BRIDGEWATER coach Marc Lindsay never lost the faith during the season that the Mean Machine’s best would be good enough to win another Loddon Valley league premiership.
Twice this year the Mean Machine lost an uncharacteristic two games in a row and approaching the halfway mark of the season they sat outside the top five after eight rounds.
While opposition coaches maintained the Mean Machine remained the yardstick of the competition, in losing five games and scraping over the line in four others by single figure margins they haven’t cast the same shadow over the league as they have in years gone by during their unbroken premiership run that began in 2010.
Yet the Mean Machine – who opened 2017 by losing to last year’s winless Bears Lagoon-Serpentine – are in another grand final and with an opportunity to win their eighth premiership in a row when they take on Calivil United, a team they have won three less games than, on Saturday at Serpentine.
“We’ve always been confident that our best has been good enough, but we just weren’t able to find it consistently enough as what we have in previous years,” Lindsay said on Friday.
“With new personnel in the side it took some time, but we were always confident that we’d be able to play a style of footy that would hold up against any team.
“We set out at the start of the year to create another opportunity to win a grand final and we’ve got that on Saturday.”
We’ve always been confident that our best has been good enough, but we just weren’t able to find it consistently enoughMarc Lindsay
Bridgewater’s team on Saturday features seven players – Xavier Henderson, 17-year-old Lachlan Mangan, Liam Jacques, Daniel Symes, Kevin Bloom, Nick Hall and Jack Symons – striving to win their first senior flags.
Which means despite plenty of turnover from last season, there are still 15 players who will take to the field at Serpentine who have won at least one flag as part of the club’s seven on the trot.
The 15 premiership players on Saturday total 64 flags between them, headed by Darren Clutton, Deon Jones and Daniel Nalder, who have played in all seven.
Highlighting the turnover from last year, Bridgewater’s premiership team of 2016 that beat Mitiamo combined for 94 flags during the streak.
“We’re really confident we have a great mix of premiership players in the side, as well as the hunger that comes with a number of players chasing their first senior flag,” Lindsay said.
Bridgewater is the only team to have beaten Calivil United this season, and has done so twice, including by nine points in the second semi-final two weeks ago.
Rick Ladson, who has indicated he will retire after this season, and Jack Symons come into the grand final side, while ruckman David Harrison (suspension) and Peter Rothacker are out.
With Harrison ineligible it will be up to six-time premiership player Josh Metherell and Hall to take on the most dominant ruckman in the competition in the Demons’ Chris Down.
Forward Alex Collins has shouldered a heavy load in attack for the Mean Machine, with his tally of 76 equating to 31 per cent of the goals kicked by Bridgewater.
Like the Demons’ Bryce Curnow down the other end, the influence of Collins – who has been among the Mean Machine’s best three players in each of their three games against the Demons – will be telling on the contest.
Serpentine is the only ground, apart from its own because the venue must be neutral, that Bridgewater hasn’t won a flag on during its remarkable streak.
Grand final team
Number in brackets is calculated off club best players each week – six votes for the player named best, five votes for the second best and so on.
B: 29. Xavier Henderson (47), 48. Daniel Nalder (15), 42. Tristin Nalder (16)
HB: 11. Harry Symons (7), 22. Darren Clutton (34), 14. Luke Harrison (23)
C: 1. Marc Lindsay (7), 4. Zeb Broadbent (38), 45. Lachlan Mangan (8)
HF: 27. Deon Jones (6), 37. Tom Kuhne (11), 20. Ben Galea (0)
F: 17. Rick Ladson (2), 6. Alex Collins (43), 3. Liam Jacques (14)
FOLL: 8. Josh Metherell (7), 30. Kyle Chant (23), 2. Tom Broadbent (23)
INTER: 18. Nick Hall (0), 24. Daniel Symes (1),10. Kevin Bloom (10), 7. Jack Symons (4)
By the numbers
Record – 13-5
Average for – 93
Average against – 69
Percentage – 134.8
Quarters won – 39/72
Time in front – 63.9%
Highest score – 168 v Marong, round 9
Lowest score – 54 v Newbridge, round 16
Alex Collins – 76
Ben Galea – 20
Liam Jacques – 16
Zeb Broadbent – 13