GRAND FINAL PREVIEW
Bruthen is leaving nothing to chance in its pursuit of back-to-back Omeo and District Football Netball League flags this weekend.
The Bulldogs may be going into the game as heavy favourites, but the leadership group has gone to extra lengths to ensure the team is adequately prepared for Saturday’s grand final match up against Swifts Creek at Swan Reach Recreation Reserve.
“The boys have been training well and even doing some extra sessions outside of our finals program,” coach Dave Westland said.
“The boys have been as hungry if not more hungry than last season and the mood is really good. Everyone is really excited and can’t wait for the day.”
The Bulldogs ended a premiership drought dating back to 2003 last season and their title defence has gone smoothly so far, with a round seven defeat to Omeo-Benambra and a 46-point loss to Saturday’s opponents in round 13 the only blemishes along the way.
Spearheaded by captain Rhys Kennedy and leaders Ben Murphy, Todd Cook and Craig Taylor, Bruthen also isn’t short on quality, with classy midfielder Harley Kenner and key forward Matt Davey among the match winners at Westland’s disposal.
Kenner has capped another stellar season with his second straight league best-and-fairest award, while Davey, whose eight goals proved the difference in last year’s decider, has only played five games this season, but registered 19 goals in his last three outings.
However, Swifts Creek boasts plenty of weapons of its own, with Westland identifying ex-Bulldogs forward Jesse Hack, who booted five goals in last weekend’s preliminary final win against Lindenow South, as one of the Demons’ key threats.
Hack was part of Bruthen’s premiership side last year and his former teammates will be aware of his talents, having seen him tally 149 goals in his last three years at the Kennel.
Bruthen made two changes to its side for the second semi-final clash with Lindenow South, with Jacob Westland and Nathan Hayes making way for Bevan Lupo-Worseldine and Nick Sinclair.
Westland confirmed both players were in the mix to return along with the hard-nosed Jacob Weeks and veteran backman Andrew Papp also under consideration for a call-up.
Swifts Creek coach Brodie Cameron, who played his senior game for the Demons in 2009 at the age of 15 and has coached the team this year for the first time, also faces a tough week at the selection table with most of the squad fighting fit at the right time of the season.
However, Cameron conceded changes to the side that downed Lindenow South in such impressive fashion last week, were unlikely.
Lachlan Harvey and Brenton Kuch returned to the side against the Swampies and the latter looks set to get the first crack at shackling Davey, having battled well in a similarly challenging task against league leading goalkicker Max Solomon last weekend.
Kuch has been a welcome addition following a shoulder injury, as has Damian Tubb, who missed rounds 11-15 with a hamstring injury.
It has been a remarkable finals series for the Demons, who made it past Omeo-Benambra in bizarre fashion following a miscalculation of the final scores in the first semi-final leading to a review that eventually saw Swifts Creek declared the winner by one point.
The Demons then went on to knock off Lindenow South in the preliminary final too book their spot in the decider.
Cameron was comfortable with the underdog status heading into the game, but was confident his side had timed its run well, as they strive for the club’s first senior flag since 2011, having fallen short on their past two grand final appearances in 2012 and 2013.
“We’re up and about but a bit nervous at the same time,” Cameron said.
“Bruthen has been the best team for two years, they finished on top of the ladder and they deserve to be favourites.
“We’ve had a few injuries for much of the season but we’re getting a full team together at the right time.
“The key will probably be the midfield contest. Both teams have got good forwards and backs so it will come down to whichever team is able to get their hands on the ball first.”
Round 3 – Swifts Creek 10.4 (64) lt Bruthen 18.13 (121)
Round 8 – Bruthen 14.13 (97) d Swifts Creek 12.14 (86)
Round 13 – Swifts Creek 13.12 (90) d Bruthen 5.14 (44)AFL Gippsland website
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