Bitter rivals face off as Loddon Valley league finals begin on Saturday

COACH Matt Dillon says Newbridge must be ready for a Bridgewater team that won’t have taken kindly to already losing twice to the Maroons in the Loddon Valley league this season.

KEY PLAYER: Jordan Gilboy's consistent season in the midfield has been pivotal for Newbridge earning a double chance. Picture: ADAM BOURKE

KEY PLAYER: Jordan Gilboy's consistent season in the midfield has been pivotal for Newbridge earning a double chance. Picture: ADAM BOURKE

The 2017 LVFNL finals series begins on Saturday when Bridgewater and Newbridge clash in the qualifying final at Mitiamo.

The Maroons have been a bogey side for Bridgewater this season after already twice defeating the Mean Machine by margins of 27 and 21 points.

“We’re confident going into this Saturday, without being cocky,” Dillon said.

“We know we’ve probably stoked the bear a bit by having beaten Bridgewater twice and that they will no doubt be wanting to come out and make amends.

“We’ll have a hard outfit coming at us, but all we can focus on is trying to play well for four quarters.”

The Maroons – who haven’t won a final since 2012 – go into Saturday’s game on the back of a hard-fought 16-point win over Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in a match where third spot was on the line last week.

We know we’ve probably stoked the bear a bit by having beaten Bridgewater twice and that they will no doubt be wanting to come out and make amends - Matt Dillon - Newbridge coach

“With so much at stake in what was a really tight and hard game, that was exactly what you want in a hit-out before finals,” Dillon said.

“We know it’s going to go up another notch this weekend, but it was certainly a good test ahead of finals.”

Instrumental in the Maroons’ finishing the home and away rounds in third position has been a breakout season from ruckman Tyler Romeril and a superb midfield performance from Jordan Gilboy.

The Maroons are one of only two teams – the other being Maiden Gully YCW – that hasn’t had a player kick more than 30 goals, with recruit Edward Coulthard their best with 27.

Bridgewater has owned this time of the season for the past seven years, during which it has won seven flags on the trot, as well as all 15 finals it has contested.

The Mean Machine enter the finals off the back of an upset 44-point loss to Marong last week, but strengthened by the inclusions of coach Marc Lindsay, captain Zeb Broadbent, Rick Ladson, Harry Symons and Liam Jacques.

It will be the best side Bridgewater has put on the park against Newbridge this season and, despite plenty of off-season turnover, still includes 16 premiership players.

Captain Zeb Broadbent returns to Bridgewater's team on Saturday.

Captain Zeb Broadbent returns to Bridgewater's team on Saturday.

“We’re hellbent on getting a good start on Saturday and being ultra competitive,” Lindsay said.

“We know we’ve got some really good finals experience and enjoy this time of the year and we’ll be aiming to play the way we want to play and improve from last week.

“We’ve been well down on our best the past two times we’ve played Newbridge. That has been due to their pressure, but we’d like to think some of that has been in our control as well.

“We know that our best is good enough and that’s what we’ve got to get to on Saturday with a contribution out of everyone.”

• How they match up:

Newbridge:

Record – 11-5

Average for – 79

Average against – 72

Quarters won – 32/64

Bridgewater:

Record – 11-5

Average for – 94

Average against – 68

Quarters won – 36/64

……………………………….…

IF Mitiamo is to make it through to a third-straight grand final, it will have to do so from the elimination final – just as it did in 2015.

The Superoos will take on Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in Sunday’s elimination final at Calivil from 2.15pm.

In what was been a 2017 plagued by inconsistency, the Superoos have won their past three – their best winning streak of the season – with coach Justin Maddern confident his side is hitting its straps at the right time.

“Over the past three games we’ve got a consistent brand of footy that I knew the group was capable of, but we just hadn’t been able to produce it,” Maddern said.

Mitiamo coach Justin Maddern.

Mitiamo coach Justin Maddern.

“We’re getting to our best now and that’s all you can ask for coming into a finals series.”

A key to the Superoos’ past three wins against Maiden Gully YCW, Inglewood and Pyramid Hill has been strong starts that have led to half-time leads of 70, 68 and 48 points.

Despite a focus on trying to ease the reliance on Maddern inside 50, the coach has still carried a heavy load up forward with 60 goals – 43 more than the next best Superoo in Kyle Patten (17).

Selection was difficult for the Superoos on Thursday night with a full list to pick from, with Nathan Twigg coming into the side at the expense of Adam Sims.

The Bears have been the big surprise packets of the season, making the finals a year after a winless 2016.

“If someone told us at the start of the year we’d be playing finals, we obviously would have taken that any day of the week,” Bears coach Greg Gadsden said.

“In reality, we were just hoping to get somewhere between six to eight wins, so to play finals now on top of that is a bonus.

SURPRISE PACKETS: Bears Lagoon-Serpentine's Josh Walsh is among the recruits that have helped the Bears rise from winless in 2016 to finalists in 2017.

SURPRISE PACKETS: Bears Lagoon-Serpentine's Josh Walsh is among the recruits that have helped the Bears rise from winless in 2016 to finalists in 2017.

“We’re happy with where we’ve finished already, but now that we’re here we obviously want to try to have an impact in finals.”

Among their wins have been a 62-point belting of the Superoos in round 14.

“It gives the guys some confidence and belief knowing we have beaten them before and that if we come to play there’s no reason why we can’t do it again,” Gadsden said.

“But we know Mitiamo is an exceptional side and that in any finals game, you have to play well to get a win.”

• How they match up:

Mitiamo:

Record – 9-7

Average for – 85

Average against – 62

Quarters won – 37/64

BL-Serpentine:

Record – 9-7

Average for – 88

Average against – 76

Quarters won – 36/64

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