Ten years ago, Griffin Underwood won the Peter Moore Medal and Yarram broke a 21-year premiership drought by winning the Alberton Football Netball League flag.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Demons are hoping Underwood’s Sel Burley Medal triumph is a sign of history repeating, as they prepare to meet Sale City in the AGL Loy Yang North Gippsland Football Netball League grand final.
It marks the club’s maiden senior football grand final appearance since joining the league in 2013 and their first time on the big stage since the last in a run of three straight AFNL deciders in 2008.
Standing in their way is reigning premier Sale City, which will also be hoping for a slice of déjà vu come 5pm Saturday afternoon.
Just as they did last year, the Bulldogs had to go the long way around to reach grand final day, this time dropping the qualifying final to Heyfield before reversing that result in the preliminary final.
Without the benefit of a week off at the start of the finals series, afforded them by finishing on top of the ladder in 2016, City haven’t had a break since the split round 14, two months ago.
Yarram, on the other hand, made the most of winning the minor premiership by taking the direct route to the grand final with a win over Heyfield in the second semi-final at Churchill.
Speaking from past experience, Demons coach Chris Pettitt said the breaks either side had given his side more chance to sit back and appreciate the journey to grand final day.
“I’m feeling good at the moment because I’m at work and haven’t been thinking about it too much but we have spoken a bit about how the week comes and goes pretty quickly,” Pettitt said.
“You have got to try to soak it up a bit because the lead up to grand final day is good to be a part of.”
The two sides have not met since round 13 when the Demons held onto a thrilling one point win in a see-sawing contest at Yarram Recreation Reserve, having led by 30 points at the final change.
That result squared the ledger following the round four encounter at Stephensons Park, in which the Dogs successfully overturned a three-quarter-time deficit.
Given the pattern of those two games, it’s safe to say Yarram won’t be taking any advantage lightly heading into the final term.
The Demons will be forced into one change, with gritty on-baller Matt Clavarino suffering a broken leg in the second semi-final.
Pettitt has no shortage of options, headed by winger Luke LeBlanc and mobile tall Dylan Rash, who played every game of the home-and-away season before missing selection in the second semi-final.
The Bulldogs also face a tough call at the selection table, with premiership player Jake Milham and wingman Jayden Sleeman among those pushing for a recall, having both struggled with injuries at times this year.
In terms of matchups, finding a way to limit the influence of Sale City spearhead Matt Ferguson, who booted seven goals in their last meeting, will be high on Pettitt’s priorities list.
Underrated defender David Coulthard is likely to be given the first crack, supported by a back six approach and a focus on restricting the supply from further up field.
At the other end, the Dogs will need to be wary of defending tall and small with league leading goal-kicker Corbin Sutherland lurking and ready to pounce with his dangerous combination of strong overhead marking and prowess at ground level.
Indeed, the two sides look even across the board – both possess hard bodies adept at winning inside ball, smart ball users and speed to burn when the ball gets on the outside.
Premiership experience is surprisingly even as well, with the likes of Pettitt, Underwood, Chris Bruns and Josh and Jarryd Swift part of the 2007 Demons premiership side, while 16 members of last year’s premiership side are in the mix to line up for the Bulldogs.
“I’m expecting it to be a very good game,” Pettitt said.
“I can’t see it being a blowout either away.
“Both sides are good in the wet and when it’s dry so I’m not sure the weather will make much difference.”
Meanwhile, a clash of styles looms on the netball courts, when the energetic new-kids-on-the-block from Sale City take on the wily Wildcats of Woodside in an intriguing A grade decider.
City have won nine of their last 10 games en route to the grand final to be the form side of the back half of the season.
Qualifying final and second semi-final wins against top two sides Woodside and Heyfield were achieved on the back of a vibrant brand of attacking netball and coach Jae Schuback said the mood was good in the Doggies’ camp.
“We are extremely young but we have got a lot of enthusiasm,” Schuback said.
“All the girls are very excited and eager for the weekend. Half the team went and watched the preliminary final last week and we have been training hard and will definitely be prepared.”
Home court proved no advantage during the home and away season, with Woodside winning at Stephensons Park in round five, before City returned the favour at Woodside in the reverse fixture in round 14.
The third meeting was in the first week of finals and City’s persistence proved crucial in staying in the game long enough to take the chance when it came their way, eventually winning by two goals.
Woodside’s big game experience cannot be underestimated and coach Kristy Lucas said being mindful of Sale City’s strengths would hold her side in good stead.
“We need to make every possession count which we didn’t do in the qualifying final,” Lucas said.
“We had the advantage but Sale City pegged us back and were consistent and persistent in making sure we turned the ball over.
“We know what it takes to seal the deal and hopefully that counts for something going into the last quarter.”
The mid court battle between Laura Foat and City co-captain Alleena Butcher promises to be key, while fellow co-captain Ruby Phillips will be determined to curb Lucas’ influence in the circle.
Plenty of eyes will also be on the matchup between veteran Wildcats goal attack Carly Foat and 17-year-old defender Faith Biddle, who won this year’s 17-and-under best and fairest award.
In the other finals, TTU will be out to deny Glengarry a fairytale flag when they clash in the reserves grand final.
The Bombers have won their past 11 games in a row and go into the game as favourites, but the Magpies will be out to defy the odds for one more week, having reached the grand final from fourth place.
Yarram will be out to defend its thirds crown against Rosedale, which stunned Sale City in last week’s preliminary final.
The Dogs hadn’t lost a game heading into finals, but were bundled out in straight sets by a couple of other exciting and hungry young sides.
All eyes will be on the Demons to see if young guns Jacob Davis and Liam Farley are available or if either has done enough to earn selection for the senior grand final.
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