Lower Plenty is heading into the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 grand final full of confidence despite losing to Eltham in each of their three meetings this year.
After falling to the Panthers in the second semi a fortnight ago, the Bears bounced back with a 20-point victory against Banyule in last week’s preliminary final.
The win handed Lower Plenty its first grand final appearance since their 2011 triumph and coach Ben Turner said the club was looking to make the most of the opportunity.
“We’re pumped. Opportunities to play in grand finals don’t come around too often,” Turner told NFNL.org.au.
“Whilst we haven’t had the results that would suggest we would beat Eltham, we feel like we have been really competitive with them for large parts of the contests.”
The two sides have played out three intriguing battles in 2018, with the average margin just 19 points. The largest margin was 36 points back in Round 8, however the Bears led that game at half time.
Turner is adamant a four-quarter performance will be needed to win the premiership.
“What we know from previous experiences tell us that we need to play at our very best to be able to beat them,” he said.
“They’re a high-quality side and they have a number of talented players across all areas of the field.
“We felt like in the semi final we competed with them very well, but we just weren’t able to sustain it for long enough.
“So, the challenge for our club this weekend is to be able to try and sustain it for longer periods of time to give ourselves every chance of being in front in the end.”
After trailing by two points at half time of its preliminary final, Lower Plenty produced a dominant second half to contain Banyule to just one goal.
Turner thinks the lessons learned from both finals over the past two weeks will help his side perform well on grand final day.
“We spoke a lot about trying to get contributions from everybody and not relying on individuals to get us there,” he said.
“I felt we had a lot more of a team-based mindset towards the back end of (last week’s) game that we probably didn’t quite get from the semi final.
“That will probably be a focus for us again this week coming into the grand final.”
One of Lower Plenty’s strengths all season has been its tall timber, headline by the likes of Patrick Flynn, Darcy Barden, Tom Keys and Tom Blake – with the latter a clear best afield in the preliminary final victory.
Turner is hoping his side’s height advantage becomes a factor on Saturday.
“We’re very fortunate and very lucky to have a core group of talls that are agile and can play in different areas of the ground,” he said.
“Tommy [Blake] played a terrific game for the footy club and he just showed to us again that he is maturing pretty well as a footballer.
“The big blokes don’t get any smaller and when the game starts to slow up a bit they do a power of work, so that will definitely be an advantage for us.”
Lower Plenty’s 2011 premiership win was also the last time it played on Preston City Oval, a ground that differs from the Bears’ home ground at Montmorency Park.
Adjusting to the surroundings of the larger surface is something Turner believes will be important for his side.
“It’s a good-sized oval for footy but we’re so used to playing on a smaller ground at our local oval. Heading to Preston will be a different thing all together,” he said.
“I think enough of the players have been around long enough that if they haven’t played there in Lower Plenty colours, then they have in other times.
“We all obviously need to make sure that we get things right. The wind has a tendency to pick up quickly in Preston, so we will have to make sure that we adjust to the conditions that present themselves on Saturday.”
Lower Plenty is expected to name an unchanged line up for the grand final, but Turner didn’t rule out the possibility of tweaking the side.
“We’ve got a few things to consider coming in to Saturday, but we have to work out who we feel will be the best 22 to give Lower Plenty the best chance to win,” he said.