NAVARRE v Lexton – it’s the Maryborough-Castlemaine District Football League grand final match-up that a week ago looked a long shot.
The Grasshoppers and Tigers both went into last week’s preliminary finals as the underdogs, but emerged victorious to book a place in this Sunday’s grand final at Princes Park.
Lexton upstaged Newstead by 10 points, while Navarre slayed the giant, Carisbrook.
Navarre’s four-point win over Carisbrook – the flag favourites all year – was the Redbacks’ first defeat of the season.
“It was obviously a fantastic win last week, but it means nothing now,” Navarre coach Daniel Parkin said.
“We’ve given ourselves a chance in a grand final and hopefully, we can get the job done this week.”
Sunday will be Navarre’s third grand final in a row since joining the MCDFL.
The Grasshoppers have taken the same route to the season decider as the previous two years in losing their qualifying final, but bouncing back to win semi and preliminary finals.
While it’s the same path as the previous two years, they’ll be hoping for a different result to 2011 and 2012 when they were beaten in the premiership battles by Natte Bealiba and Carisbrook
“The past couple of years we’ve had a few injuries going into grand finals, but this year we’ll be fairly close to full strength,” said Parkin, who is hoping to return from a broken jaw suffered in the qualifying final loss to Newstead.
Lexton has recovered from a 132-point qualifying final loss to Carisbrook three weeks ago to win its way into the grand final.
The previous two years the Tigers – who like Navarre joined the MCDFL in 2011 – had been raging flag favourites, winning 30 of 32 home and away games, but failed to make a grand final.
This year, they have escaped the pressure of expectation after a turnover of players pre-season and quietly gone about their business out of the spotlight under new coach Paul Phillips.
“Coming in this year with no expectation has worked in our favour,” Phillips said.
“This year we’ve had 11 or 12 guys who have played their first senior games for Lexton, so we’ve been able to give a lot of opportunity, which has been really pleasing.”
As for his side’s ability to rebound from the 132-point qualifying final loss to Carisbrook, Phillips said there had been no secret formula.
“It has just been a real hunger for the footy and the players’ competitiveness... they are the two main things I can put it down to,” Phillips said.
“Grand finals are won and lost with contested footy, so that’s going to be a real focus of ours on Sunday.”
LUKE WEST: Navarre (26).
ADAM BOURKE: Navarre (14).
NATHAN DOLE: Navarre (6).
TRAVIS KING: Navarre (21).
LUCKY STEW: Lexton (4).
RICHARD JONES: Navarre (11).
SHAUN KELLY (MCDFL): Navarre (23).
SCOTT CAREY (MCDFL): Navarre (17).
TOTAL: Navarre 7; Lexton 1.
SENIORS: 2.35pm: Navarre v Lexton
RESERVES: 12.25: Newstead v Carisbrook
UNDER 17½: 10.55am: Newstead v Dunolly
UNDER 15: 9.25am: Carisbrook v Trentham
UNDER 12: 8.10am: Campbells Creek v Avoca
A GRADE: 2.15pm: Navarre v Lexton
B GRADE: 1.15pm: Avoca v Lexton
C GRADE: 11.50am: Natte Bealiba v Lexton
17-UNDER: 10.50am: Harcourt v Natte Bealiba
15-UNDER: 9.30am: Harcourt v Natte Bealiba
13-UNDER: 8.30am: Rovers v Talbot