James Whitehead kicks the ball inside 50. Photo: Steve Huntley

Heading into the final stretch of the season after the league-wide bye, the race for the finals in the Murray league is bound to be full of action and suspense.

On both the netball court and football field, the race for finals spots, and the battles within the top six itself, are raging.

In the netball, it looks like a two-horse race to see who will finish the season as minor premier.

The Deniliquin Rams (12-0) have been the benchmark of the competition this season, but Rumbalara (11-1) is hot on their heels.

Rumba’s lone loss in 2022 came to the Rams — a 43-33 defeat in round four — but it will have a chance at redemption when they face off again in round 15.

If Rumba was to lose to Deni for a second time, it would see it fall back towards the chasing pack and its top-two spot could come under threat.

Nathalia (9-2-1) and Tongala (9-2-1) sit just behind it, with Rumba to face both the Purples and the Blues again this season.

A top-two spot would be huge, with those two teams earning both a bye and a second chance in the finals.

Tongala and Nathalia have been evenly matched this season. Not only do the two sides hold identical records, but they also played out a 36-36 draw in round 10.

Moama (8-4) pushed the Rams to the limit last round, falling to the league leaders by just one point in a thrilling game. The loss means the Magpies’ hopes of catching the top two are all but gone, but they still sit comfortably inside the top six.

Mulwala currently sits in the sixth and last finals position, but it will face a tough test if it wants to hang on to it.

The Lions hold a two-game advantage over Finley and Congupna, but will face fellow top-six sides Moama and Nathalia before ending the season with clashes against the Cats and the Road.

Focused: Tongala's Paige Wade has her eyes on the ball. The Blues sit third on the ladder, with their eyes on a top-two finish. Photo: Steve Huntley

On the football field, Cobram has shown itself to be the flag favourite with a dominant unbeaten season so far.

The Tigers have vanquished all that have come before them in 2022, with an average winning margin of 102 points this season.

Their nearest competitors have been Mulwala (10-2), with the Lions going undefeated through the first 10 weeks of the season.

But since then, back-to-back defeats mean the Lions’ top-two status is under threat.

Moama and Tongala (both 9-3) sit right behind them, with Mulwala and the Magpies to face off this weekend.

The Deni Rams (8-4) sit comfortably in fifth spot — two games safe inside the top six and two games behind Mulwala.

Just behind them, though, the battle for sixth spot is well and truly on.

Congupna (7-5) currently holds the last finals spot, but a revitalised Nathalia (6-6) is storming home behind it.

The Purples started the season 0-4 but have been red-hot of late with five wins on the trot — including a big win over Tongala and a crucial come-from-behind triumph against Congupna last round.

If the five-time reigning premiers are to reach the finals, they undoubtedly will have earned it, with games still to come against Cobram (first), Mulwala (second) and Moama (third).

Numurkah (5-7) sits in eighth spot and still has a chance of making the top six, albeit a very slim one.

The Blues are two games behind Congupna but face a tough run home, with games against Nathalia and top-six sides Deni, Moama and Cobram still to come.

Top Tigers: Cobram's Tim Garlick in action against Finley. The Tigers are undefeated this season and are in first place on the ladder. Photo: Leonie Bourke