SEASONS will be on the line when the Horsham Saints line up against the Stawell Warriors in Sunday’s elimination final.
The Warriors failed to live up to pre-season favouritism in the regular season but will hope to put it all together at the right time to extend their season into the second week of finals. To do so they will have to find a way to overcome a side that belted it by 72 points in round 14.
Saints coach Luke Fisher said he hoped his players did not read too much into that result.
“The thing we take out of it is that there are areas where we can beat Stawell,” he said.
The round 14 result was set up by a big Saints first quarter. When the Warriors were too good in the corresponding round seven fixture it was a poor third quarter that let the side down.
“We know that getting a good start is important,” Fisher said. “That’s an area where we have been pretty good the past month so we just need to continue to prepare the same way. Everyone should be ready and raring to go for finals, there is not much I can do if they aren’t.”
Warriors coach Tom Eckel said his side knew it could more than match the Saints if it performed at its best.
“We proved that by beating them early in the season,” he said. “In round 14 we were more disappointed with how we played. There wasn’t enough pressure being applied and we let the Saints do what they wanted.”
A win in the final round of the season broke a four-match losing streak for Stawell. Eckel said it was probably one of the best wins of the season given how undermanned his side was against Ararat. “We were quite excited about that,” he said. “We’ve trained pretty well this week and hopefully that level of excitement carries through.”
Eckel said his side should welcome back key forward Travis Graham for the encounter as well as the possible inclusion of the sides Rebels’ players. How well the Stawell forward line functions against a defensive six that sets up a lot of the Saints’ attacking forays will be an important factor.
“A lot of it will be down to how well we perform in the midfield and then Travis, Julian Carr and Brent Tuckey need to make their defenders accountable,” Eckel said.
The small Saints forward line will rely on quick and direct ball movement in order to kick a winning score in the absence of Jacob Cooke-Harrison. Jarred Combe will replace Cooke-Harrison while Ben Martin continued to push for selection with a strong performance in reserves. “We’ve got some tough calls to make and that’s really the first time we’ve had to this season,” Fisher said.
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