THE Loddon Valley Football League looks set for a classic grand final when Bridgewater takes on Bears Lagoon-Serpentine today.
LUKE WEST looks at today’s premiership battle at Marong.
PATH TO THE GRAND FINAL
Bridgewater was the first team through to the grand final, but had to go about it a different way to the previous three years.
The Mean Machine won the past three premierships having finished on top of the ladder and then took the direct route into the grand final by winning the second semi-final.
This year the Mean Machine finished second on the ladder, beat Pyramid Hill in extra time in the qualifying final, then came from 35 points down at three quarter-time to defeat Bears Lagoon-Serpentine by one point in the second semi-final.
The Bears finished on top of the ladder, had the first week of the finals off before coughing up what should have been a match-winning three-quarter time lead in the second semi-final to the Mean Machine.
But the Bears bounced back strongly last week with a 58-point win over Pyramid Hill in the preliminary final.
Both teams go into the grand final having played two finals each, which should help make for an even contest.
Bridgewater is no stranger to the grand final spotlight. Today will be the Mean Machine’s fourth grand final in a row.
So dominant have the Mean Machine been in recent years, they have turned grand final day into a fizzer, having defeated Newbridge by 65 points last year, Pyramid Hill by 99 points in 2011 and Calivil United by 115 points in 2010.
Overall, Bridgewater has won 20 premierships, and today could join only Newbridge (1907-10), Laanecoorie (1919-23) and Calivil United (2003-08) to win at least four LVFL flags in a row.
The Bears are chasing their first premiership since 1995.
They’ve won 12 flags as a club and tend to win them in bunches – three in a row between 1947 and 1949, back-to-back in 1960-61, 1965-66 and 1982-83, and three in four years between 1992 and 1995.
Today’s clash is sure to evoke memories of the early 1980s for stalwarts of both clubs. The Bears beat the Mean Machine in the 1982 and 1983 grand finals, winning by one point in ’82 after the siren and 34 points in ’83.
WHO TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Adam Parry (Bridgewater) – the big, bullocking midfielder has had a superb season for the Mean Machine, and there will be an extra focus on him today after he won the Harding Medal last Sunday.
Taylor Strachan (Bridgewater) – won the medal for best on ground in last year’s grand final. He will have an extra load to shoulder in the ruck today with the suspension of David Harrison.
Brad Rohde (Bridgewater) – has played second fiddle to Alex Collins in the Mean Machine forward line this year, but he has relished the grand final stage the past three years. Kicked five goals last year, six in 2011 and three in 2010.
James Orr (BL-Serpentine) – the high-leaping athletic ruckman has been a sensation in the LVFL this year right from the day Mitiamo coach Denis Grinton labelled him “the best ruckman I’ve seen in 10 years in every capacity” after round one. His ability to provide first use of the ball to the Bears’ midfielders will be pivotal today.
Cody Gunn (BL-Serpentine) – dynamic small forward who has had a ripping season. Has booted 60 goals and is yet to be held goalless this year. Bridgewater has done well against him, holding him to eight goals in their three meetings.
Justin Wilson (BL-Serpentine) – created plenty of headlines when he left South Bendigo mid-season and signed with the Bears on the eve of the June 30 clearance deadline. Tough-as-nails midfielder, has plenty of premiership experience and is also a forward 50 threat, having kicked 12 goals in his seven games.
B: Luke Scoble, Daniel Nalder, Simon Hanns
Hb: Tristin Nalder, Jack Hickey, Luke Harrison
C: Jayden Exell, Adam Parry, Jackson Bennett
Hf: Marc Lindsay, Darren Clutton, Callum Prest
F: Josh McLeod, Alex Collins, Brad Rohde
R: Taylor Strachan, Zac East, Deon Jones
Inter: Angus Parry, Kris Jermyn, Cam Hayes
B: Shaun Bowles, Daniel Hayes, Paul Olsen
Hb: Andrew Gladman, Brodie Leonard-Shannon, Tom Cartledge
C: Brayden Scott, Adrian Alford, Mick Ring
Hf: Patrick Ring, Nick Arthur, James Rippingale
F: Cody Gunn, Josh Hutton, Rohan Nolan
R: James Orr, Justin Wilson, Nathan McNally
Inter from: Josh Shaw, Christian Sargeant, Steven Pugh, Zac Stone
BENDIGO ADVERTISER SELECTIONS:
ADAM BOURKE - BL-Serpentine (13): The Bears had the second semi-final against Bridgewater in the bag before their late fadeout. Could be the wake-up call the club needed heading into the grand final. VCFL Medal tip: James Orr (Bears-Lagoon Serpentine).
LUKE WEST - Bridgewater (7): Surely, after the grand final fizzers of recent years we’ll get an LVFL grand final to remember. There’s nothing between the two sides, but I’ll back Bridgewater’s grand final experience to be pivotal. VCFL Medal tip: Darren Clutton (Bridgewater).
NATHAN DOLE - BL-Serpentine (9): Bears to claw their way to victory and celebrate a long-awaited flag after a terrific contest against a club that knows all about winning grand finals. Bears to stop Machine’s run in a thriller. VCFL Medal tip: Nick Arthur (Bears-Lagoon Serpentine).
TRAVIS KING - BL-Serpentine (8): They've been the best team all season and will take plenty out of their second semi-final clash with Bridgewater, even though they lost that day. VCFL Medal tip: Nathan McNally (BL-Serpentine).
LUCKY STEW - Bridgewater (4): I like things in fours... the sides of a square, my cut shots to the boundary in cricket season, my golf handicap and four Bridgy flags in a row. VCFL Medal tip: Tristin Nalder (Bridgewater) – becuase he has a 4 in his number.
SENIORS: Bridgewater v BL-Serpentine, 2.15pm
RESERVES: Newbridge v Pyramid Hill, 12.15pm
UNDER-17: Pyramid Hill v Calivil United, 10.30am
A GRADE: YCW v Mitiamo, 3pm
B GRADE: YCW v Calivil United, 1.30pm
C GRADE: Calivil United v Bridgewater, noon
C RESERVE: Inglewood v Mitiamo, 10.30am
17-UNDER: Pyramid Hill v Marong, noon
15-UNDER: Mitiamo v Calivil United, 10.30am
Mostly sunny. Minimum 6 degrees. Maximum 17 degrees.