Given the nature of knockout competition, it’s rare to see the top-four teams from a league still standing come the semi-finals.
But that’s exactly what has happened in both the AWFA senior men’s and women’s seasons this year.
Reigning two-time senior men’s league champions Myrtleford are gunning for their third straight cup triumph, but will firstly need to get past Melrose in an extravaganza of semi-finals at Jelbart Park on Sunday.
Savoys’ midfielder Jesse Stephens admits Melrose’s attacking combination of Trent Rixon and Evan Rawluk must be limited.
“Raul (Pahina) will probably get the job on Trent at set pieces and most of the game because he’s a similar size,” Stephens said.
“Stopping the ball actually getting to them would be ideal, pressing high up the pitch and stopping the supply so we can win it back closer to goal will probably be the main aim.”
Stephens admitted as much as the side set itself to win the league, it would be hugely disappointing if they don’t claim the double from this position.
“No-one is really ever happy if you don’t win the cup in AWFA or in most comps,” he said.
“There’s a bit of pressure, I don’t think it’s anything more than last year or the week before, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”
Melrose goalkeeper Josh Fluss knows anything can happen at this stage of the season.
Coach Kade Rixon returns from suspension, but has played less than a half of game in two months.
“The way he plays adds another level to our game when we’re going forward and defensively,” Fluss said.
“Most of the year he’s played in the middle of the park and sat in a bit, but where he plays on the weekend will be up to him.
“There’s no easy way of saying how you can and can’t win, it takes 11 blokes on the day to put in not just what we work on week to week, but that extra little bit for each other, being relaxed, doing the right things mentally and preparing right.”
Melrose’s quarter-final clash against Twin City last weekend was played at a frenetic pace and Fluss expects it to reach another level against the Savoys on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Boomers take on the only other outfit to beat every team during the league campaign, Wangaratta, in the second semi-final.
Attacking weapon Noah Spiteri said Boomers will take plenty of confidence from their victory against the Devils earlier in the season.
Wangaratta striker Adam Burchell finished with four goals last weekend against Albury United and will be one to watch as always.
“Nick Brown had the job on him (Burchell) at the start of the year and kept him goalless, so I’d say he’ll line up on him again,” Spiteri said.
“He’s got a bit of a habit scoring against us in finals.
“I’m relatively confident we can get the job done and I’m sure Myrtleford and Melrose will be keeping a close eye on us if we can win.”
Boomers coach Andrew Grove didn’t start last weekend, but is expected to play more of a role on Sunday.