Marrar and North Wagga will meet in all three grades of football in Saturday’s grand final and it’s the baby Bombers under arguably the greatest of expectations.
Marrar’s Under 17.5 side powered into the decider with an 86-point thrashing of East Wagga-Kooringal in the second semi-final two weeks ago, while the Saints have walked a path of sudden-death finals, beating the Northern Jets, Temora and then the Hawks to earn their spot.
When the teams last met, the Bombers beat North Wagga by 55 points.
“They’ve worked really hard, it’s probably theirs to lose now,” Marrar coach Isaac Hill said at training on Thursday night.
“They seem relaxed, they’re fit, they’re healthy. I think we’re as prepared as we’re going to be.”
Hill concedes that their brilliant form late in the year does create pressure.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Certainly we all like to try and push the fact that we’re wearing the underdog tag but clearly we’re not.
“But the best thing that’s happened for this group is they’ve been training with the ones and twos for the last few weeks and they haven’t let anyone get ahead of themselves.”
Nathanael Mooney kicked nine goals in the semi-final win and it was no coincidence that many of their other best performers have had first grade experience including Rhys Mooney, Toby Lawler, Drew Beavan and captain Zac Lewis.
“As far as talent and effort go, we’ve got no passengers,” Hill said. “To have Sparks (first grade coach Shane Lenon) take five or six kids away and play first grade, it taught the rest of them to play key positions and we’re a lot more consistent across the park.”
But Hill rates North Wagga highly, particularly after a comeback win to beat EWK last week, with five second half goals.
“They’ve played outstanding through the finals,” Hill said.
“They’re a tough side but they run and spread and carry. Their confidence has grown. They’re going to be a different side to who we played three weeks ago.”
Saints coach Brendan Nilsen said his side has been buoyed by their winning run through finals.
In Marrar, they face a significant step up again, but Nilsen said they are building belief.
“We really concentrate on our core values,” Nilsen said. “From the beginning we’ve talked about respect, courage and passion. And from the last two games before finals, it’s clicked. “
North Wagga’s bid for an upset will be led by Kane Flack and Nahom Fitzgerald-Holmes but Nilsen said it’s a a lift in intensity right through the side that lifted his team in recent weeks.
He hopes they can bring the pressure and intensity to nullify Marrar.
“Have we got a big challenge? Yes we have. Have we thought about we attack? Yes we have. Will we give it everything we’ve got? Yes we will.”