A 2-4 RECORD to start the Loddon Valley league season had Mitiamo looking like a team that would struggle just to make the finals, let alone contend for a flag.
Granted, the Superoos had knocked over both previous year’s grand finalists Bridgewater and Calivil United in their first two games, but a string of four losses in a row – all against sides that would go on to play finals – had Mitiamo under the pump.
But that was back in May.
This is September and the Superoos have well and truly put their sluggish start behind them and on Saturday will take on Newbridge in the grand final at Bridgewater.
“We had a lot of ins and outs early in the season and lost a few close games and the results just weren’t falling our way,” Mitiamo coach Andy Grant said this week.
“We’ve had to work hard all the way through, but there was always a belief in the group that if we could get into the finals we’d be able to go a long way. We think the past six weeks we’ve had has been as good a lead-up as you’d want.”
Since their shaky 2-4 start the Superoos have won 10 of their past 13 games to get through to what is their third grand final in the past four years.
The result that seems to have ignited the Superoos’ surge to the grand final was their round 15 victory over Bears Lagoon-Serpentine, who they spent much of the second half of the season jostling for a finals berth with.
The Superoos had gone into that game in sixth position, but emerged victorious by 24 points to climb back into the top five where they remained in what was the first of what has become a six-game winning streak.
By ending the home and away season fifth, the Superoos – whose position in the finals still wasn’t 100 per cent guaranteed going into round 18 – have become the lowest-ranked side in Loddon Valley history to make a grand final.
Over the past three weeks they have ended the seasons of Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the elimination final (79 points), Pyramid Hill in the first semi-final (1) and Maiden Gully YCW (36) in the preliminary final.
“I know we only just got over the line in the game against Pyramid Hill, but we’ve built really well over the past six weeks,” Grant said.
“It was close at three quarter-time against YCW last week, but the last quarter showed the character of the boys… to be down at three quarter-time and go on to win by six goals was a sensational effort. We’ve been able to settle our 22 down over the past six weeks and that certainly helps.”
We’ve had to work hard all the way through, but there was always a belief in the group that if we could get into the finals we’d be able to go a long wayAndy Grant - Mitiamo coach
One of the challenges confronting the Superoos heading into the season was how they would fill the void in attack following the departure of former coach Justin Maddern, who had booted 174 goals during his two seasons at the helm of Mitiamo.
The addition of Ryan Wellington for the second half of the season has proven a crucial piece of the puzzle for the Superoos.
Wellington, who had started the season with Charlton, has provided the Superoos with the strong focal point they had been craving, kicking 37 goals in 11 games, which has included bags of seven in both the elimination and preliminary final.
“Ryan has always been a good player, but over the past couple of years has turned himself into a great player and been a fantastic inclusion,” Grant said.
“We needed a focal point and Ryan has provided that, but he has also created opportunities for other guys to kick goals as well.”
While Wellington has been Mitiamo’s key avenue to goal in the second half of the season, the Superoos will go into the grand final with 10 other players who have kicked a double-figure tally of goals – Dylan Clohesy (20), Michael I’Anson (18), Tom Grant (16), Luke Scott (15), Lachlan Drummond (12), Lucas Matthews (12), James Rozynski (12), Matthew Trewhella (11), Aaron McKean (11) and co-captain Jarryd Wiegard (11).
Grant acknowledges the Superoos will go in as the clear underdogs on Saturday, but Mitiamo did show in round 14 it has the capacity to serve it right up to the highly-fancied Maroons.
That day against the Maroons the Superoos were beaten by just eight points with a team that featured three players who had already played a full game in the reserves.
“To be fair Newbridge was missing a few that day as well such as Sam Mildren and Ash Trollop, but there’s a real belief among the group that we can beat them,” Grant said.
“It’s going to take a hell of an effort, but the confidence is among the group.”
That competitive showing against the Maroons in round 14 when they scored 13.8 (86) was one of only six games out of their 19 this year where the Superoos have kicked more goals than behinds, with their inaccuracy having been a constant source of frustration for Grant.
Of the Superoos’ seven losses, they had equal to or more scoring shots than their opposition in five of them.
Grant will be aiming to emulate the feat of his father, Bill Grant, who was the coach of Mitiamo’s last premiership team in 2009 when the Superoos beat Calivil United.
That premiership team featured Kyle Patten, McKean and Tom Grant, who will also be part of Saturday’s grand final side.
“Winning the contested footy is going to be really important on Saturday. Newbridge has got a lethal forward line, so we have to make sure we control the midfield battle and give our forwards the best opportunity,” Grant said.
The likes of co-captain Terry Reeves, who was runner-up in the Harding Medal, McKean, Rozynski and veteran Matthews provides the Superoos with plenty of contested ball-winning ability through the midfield.
Meanwhile, in the earlier games, Maiden Gully YCW will play Pyramid Hill in a re-match of last year’s under-18 grand final from 10.30am, while Bridgewater will be gunning for four reserves flags in a row against Pyramid Hill from 12.15pm.
B: A. Benbow, N. Farley, T. Cocks
HB: L. Lougoon, M. Simpson, J. Wiegard
C: R. Reeves, A. McKean, D. Clohesy
HF: K. Patten, R. Wellington, L. Scott
F: T. Grant, M. Trewhella, J. Rozynski
R: M. I'Anson, T. Reeves, L. Matthews
Int: M. Grant, J. Falls, I. Mathewson, L. Drummond
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