Minor premiers Rosedale and Heyfield will square off in a mighty North Gippsland Football Netball League grand final clash at the Traralgon Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
It has been a fairy tale season for Rosedale, whose challenge for the Holy Grail came to life through its early domination with eight wins from nine in the opening half of the season.
Many sceptics believed Heyfield’s golden era was at its end and wrote the side off before the first bounce of the season.
The once-September specialists had for the past two years sat on the sidelines as its dominance of the league slowly diminished.
How wrong the doubters were.
In contrast the Kangaroos have had an impressive season, including four wins from four against 2011 premiers Sale City, but now have the unenviable task of halting the rampaging Blues if they are to claim their first flag in three seasons.
Assistant coach Jesse Leeds was not worried about his side going into the clash carrying the underdogs tag and said he would relish the pressure being heaped on their opposition.
“It has been a challenging season; many wrote us off early didn’t give us a chance of even finishing top five, so from a club and coaching perspective we are rapt to have made the grand final,” Leeds said.
“We are in the fortunate position I guess that we go into the game with nothing to lose and everything to gain, where there is a fair bit of pressure on Rosedale to perform.
“It certainly is better to be the hunter than the hunted in this instance.”
Noting that Rosedale has been the Blues greatest rival this season, Leeds knows his side will need to take their game to another level if they are to claim the title.
“We’re under no illusions as to how good they are; we know that it is going to be tough,” he said.
“For some reason this year we haven’t been able to play our best footy against Rosedale and Glengarry (and) I’m not sure why it happens.
Heyfield’s Achilles heel has been its inability to keep within scoring distance of the rampaging Blues for a full four quarters, which was again exposed in the semi-final.
Boasting one of the best midfields going around and a number of speedsters who have hurt Heyfield in the past, the ‘Roos will have to turn around a 12-goal semi-final defeat.
In his second stint at the helm, Rosedale coach Damien Birss has taken his side from middle of the pack to one of the marquee teams in the competition.
Scraping into the finals in 2010, the Blues’ self belief and team cohesion saw the side take the long road to the grand final where they fell short in the main event to Sale City.
Two years later they have taken a different path.
With Birss back at the helm, the coach has again primed his side for a tilt at claiming the club’s first senior premiership in 11 years.
While the Blues have had it all their way against Heyfield throughout the season, Roos chairman of selectors Cameron Mayne is aware of how different finals are.
“Finals are a different game, we are not expecting an easy run or looking at past results they aren’t factoring into it at all, we know that Heyfield will come out hard,” Mayne said.
While goals are required to win the contest, many opposition coaches know the damage that both midfields can inflict, with the Blues’ engine room perhaps holding the edge over Heyfield.