IT’S a sequel to last year’s TDFL grand final, but this year Kiewa-Sandy Creek are hoping to flip the script.
Saturday’s decider between the Hawks and Thurgoona already bears a few differences compared to last year’s final – for starters, the reigning premiers are billed as underdogs.
After claiming the minor premiership, Kiewa went straight through to the grand final after their two-goal win over Barnawartha in the second semi-final.
The Bulldogs had to do things the hard way – by co-coach Jamarl O’Sullivan’s own admission, the reigning premiers have been below their best in 2018.
They’ve come good in the finals though, despite a four-point loss to the Tigers in the qualifying final.
They bounced back in resounding fashion a week later against Tallangatta, before taking the points over Barnawartha in a cracking preliminary final that came down to the wire.
O'Sullivan said the close games and iffy form earlier in the year hadn’t been a negative for the Bulldogs.
“We’re probably a bit lucky to be here, earlier in the year we had to really work for it,” he said.
“It's no secret we haven’t played our best footy, but we’re excited for this game against Kiewa.
“We’ve had the week off in previous years, but playing all the way through has allowed some players to come back and get some match fitness – each week we’ve had to switch on.
“Overall, I think both sides match up pretty well, so we’ll just have to see what happens on the day.”
His opposite number, Hawks mentor Adam Mudra, said his side wouldn’t be pre-occupied with last year’s grand final loss.
“Footy changes too quickly to worry about what happened last year,” he said.
“We're a completely different group, as are Thurgoona.
“We’ll have probably nine to 10 different players on the field compared to this time last year.
“Thurgoona were head and shoulders the best team in the competition last year, and this year we’ve cleared the decks and started again.”
Mudra added that, along with the club’s changes in personnel, the Hawks had changed from a more conservative playing style in 2017 to be more attacking.
The TDFL grand final starts at 2.30pm at Sandy Creek on Saturday.