Box Hill's AFL affiliate Hawthorn won an AFL Victoria ruling this week to allow young midfielder Taylor Duryea play in the VFL final despite being ineligible.
Duryea had not played enough VFL games this season to qualify (seven is needed) and this ruling would normally only be dismissed if Hawthorn's AFL team was playing this weekend.
Hawthorn fought hard for Duryea to play to gain extra match fitness in case he is needed for a call-up for next Friday night's preliminary final. The 22-year-old has played 18 AFL matches this season.
AFL Victoria, however, negotiated with Box Hill's preliminary final opponent, Werribee, which agreed Duryea could play on the proviso that Matt Spangher and Jed Anderson, both of whom played AFL finals last week and do qualify for VFL finals, didn't play.
Box Hill will have 16 Hawthorn-listed players compared to five North Melbourne-listed player for Werribee.
Werribee, however, is hoping that its preliminary final curse has worn off when it confronts the Hawks at North Port Oval on Sunday.
Instead of looking back on the painful defeats – including last year's five-point loss to eventual premier Geelong – Tigers coach Scott West said the current crop is intent on creating its own history and making it through to their first grand final since 2005.
It is the Tigers' third consecutive preliminary final appearance and fourth in five years.
West, who played in three AFL preliminary final defeats as a Western Bulldogs player, is hopeful of turning around the Tigers' fortunes. “It'd mean everything to them (the club) and it means everything to me . . . we can't look ahead to that, I don't think. We have to make sure we prepare our best to play Box Hill,” West said.
It may also be the last crack at a flag for Robbie Castello. The Werribee skipper, who has been through the clubs' rollercoaster ride, is weighing up whether he will retire at the end of the season.
Geelong forward Shane Kersten, who was hailed as a potential replacement for Tom Hawkins by Cats coach Chris Scott this week, will again join forces with Josh Walker and Ryan Bathie up forward against Williamstown in the other preliminary final on Saturday.
Kersten, yet to make his AFL debut, topped the Cats' VFL goalkicking with 36 goals this season; most of those coming in the past six weeks.
Meanwhile, potential No. 1 draft prospect Tom Boyd is set to return from an ankle injury for the Eastern Ranges against Geelong Falcons in a TAC Cup preliminary final at Visy Park on Saturday.
VFL FINALS WEEK 3 (with tips in bold)
1st preliminary final: Geelong v Williamstown,
North Port Oval, 2.10pm
2nd preliminary final: Box Hill Hawks v Werribee Tigers,
North Port Oval, 2.10pm