A week to lick their wounds

THE Mallee Eagles and Woorinen have both had a week to lick their wounds after Round 18 losses as they prepare for the 2015 qualifying final.

The Eagles lost just their second game at home, to Swan Hill, while the Tigers went down to a fiercely determined Tooleybuc Manangatang.

The Saints' reward was a finals berth, while the Swans went home empty-handed despite their victory.

Woorinen's loss was its first since the fire that destroyed its clubrooms on July 30.

The Tigers were inspirational just a day and a half later when they knocked off the Blues on their home deck at Kerang.

They then went on to record wins against Lake Boga, Tyntynder and Koondrook Barham in difficult circumstances.

Their four wins took their season record to 11-5 after an inconsistent first half of the year.

Exciting goal kicking prospect Doug Palmer has been a beacon up forward with 50 goals from 16 appearances, while young gun Jye Barry has also played every game and been among the best on numerous occasions.

Their recent form has been much improved after a stagnant few weeks midseason, with a troubling 53-point loss to Lalbert back in Round 8 following a gone-missing second half against the Saints in Round 7.

But in adversity they've shone, these Tigers, and they're already a confirmed starter on semi-final weekend as a result.

A win tomorrow would give them a free hit at their 2012 grand final conqueror — with a spot in this year's decider up for grabs.

A loss would mean a knockout bout with an opponent that might be halfway to the canvas, with form and fitness question marks relevant for both Koondrook Barham and Tooleybuc Manangatang.

The Eagles, on the other hand, will be keen to bounce back after enduring just their second loss at home for the season last weekend.

Mid-year the Mallee Eagles struggled with windy and wet conditions and dropped their only loss at Lalbert to that point against Koondrook Barham.

On Saturday they were missing a few with ruckman Warren Carlyle and co-coach Bo Alexander not lining up against the Swans.

They answered the critics pretty well early in the season, racing out to a 6-1 record after seven games.

In their nine appearances since, though, they have recorded five wins as the long season has started to take its toll.

They're a side that has always felt a greater threat at home, particularly if Carlyle is playing and in-form with Eagles' mids like Alexander and Marty Kelly.

Tyson Mihocek coming off half back and Caine Hillier prowling the forward 50m have also been damaging players at times.

At their very best the Eagles have a mix that feels almost as potent as any in the competition.

They will need to bounce back from last week's loss quickly.

If Carlyle and the Eagles mids can get on top at Nyah, giving their forwards every opportunity, it could be decisive.

An Eagles win would give them a shot at the title holders in week two, and it might just be a prelude to the most important game of all.