CHARLTON and Wedderburn will both take full strength teams into Saturday’s North Central Football League grand final at Donald.
It shapes as an enthralling contest between the best side of the year, Charlton, against the team that has won the past two flags.
The Redbacks go into the grand final primed and playing their best football of the season.
Wedderburn – which sat outside the top four after round 12 – has won its past eight games, including an 89-point belting of St Arnaud in last week’s preliminary final.
“We had a bit of a group meeting earlier in the year when the season looked like it may have been slipping away, and the boys have really got their act together over the past couple of months,” Wedderburn coach Daniel Gash said.
“But getting blokes back out on the park has also been a big help as well.”
The Redbacks haven’t been beaten since a 38-point loss to Wycheproof-Narraport in round 12, with their average winning margin their past eight games 60 points.
Wedderburn has strength across every line, but the headline act in recent weeks has been full-forward Sam Barnes.
Barnes has kicked 33 goals his past three games, including 10 last week.
As well as Barnes – who has kicked 77 goals for the season – Charlton will also have to contend with Brady Herdman (33), while recruit Marc Reiffel (30) has also been damaging.
A win on Saturday and the Redbacks will become the first team since Wycheproof-Narraport (1995-97) to win three NCFL flags in a row.
However, standing in their way are the Navy Blues, who finished on top of the ladder and have won 12 of 17 games.
The Navy Blues won their last flag in 2009 and finished fifth the previous three years, before rising back up the ladder this season under new coach Reece Collins.
“There was a lot of younger players there last year and we’ve been able to add in a bit more experience alongside them,” Collins said.
“Getting some more experience in has given the kids a bit more confidence to take the game on.
“The club had done a fair bit of work over the past three years in putting the groundwork in. I’ve come in and tried to instill a bit more confidence into them.”
Charlton’s season has been one of thirds.
The Navy Blues won their first six games, went 2-4 in their middle six games, and have since won their past five.
They have played limited football in recent weeks, with their only game since August 17 their second semi-final win over St Arnaud two weeks ago.
LUKE WEST: Wedderburn (18).
ADAM BOURKE: Wedderburn (20).
NATHAN DOLE: Charlton (9).
TRAVIS KING: Wedderburn (13).
LUCKY STEW: Charlton (17).
RICHARD JONES: Charlton (32).
LANCE STANDFIELD (NCFL): Wedderburn (23).
LEON HOLT (NCFL): Wedderburn (24).
TOTAL: Wedderburn 5; Charlton 3.
SENIORS: 2.30pm: Charlton v Wedderburn,
RESERVES: 12.30pm: Donald v St Arnaud
UNDER-16: 10.50am: Boort v St Arnaud
UNDER-13: 9.30am: Birchip-Watchem v Donald
A GRADE: 12.30pm: Wedderburn v Charlton
B GRADE: 1.45pm: Wedderburn v Charlton
C GRADE: 3pm: Wedderburn v Charlton
16-UNDER A: 11.20am: Birchip-Watchem v Wedderburn
16-UNDER B: 10.20am: Donald v Birchip-Watchem
13-UNDER: 9.30am: Donald v Wedderburn