THE Wimmera Football League senior grand final on Saturday at Warracknabeal’s Anzac Park is shaping up to be a tantalisingly close contest.
For the sides that have made it to the final week of the season – Horsham and the Southern Mallee Giants – there is already a feeling of having exceeded expectations, but they aren’t yet satisfied.
Horsham, a side that won last season’s premiership before losing a third of its senior side going into this season, carried plenty of doubts as to whether it could achieve the same feat in 2018.
Despite the off-season setbacks and questions surrounding the list’s depth, the side has done what Horsham does so many years – just keep winning.
Not even a broken leg to coach Deek Roberts in round 14 deterred the side, who kept going strong to clinch a minor premiership.
For the Giants, a side who entered the league for the first time, some doubted whether the side could truly match it in the league.
The side found its groove as the season progressed and now for the third season in a row, albeit in new surroundings, has the shot at ultimate glory.
Giants coach Coleman Schache said having players with grand final experience would help come Saturday.
“It definitely does help having people who have been to grand finals and a part of it before, but it’s a whole new league and new experience this week,” he said. “It is an exciting place to be around at the moment. There’s plenty of voice and energy around the track.”
Roberts said there was a similar feeling at Horsham.
“They’re pumped up and know what we need to try and do,” he said. “It’s amazing to see how driven the group has been. It’s been a good year but we want to be playing our best game now, and hopefully that’s what we are on track to do.”
The two best sides in the league have matched up well this season.
The Giants arguably have more star names with the likes of Sam Weddell, Tyler Lehmann, Brock Orval, Sam White and Josh Webster.
Our aim was to make finals and if you do that you can go anywhere. We’ve done that and now we want to go all the way.Coleman Schache
But the Demons’ depth has surprised some this season.
With leaders Jordyn Burke, John Wood, Rhona Conboy and Josh Mibus, as well as league leading scorer Ryan Kemp and handy backman Ben Lakin, the side has plenty of power around the ground.
15-year-old winger Ben Hobbs will be playing in his first senior grand final and is sure to show a lot of promise.
Roberts said: “We have some experienced players and guys who have played in a lot of senior grand finals. Guys like Jordyn Burke play for these games. Our captains and assistant coaches in Rhona and John will need to step up and if they set an example then the younger boys will follow in behind.”
Schache said Josh Webster and Tyler Lehmann would set the tone early for the Giants.
“We will look to Tyler, he has been around the club for a long time and is a great leader in the midfield, and also Josh up forward, he has been in some really good form for us,” he said.
“Coming into the year we didn’t know what to expect. Our aim was to make finals and if you do that you can go anywhere. We’ve done that and now we want to go all the way.”