NORTH Ringwood enters the RDCA Lindsay Trollope Shield finals on three straight losses, but coach Jeton Rexhepi isn't worried at all.
The Bulls, who locked in a top-two berth before the defeats, will get the chance to test themselves against minor premiers South Croydon in the qualifying final this Saturday and Sunday with the loser to get a double chance, while the winner will go straight to the grand final.
Ainslie Park will play Wantirna South in the elimination final with the winner to progress to the preliminary final.
Rexhepi says his side is ready for the finals despite its recent losses.
"We tried a few different things in the past three games so we weren't too concerned about the results in those matches," he said.
"We put some first XI cricket into the younger guys in those matches."
The Bulldogs shape as the favourite for the premiership heading into the finals, but Rexhepi knows his side is due for a major battle.
"South Croydon is an awesome team; they're more akin to a lower grade Premier Cricket side with the talent they have," he said.
"At this standard, it's more of a mental battle than a physical one. They have a couple of gun players and we have to stand up to them."
Rexhepi says he doesn't expect his side to change much for the qualifying final.
Despite Mooroolbark defending a modest 139 in the final round on Saturday, North Ringwood's batting line-up couldn't handle the bowling of Matt Whittaker (6-14) and Daniel Dimitriou (3-18), being dismissed for a disappointing 77.
Ainslie Park delivered an exciting finish to retain its spot in the final four.
Chasing Wantirna South's 9-203, Ainslie Park lost 3-26 early before a fourth wicket partnership of 84 between Trent Sier (84) and Brad Wadsworth (26) pushed the score to 110. Devils star Drew McKay (6-64) then steamrolled Ainslie's middle order as they collapsed to 8- 129. The game then turned again when Mark Arnot (54 not out) and Scott Panozza (24 not out) shared in a ninth-wicket partnership of 87 to see the Parkers through to 8-206 in the second-last over.
Bayswater Park defended 203 when Warranwood was dismissed for 173.
Losing two early wickets put the Sharks on the back foot before a third wicket partnership took the score to 70. Stephen Cragie (6-40) then upset the applecart, reducing Warranwood to 9-123 before Andrew Spittle (45 not out) and Matt Nelson (20) put on 50 for the last wicket.
Croydon North was in control at 3-124 with Chris Noy (51) and James Belli (34) well set to chase down South Warrandyte's 197.
With the dismissal of these two batsmen, the Knights lost wickets at regular intervals, but the Hawks couldn't get the last one and Croydon North finished on 9-203 to consign South Warrandyte to relegation.
Norwood was never in contention chasing South Croydon's 8-256.
The Vikings couldn't get a reasonable partnership going and declared at 9-147, with Ben Hastie (45) top scoring. Daniel Barsenbach (3-20) took the bowling honours. Batting a second time, the Bulldogs were 0-35.
South Warrandyte will be demoted to Wilkins Cup next season.
■ In Wilkins Cup, minor premiers St Andrew's will play Montrose in the qualifying final while Kilsyth and Croydon Ranges will battle it out in the elimination final.
RDCA LINDSAY TROLLOPE SHIELD: South Croydon 64 points, 1.38 per cent; North Ringwood 64, 1.23; Ainslie Park 56, 1.11; Wantirna South 52, 1.34; Mooroolbark 44, 0.85; Warranwood 40, 1.11; Bayswater Park 40, 0.93; Croydon North 40, 0.82; Norwood 24, 0.73; South Warrandyte Hawks 16, 0.73.