Where is it being played?: Traralgon Rec Reserve
What time is the seniors game scheduled to start?: 2:30pm, Saturday September 14th
After 21 weeks of football the biggest day on the NGFNL calendar has finally arrived. And a big congratulations must go to the Churchill Football Netball Club on having all three football teams qualify for this weekend’s Grand Finals. Their opponents in Senior and Reserve grade, Yarram, have also done incredibly well to repeat last years’ effort of having two sides make it through. Glengarry round out the clubs represented on the field and whilst the Magpie Senior and Reserves sides struggled this year their thirds are certainly flying the black and white flag.
The senior game, a repeat of last year’s premiership decider, pits the two teams that sat first and second on the ladder from round seven onward against each other. Collectively they won 33 out of 36 home and away matches and both finished with a percentage of above 200 at seasons end. In a year dominated by these two clubs they also provided four of the top six place getters in the league best and fairest and provided half of the starting 18 in the team of the year.
The two sides have met three times this season, with the ledger favouring the Demons two to one. After splitting the two home and away games, where each side won the away fixture, Yarram held off a barnstorming Churchill to win an epic second semi-final a fortnight ago by just over a goal. Having trailed at every change, including being down by 45 points at the final break, the Cougars stormed home kicking seven goals to one in the final term to fall just short. If spectators are treated to anything like that sort of footy this weekend the game will a Grand Final in every sense.
It was this huge last quarter against Yarram and the subsequent come from behind win in the Preliminary Final over Rosedale that led to Churchill coach Chris Williams saying “we have a lot of fight and spirit within our group after a come from behind, backs against the wall, win.” He added that the positive vibe was not just in the senior group and that there was “a great feeling around the club having 3 sides competing for a premiership this weekend.”
The main game may have been robbed of two of its better players with Churchill’s 2014 premiership coach Alan Chandler and Yarram star Jack Weston unavailable due to Gippsland Power coaching commitments but there will still be great contests all over the ground. Not only does each side boast an array of key position players capable of taking the game apart they have the two best midfields in the comp.
That midfield battle could well be determined by each sides rucking brigade where Churchill’s Nathan Mcrae and Dylan Leys will battle it out with Yarram’s Daniel Vardy and his more than capable sidekick, Dirk Mullholland. Given Vardy’s ability to hit the scoreboard the Cougar pair will need to ensure he is forced to ruck for long periods of the game by trying to dominate the stoppages whenever Mullholland replaces him in the middle.
Once the ball hits the ground the winners of the last three league best and fairest awards, Churchill coach Chris Williams and Yarram’s Griffin Underwood, could well go head to head. Yarram’s young gun Liam Farley and the ever green Chris Bruns will offer Underwood plenty of support in the engine room up against the likes of Churchill speedster Ben Skinner and the ever reliable Brendan Mason.
Both forward lines are capable of kicking a score with Churchill’s Brendan Holt and Blake Slater likely to be joined this week by the mercurial Ben Kearns who missed the second semi-final through injury. At the other Yarram will be looking to Louis Rodaughan and Tyler Chisolm to again get amongst the goals and support big man Dan Vardy who has complimented his excellent ruck work with seven goals across his two finals appearances this year.
Whilst Yarram coach Matt Scholz said he had a near on full list to pick from Vardy’s brother, Ben, who is crucial to the Demons forward line structure enters the game under somewhat of a cloud. He left the field early in his side’s most recent outing having hurt his knee in a tackle.
Scholz said Yarram “were looking forward to Saturday” but that he was keeping an eye on the forecast in the hope that “the weather Gods are kind enough to put on a nice day.” He said training this week was focused on players “getting their final touch and fine tuning” before Saturday which he was sure would be another “cracking game” which has become the norm when these sides meet.
His opposite number Chris Williams acknowledged that “Yarram are a really good footy side” but that he and his side had “the belief that if we work hard together and execute our style we can win the premiership on Saturday.” When asked who he felt was required to stand up for Churchill to take home the premiership Cup the coach was emphatic; “We will need to have solid contributions from our full list of players to get the job done.”
And it’s a job he will hope the club can’t get done three times on the day.Scott Berechree
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Match review written by Scott Berechree. Content may also appear in Latrobe Valley Express and Gippsland Times.
Article image taken by Mick Tyas and published by Churchill FNC Facebook page. Click the image for original source.