St Mary’s coach Fabian Carelli believes the confidence gained from a dominant home and away season will provide a major boost for his side in the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 finals.
The Burra finished the regular season with a 15-1 record, four games clear of second-placed Panton Hill, to secure their maiden minor premiership.
Carelli is buoyed by the mood throughout the club ahead of Saturday’s second semi final against the Redbacks – where the winner will claim the first place in this year’s grand final.
“From the outset I’ve been impressed with the way that the group has worked,” Carelli told NFNL.org.au.
“Their morale going into the season was already pretty high and then just gradually as the season wore on, we started to get more wins. The group started to believe a lot more.
“Our reserves are flying and our under-19s are out to secure a double chance this week as well, so generally it has just been a fantastic feeling around the footy club.”
St Mary’s will go into the finals series as premiership favourite, but the more underlying objective will be to secure its first finals win at senior level.
The Burra have previously been involved in four finals campaigns but have failed to advance past the first semi final.
Embracing their potential to become a dominant force could be the key to breaking the finals hoodoo over the next three weeks.
“It [not winning a final] sits in the back of everyone’s mind and I constantly get reminded of it as a coach,” Carelli said.
“But something that we just need to continually drum into the players mentally is that we are the favourites and we need to accept that favouritism and take it on board.
“It will come down to playing our brand for longer as best we can and hopefully that will get the job done.”
The second semi final will be a highly anticipated clash given the recent history between the two sides.
Panton Hill was the only side to defeat St Mary’s in the home and away season, before the Burra snatched a two-point victory at Whatmough Park in the reverse fixture.
Carelli believes the sides match up evenly and is adamant the side that plays its best football for longer will secure the first place in the grand final.
“There are some teams where you go into battle and you think here is our advantage, I reckon we can exploit it this way. But there are others that sometimes match up well against. For us that’s Panton Hill. We are evenly balanced across the ground,” Carelli said.
“Whoever comes out on the day playing their best footy for longer will win, that’s how even I think it is between the two teams.
“They’ve got the twin towers up forward in [Matthew] Byron and [Rhys] Boyden and they are their key to going deep into September I believe.
“If we can limit their effectiveness on goal and obviously stop it at the source through the midfield, then it will give us a chance to be in the game for longer and to hopefully win.”
St Mary’s brings plenty of momentum into the finals series, having won its past 11 games by an average of over 60 points.
“You need a lot of luck in coaching to do well in the season and we’ve got that luck,” Carelli said.
“We’ve had blokes that have gone overseas at different parts of the year but injury-wise we have been fairly lucky, and you need those sorts of breaks in footy as well.
“I think at the moment we have only got four injuries in the whole of the footy club, so they play a big part in helping to achieve the results that we have this year.”
To this point, Carelli has enjoyed a dream debut season as coach of St Mary’s after replacing Con Borg.
Despite bring plenty of previous coaching experience into the role, Carelli believes he has also developed as a coach since joining at Whatmough Park.
“I think it is more of continuing to believe in yourself as a coach. It has probably taken me this long to be finally comfortable in my own skin as a coach and believe in what I am about as a coach and the way I preach that to the players,” he said.
“We’ve just executed everything as best we could so far but obviously the big challenge is finals now and trying to continue to execute that during finals when the tempo goes up again.”