Tigers embracing opportunity for back-to-back flags

Published on Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Author : Josh Ward

As Heidelberg search for back-to-back Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 premierships, senior men’s coach Vin Dattoli is looking forward to what he thinks will be a ‘ripping’ Grand Final against Bundoora this Saturday.

It’s a sense of deja vu for the Tigers who, having comfortably defeated them a fortnight ago, will meet the Bulls once again in the final game of the 2023 season.

It follows another stellar season for the reigning premiers, who only dropped six points throughout the home and away campaign.

Victory on Saturday would see them claim their 22nd senior premiership in the NFNL, and their seventh since 2004, whilst their reserves also look to claim silverware and secure their first premiership since 2016.

What also hasn’t changed much is the Tigers’ preparation ahead of the decider according to coach Vin Dattoli, who says consistency is key.

“We’ve prided ourselves over the last couple of years to be consistent with what we do, in particular our game style,” he said.

“To answer the question in black and white no, like I said it’s been pretty consistent.”

He also lauded some of the improvements made by his side over the last 12 months, with players who were in the reserves side in 2022, playing key roles in their Grand Final journey this season.

“Some of the improvement we’ve had from guys that played in the reserves last year and are going play seniors this weekend has been outstanding,” he said.

Dattoli will have the opportunity to win a second Division 1 flag as coach after taking West Preston-Lakeside to premiership success in 2010.

Heidelberg come into the match with a strong recent record over Bundoora, having defeated them in their last seven matches.

But after they recorded a thumping 87-point victory over North Heidelberg in last weekend’s preliminary final, the Bulls are full of confidence heading into another Grand Final.

It wasn’t too much of a surprising result according to Dattoli, adding that their victories over Michael Ryan’s men this year will have little effect come Saturday.

“I was always confident for them, in particular, to put in a good performance, which they did. To that extent I don’t think anyone would’ve seen that (coming),” he said.

“Bundoora’s got their tails up and their confidence at the level that it needs to be as and so do we. I think it’s going to be a ripping Grand Final.”

There’s plenty of mouth-watering matchups across the park which will prove to play pivotal roles in the result of the match.

Dattoli explained how influential every battle and every area of the ground will be but did highlight the importance of both side’s defences.

“For sure the midfielders are going to have a significant say, but both forward lines are really different too,” he said.

“Our forward line has its strengths and Bundoora’s forward line has its strengths. So, I think whichever backline stands up the most will win the game.

“Plus, both [Heidelberg ruck Sam Gilmore and Bundoora ruck Hamish Shepheard] equally are going have a fair say on the result because we know that first to second touch is a really important part of the game.”

After a strong second semi-final win over the Bulls a fortnight ago, few would expect changes to be made for the minor premiers as Saturday approaches.

But Dattoli didn’t rule out the potential of shaking things up with his team, especially after seeing Bundoora’s stirring performance last Sunday.

“You’d always assume after a great win in the first final that we’d go unchanged, but we’ve got to consider everything,” he said.

“Bundoora were a completely different outfit against North Heidelberg, so we’ve just got to make sure we analyse everything as closely as we can to know what 22 is going to match up really well against them.”

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