By Nick Creely
SOUTH EAST FOOTBALL NETBALL LEAGUE
PREVIEW – GRAND FINAL
BERWICK (2nd) v NARRE WARREN (1st)
Saturday from 2.30pm at Edwin Flack Reserve
THE RECENT HISTORY:
Semi Final, 2018: Berwick 11.13 (79) defeated Narre Warren 9.13 (67)
Round 16, 2018: Berwick 8.19 (67) defeated Narre Warren 4.6 (30)
Round 7, 2018: Narre Warren 13.10 (88) defeated Berwick 10.19 (79)
Round 2, 2018: Narre Warren 8.11 (59) defeated Berwick 5.10 (40)
Berwick players to watch: Bryce Rutherford, Madi Andrews, Harry Money, Travis Tuck
Narre Warren players to watch: Brad Scalzo, Col McNamara, Trent Shinners, Michael Collins
SEFNL chairman Ryan Ford: “It will be a Grand Final for the ages. The last ever SEFNL contest between two clubs that are both very deserving of their place in history here. Narre Warren was impressive last week after Cranbourne threw everything at them and will go in to this week with the confidence they can deliver against the reigning premiers. Berwick are a high quality and very dynamic team and will no doubt feel like they have Narre’s measure after two recent wins. The class of both sides will ensure an enthralling contest. Berwick by five points.”
Officer president Nick McLennan: “Huge clash between the best two sides in the competition this year. I expect this to be a high scoring contest with multiple lead changes throughout the day. Both sides have exciting mobile forward lines with multiple contributors in front of goal, however delivery into the forward line is key to this contest and whichever side can win the battle in the centre will come out in front. Berwick have managed to string together some great performances in the back half of the year and the expected inclusion of Andrews joining Tuck, Magner and co will prove the difference. Berwick by nine points.”
It’s a match made in heaven – a full strength Berwick defending their premiership crown against the competition benchmark of the season, Narre Warren.
Names such as Tuck, Andrews, Rutherford, Magner, Smith and Riseley will clash with Collins, Scalzo, Quirk, Scanlon and McNamara.
What more could a grand final ask for? It will be tough, relentless football.
Taking away the fact that these two powerhouses clashed in the grand final last season, this Saturday looms as an epic that will have many sharp turns of momentum.
As it stands, the evenness of both teams should have an expected monster crowd in anticipation of what’s to come.
Can Berwick once again inflict the Magpies with a grand final loss and lift the premiership cup for the second year in a row? Or does Matt Shinners’ side – with all of its experience and fearless youth – turn the tables and end the season just like they began?
By 5pm on Saturday, these questions will be answered, and one team will go down as the final premiership team of the SEFNL.
Back in April, Berwick coach Stewart Kemperman spoke about his side not being known as a “one-off”, and wanted to write yet another chapter, and not just be satisfied with the one premiership.
“Our club’s been around for 134 years, and we’ve only gone back to back once – if the team gets it right this years and the coming years, this Berwick side could be known as the best the club’s ever seen,” he said.
This time around, the Wickers didn’t achieve the perfect home and away season. But something clicked as the season wore on.
Gradually, the Wickers found their mojo – they defended with the stinginess of a champion team, and ran in waves, cutting the opposition to shreds when the moment to attack arrived.
Winning their two finals, the Wickers enjoyed a much needed week off, and more importantly, had Narre Warren scratching their heads to figure out just how to bring down this champion team.
The break is something Kemperman – from his experiences last year – is not taking for granted.
“The season does come with a toll – it’s (the week off) allowed us to prepare each individual,” he said.
“We should have a few boys available.”
The big stage – something the Wickers have relished in, is what Kemperman is craving, and he said the group understands what lies ahead.
“From when we knew we’d be in the grand final, as a club we’ve certainly been excited,” he said.
“It’s hard to block out (the expectation), but we’ll just embrace it – it’s an exciting week.”
Kemperman expects superstar midfielder and skipper Madi Andrews to slot straight back in to take on a brilliant Narre Warren team, who he has viewed as the “benchmark” all season.
“They are a very, very good side,” he said.
“We’re under absolutely no illusions about what they can do.
“They’ve been the form side of the year, so we know we have to be right on our game.”
For Narre Warren coach Matt Shinners – a two-time premiership coach for the club in 2008 and 2010 – he said that his mix of youth and experience can carry his team to the pinnacle once more.
“I’ve got such a young group, despite the experience of players like (Brad) Scalzo, (Michael) Collins, (Nick) Scanlon, (Trent) Shinners and (Dylan) Quirk,” he said.
“But we’ve got so many youngsters running around for us, and they’ve got to have role models.
“It not only sets us up for this year, but it sets us up for an exciting future.”
Conquering the Wickers will be no easy task, but Shinners believes if they can get it in to their electric forward line quick enough, a winning score can be achieved.
They have been the most potent attacking side in the competition all year, and there’s no reason why they can’t pile on the goals again.
“They’re such a good side, so even across the ground,” he said.
“The game will be won in the middle, and if we can get some ball through there and get it forward, we can do some damage – we’ve got a very good forward line.
“But we need to win that area, and make good decisions under pressure.”
Shinners said that the preliminary final against Cranbourne was a great chance to re-discover their attacking flair, and was pleased with the response of his group after being challenged for three quarters against the Eagles.
“We were a lot better against Cranbourne, and we showed some great character after being just six points up with a quarter to play,” he said.
“We played a really good last 30 minutes, and managed to get the game on our terms.”
It will be the last ever SEFNL grand final, and it’s only fitting that we see these great powerhouses go out with a bang.