Navarre will look to reach a historic eighth consecutive Maryborough Castlemaine District senior football grand final when it takes on Carisbrook on Saturday.
The rival sides will do battle in a much-anticipated preliminary final at Maryborough’s Princes Park, the venue for some of the teams’ most enthralling finals battles in recent years.
Since joining the Maryborough Castlemaine District league in 2011, the Grasshoppers and Redbacks have faced eight times in finals contests (five grand finals), splitting the honours with four wins each.
This season has been much different to others, with Navarre in a transition period with its playing list making it a very different side to the one that has battled with the Redbacks for the last eight seasons.
The Redbacks have far and away been the benchmark in the competition, losing just one match with a percentage of more than 500 to win the minor premiership.
They book-ended their season with games against Navarre in the first and final rounds of the regular season. Despite two massive victories to the Redbacks in those games, it was clear how much Navarre had in improved throughout the season.
Grasshoppers coach Kyle Hendy said he and his players took a lot out of those two games.
“Getting a look at them twice helps us have a better understanding of how they play,” he said.
“We have to try and eliminate their run from the centre of the ground because their midfielders work vert hard both ways.
“It won’t be easy but we will have to work hard to cause turnovers from them and use the ball quickly and efficiently on the rebound which we have been good at this year.”
Navarre’s season looked to be over at three-quarter-time of last Sunday’s semi-final against Talbot but they were able to find something in the final term and keep their season alive for at least one more week.
Hendy said there is a belief in his group they can cause another upset.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think we can beat them,” he said.
“We have to play all four quarters with all 18 players on the field playing their role.
“We have just got to try and get relentless pressure around contest and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.”
Stopping league leading goalkicker Ash Munari will be high on the agenda for Navarre, with the key forward booting 101 goals so far this season.
He kicked just three goals against Navarre when they last met, one of his lowest totals of the season.
“Jayden Fowkes did a good job last time so we will probably see how he goes again,” Hendy said.
“It is up to the defensive unit to work as one to help cut him off and help out whoever is on him.”
Carisbrook and Navarre will face off in the first preliminary final at Maryborough’s Princes Park from 2.35pm on Saturday.