The Black Diamond Cup top-seven has all-but been wrapped up after Saturday’s shortened round with losses to Wyong Lakes and Nelson Bay making it even more difficult for them to reach the 2018 finals.
To have any chance whatsoever the Magpies and Marlins, who both have byes during the last four rounds of the regular season, must now post victories in all three of their remaining fixtures and rely on sixth-placed Killarney Vale and seventh-placed Gosford staying winless.
And these potential results would only see Wyong Lakes and Nelson Bay (23.08 per cent) draw level with those closest above them on the competition ladder, meaning play-off positions would be determined on for-and-against records.
Adding another layer of complication, the freshly rested Bombers and Tigers (50 per cent) actually meet in round 17 creating an impossible pathway for two teams, and harder for one, to overtake spots at this late stage of the season.
The Magpies and Marlins did not help either of their causes in round-14 encounters on the weekend.
Wyong Lakes were no match for defending champions Terrigal Avoca, who regained a share of the overall standings, at Don Small Oval while Nelson Bay couldn’t keep up with third-placed Newcastle City at Dick Burwell Oval.
The Magpies 2.5 (17) registered two majors in the second quarter but four to Panthers debutant Jason Roach helped Terrigal Avoca 20.20 (140) to a 123-point triumph.
The Marlins 2.6 (18) started well and trailed the Blues by just three at quarter-time, but Newcastle City 14.24 (108) eventually ran away with a 90-point success featuring the 45th goal from league-leading scorer Patrick Gillingham.
In Saturday’s only other match, Travis Bates booted seven majors as fifth-placed Singleton 21.17 (143) thrashed winless Lake Macquarie 1.6 (12) by 131 points at Rose Point Park.
Cardiff, Warners Bay, Killarney Vale, Gosford and Maitland had byes.
Elsewhere, in the women’s round fixtures at Tulkaba Park and Warners Bay upset the previously undefeated Newcastle City Stars by 12 points on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in the Black Diamond Plate second division and Wallsend-West Newcastle 15.14 (104) recorded their first victory as their new identity, accounting for Nelson Bay 3.7 (25) by 89 points at Dick Burwell Oval.
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