The chance at ending two years of heartache and completing a perfect season is one the line for Wickliffe-Lake Bolac in this weekend’s senior football grand final.
The Magpies face Tatyoon at Alexandra Oval in a replay of the 2016 decider. The two clubs have dominated the 21st century in the Mininera District Football League, with just two occasions since 2000 not featuring at least one of the sides.
The Magpies have been a powerhouse of the competition in 2018, dominating every opponent they have faced – including Tatyoon – remaining undefeated so far.
Read more: Hawks win another prelim
Tatyoon coach Simon Brearley said while Wickliffe-Lake Bolac has been the team to beat, he has confidence in his side.
“The results from the year suggest they are the best team in the comp, but we only have to be better than them on one day,” he said.
“There are plenty of examples of teams stumbling at final hurdle, we go in with nothing to lose and as underdogs.”
The Hawks have hit some outstanding form throughout this finals series, despite a lacklustre final month of the home and away season. Brearley said he thinks his side has timed its run perfectly.
“Momentum and confidence is really important in footy, especially finals footy. If you go back about six weeks we didn’t have much of either,” he said.
“We have played our best footy of the year in the last few weeks. We are as strong as we have been all year and are confident it is our best side of the year.”
The Magpies enjoyed the weekend during the preliminary final round last Saturday, having won their way through to the grand final the week earlier.
“We had a good training session on Saturday and then got over to Willaura to watch the prelim,” Magpies co-coach Nigel Otto said.
“Tatyoon obviously played really well and they are coming into form at the right time of year.”
The pain of losing two consecutive grand finals will be burning in the back of the mind of many Magpies players on Saturday, driving them to not allow a third consecutive loss.
Otto said he is more focused on the specifics of the match rather than recent history.
“We are more concerned about our game and the way we want to control the play,” he said.
“Ideally we would like to get off to a really food start which is pretty important. If we can play our brand of footy over four quarters we will be in with a great chance of bringing home the flag.”
The Hawks were blown out of the water the last time the two sides met, being kept goalless and losing by more than 150 points. They will have a very different side out on the field this weekend and neither coach believes the margin will get anywhere near what it was in that game.
“I don’t think we will see that at all, they will have a very different side to the one they had on that day so I am expecting it to be a tighter one,” Otto said.
The battle is expected to be fierce and ferocious for the whole game, with plenty of players with grand final experience determined to get their team across the line and win another premiership.
The senior grand final will begin at 2.30pm at Ararat’s Alexandra Oval.
Q&A with Tatyoon coach Simon Brearley
Q: Have you discussed the last time you played the Magpies at all this week?
A: “We haven't even discussed it - we are only looking forward. We are a lot better now in terms of following system and structure.”
Q: What is your main focus going into the game?
A: “It is similar to every week - it is about using the footy well and shutting them down when they have the footy. We have the opportunity to play brave and attacking footy.”
Q: Do you have the belief your side has what it takes to win?
A: “We don’t feel like there is any pressure on us. Four weeks ago people had written us off having just snuck into the finals, but here we are, just four good quarters away from achieving something special.”
Q: Do you expect to make any changes to the team?
A: “Nathan Mahoney will play if he is fit, he adds a bit of versatility to our team. Other than that it is probably pretty set.”
Q&A with Wickliffe-Lake Bolac co-coach Nigel Otto
Q: Does the memory of the last two grand finals play any role in the lead up?
A: “We don’t tend to worry about it. We are focused on what we can control this week. It obviously hurts losing those two and that might drive us a little bit but they aren’t our focus.”
Q: What do you think you need to do to win on Saturday?
“Tatyoon started well last week so we need to make sure we start well and not let them get some early momentum. We will be trying to do the simple things really well like working hard when we don’t have the ball and giving our forwards the best chance to score with good entry inside-50.”
Q: Is there any particular players you will watch closely from Tatyoon?
“There are a few players we will keep a close eye on. They have some really good ball users who tend to use the ball smartly, so we need to try and apply pressure on them to impact their efficiency.”