THE town of Great Western hasn't looked so festive during football finals in decades.
Even the casual observer driving through the tiny town couldn't fail to notice the bright red, gold and blue flags hanging from every possible place, the shopfront decorations and the football jerseys which have replaced ordinary household curtains.
As travellers and locals alike drive through the town, they express their own excitement and beep their horns, waving to anyone on the street dressed in Lions colours.
It's understandable. A team playing in the grand final is exciting under any circumstances - but for the residents of Great Western, it's the first senior football grand final appearance for the club since 1983.
On top of that, the Lions earned a double bill with the reserves also booking a spot in the grand final.
The excitement has spilled out into the streets in the form of streamers, balloons and flags.
The town has even sold out of Great Western flags, club president Tracey McCartney said.
"Everyone is embracing the colours of the club and they're all putting up flags," she said.
"Bruce from the (Great Western Hotel) got the flags and had to order in more and now they're out of stock. We've flagged out the town.
"Everyone in general is really getting on board with the club, so it's fantastic to see."
There are players going into Saturday's match who have not been alive long enough to remember the Lions playing in a grand final.
But life member Gary Gibson does.
Gibson played 200 games with the Lions between 1972 and 1982.
"My whole family are life members," he said.
He said residents had been excited all season.
"There's been a buzz around the town all year actually," he said.
"They have the flags flying and it looks very good. The town is alive at the moment.
"All we wanted to do was make finals. That's what we set out to do - but we've got to the grand final.
"You can't ask for more than that - except to win it."
While Gibson hasn't decorated his own home in Bulgana, wild horses couldn't stop him from showing up early on Saturday to get his seat at the match.
"My golly word mate - I haven't missed one game of the season," he said.
Robert Briggs is another life member who won't be kept away from the grand final.
Briggs has been the "orange boy" for the past 30 years, and he will be handing out oranges again this weekend.
"I started in '62 and played 220 games," he said.
After he hung up his football boots, Briggs watched proceedings from the sidelines.
He said watching the Lions book their place in the grand final unleashed a wave of excitement in the town after a season of quietly hoping from the sidelines.
"It took a while to sink in," he said.
"Even though we were hoping and watching, and not getting too hyped up ... when we won with both sides ... it makes you feel good.
"It's a good football netball club now too - it's a family club. We all knit together."
Briggs will be front and centre at the game on Saturday.
"My word - I don't miss any game," he said. "There is a group of supporters that all go in the one car together."
Resident Danno Salmon spent Wednesday afternoon putting streamers and balloons around her property with her granddaughter, Claire.
"(The decorations) are going to get a whole lot gaudier," she said.
Ms Salmon has two sons playing in the reserves match - Kyle and Rayne Salmon - and said this was a great outcome for those players who had grown up at the club.
"It's good for their morale and it's good for the town, too," she said.
Ms Salmon has taken the day off work to travel to Lake Bolac and watch the game.
Her granddaughter Claire said it was very exciting, and she had plans to keep decorating the rest of the town.
Wayne Cameron, another life member, played in the last premiership for the Lions in 1983.
In a word, he's feeling "excited".
"The old heart was ticking very quickly when (the Lions booked the grand final)," he said.
Cameron said his daughter would dye his beard red, blue and gold in honour of the occasion.
McCartney said come Saturday, Great Western would be a ghost town.
"I don't think that there will be anyone left in town," she said.
"I think most people I know are going."
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