photo credit to Charlie Young from The Times Group

The big day has arrived and for the very dedicated, the work to get here started back in November. There have been big wins with hearty celebrations, depressing losses, long cold nights at training and for some, extended periods in injury rehab.

Around 4.30 this afternoon there will be mixed emotions when the siren sounds. The case for a winner is sound from both camps.
This time last year Inverleigh entered the grand final as clear favourites after a stunning season on domination. Their opposition on the day were given little chance, but they took it and Bannockburn have held bragging rights all season. The Hawks were first into the game again, but the feeling is different. Devastated by injury early in the year, their start was anything but dominant and they spent most of the year outside the top five. As the troops returned from the sickbay, so the fortunes turned and the slow climb began.

Thomson meanwhile, sat atop the ladder looking down for the entire year and it took the very best Inverleigh had to finally wrestle control of the second semi final and book the first seat for the big dance. Although even across the ground, their recent surge into form has been led by the athletic Luke Wilson. He jumps high, palms with accuracy and then gets on his bike to provide an extra midfielder. His opponent today Andrew Jarvis, took the honour of the ruck spot in the team of the year and deserves top billing. Their battle will provide a game within the game and the talent waiting under them will cherish every fruitful offering. The Tigers Zach Plant could operate with effect inside an old phone box, with his strength and skill able to clear congestion with lightning hands. Jahd Anderson provides the more athletic support and Nathan Bisset rounds out a talented trio of experienced ball winners. They will need to be at their best every minute of every quarter, as the Hawks mids run deeper. Brad Surkitt has been outstanding all season and the late starting Matt Tyquin is moving closer to his best with the extra work he takes on each week. Ryan Robertson, Jarrod Love, Finn O’Keefe and the rejuvenated Jarrod Young allow peek performance through the middle while players rest. Both teams have highly dangerous forward lines, with Brent Jacques, Darcy Troop and Jordan Camm all dangerous in the air. Although shorter in stature, Jacques provides the biggest danger, with his work on the ground just as damaging as his great skill in holding opponents out of marking contests. No one does it better.
One of or both the Grozdanovski brothers, Dan or Mick, will get to spend some time curbing his influence. Their form gives them a good chance of success.

At the opposite end of the ground, the Hawks have a plethora of options. Mason Dickson is strong in the air and grows in confidence with each outing. Casey Meehan could float through the midfield or stay deep in the square. He is a natural forward, but loves a running goal as well. James Hussey carries big expectation, which is being witnessed more regularly of late and his ability to set up teammates provides a big danger for the Tigers. Adam Donohue may start in defence, but the danger of him going forward always lurks. He is a proven big game player and multiple goal kicker.
The wildcard is the returning Dalton Grundell. A star in the first week of finals and a notable absentee in the second. His marking is first class and ability to share the ball or thread the big sticks himself, makes his opponents task a nightmare. The Tigers defence is sound and confident. Stephen Salajan is playing career best football and will use his nous to cut off the Hawks supply and Travis McGuire and Dan Mowat will make life tough for whoever Paul Lynch assigns them. Mick Barnett is another player who has relished his finals campaign and may get to keep Meehan company for the day. That is an important job.
Past ghosts could haunt the Hawks or drive them to victory. Lack of talent won’t be their enemy today. Although they took the long road to get here, Thomson are still the team to beat. They will be hard to get over, but may need to carry a big lead into the last quarter. The neutral spectators will be in for a treat.

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