MULWALA could get two key players back for its grand final qualifier against Nathalia on Saturday.
The Lions face the minor premiers at Numurkah in a blockbuster second semi- final, with the glittering prize on offer a spot in the Murray league grand final on September 22.
Echuca United and Finley will clash in the first semi-final at Barooga on Sunday.
Mulwala, which finished second and also has the double chance, will be boosted by the return of Lee James from suspension, Bodhi Butts (shoulder) should be fit, while playing coach Nic O’Bryan’s hamstring will be monitored.
James, who has 49 goals in 13 games, hasn’t played since a two-goal win away to Finley in Round 16 and fellow forward Anthony Giuliano said his return was timely.
“We’ve missed his forward pressure and the way he leads up,” Giuliano said yesterday.
The clubs, that both had off the first week of finals, have clashed just once this season — The Purples won by 28 points at Lonsdale Reserve in Round 8.
Brodie Ross was best-afield with five goals for Nathalia, which led by 32 points at quarter-time and held off the Lions’ late charge.
Giuliano, who has 58 goals in 18 matches, said that first quarter was one of Mulwala’s worse for the season.
“We can’t afford a slow start,” he said.
“We have really improved that — our starts have been really good the last six weeks.
“I reckon it will be pretty low-scoring and pretty physical match.
“Nathalia is a pretty hard-at-it team.
“We will have to match them closely in the contested possessions.
“I think we are capable of being just as hard as them.”
Only four points separated the sides on the ladder.
Between them, they have lost just five games.
Mulwala was knocked out at the semi-final stage last year to Finley while Nathalia finished 10th and didn’t make finals.
The Lions hope new blood, including Cora Lynn recruit Giuliano, can take them deep into September.
“We are fairly confident,” he said.
“I think the week off has definitely helped.
“We had a training session on Saturday at Numurkah to look at the ground.
“I think some of the older bodies will be a lot fresher and it’s good to get Lee James back.”