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COLBINABBIN enters Saturday's Heathcote District league grand final confident it's playing its best footy at the right time of the season.
And the Grasshoppers' two lead-up finals certainly attest to that.
Colbinabbin hadn't beaten either Lockington-Bamawm United or North Bendigo in the home and away season, but knocked the Cats over by 29 points in the qualifying final and the Bulldogs by 26 points in the second semi-final to secure its grand final berth with a week's rest.
On Saturday the Grasshoppers get their shot at winning their first premiership since 2008 when they meet North Bendigo at Huntly.
It has been a season of resilience for the Grasshoppers, who at stages had as many as 12 senior players sidelined with injury.
But they fought through adversity to firstly win enough games (12) to finish top three before their two impressive finals victories.
"I'm really proud of the way the group has handled the challenges thrown at them this year... we had up to a dozen guys out at times, so to be able to firstly finish in the top three and then get through to this weekend has been a great effort," coach Julian Bull said.
"There's still five blokes (Ryan Hon, Xavier Walsh, Jono Barnett, Pat O'Brien and Michael Battista) who are all really unlucky stories for us because of injury, but overall, I've been really proud of the effort."
While it has often been a revolving door at selection on Thursday night due to the constant ins and outs forced upon Colbinabbin, the Grasshoppers go into the grand final with an unchanged line-up from the team that beat the Bulldogs in the second semi-final.
"It's as fit and as stable as we've been all year and the group playing together for the past month has really helped us to define our gameplan," Bull said.
"It's a gameplan that has been in place all year, but to be able to have a consistent 22 players delivering it for the past month has been really important."
Much like their opponents North Bendigo, it's an experienced Colbinabbin side that will take to the field on Saturday and that maturity has been evident in the way the Grasshoppers have gone about winning their two lead-up finals.
First was having to twice reel in deficits against the Cats in the qualifying final (33 points in the second quarter; 16 points in the last quarter) and then defending a lead against the Bulldogs in the second semi-final after skipping out to a 28-point advantage by half-time.
"What I know of our playing group is there's not much that fazes them and that we do have some really strong leaders who are able to get momentum in games back. We saw that in the Locky final when we got jumped early and then in the North final two weeks ago when they came back really hard at us in the third quarter," Bull said.
"We know we'll go into Saturday with a really experienced team in terms of age, games and leaders.
"To have an ex-coach in Nick Knight out there as well as a handful of players who have captained teams (Lachlan Ezard, current skipper David Price and Matt Riordan) is some really good experience."
Take out the two 15-year-old young guns in Hugh and Cooper Hamilton and the Grasshoppers have an average age of 29 among their other 20 grand final players on Saturday.
In contrast, the average age of the North Bendigo grand final side is 26.
Despite it being 11 years since Colbinabbin's last premiership in 2008 - a 22-point win over Heathcote coached by Brent Millar - there will be three players from that team on Saturday chasing another flag.
Matt Riordan, Nick Knight (who kicked the goal of the day from the boundary) and Sam Vale were all part of the 2008 premiership team who are also hoping to make 2019 a year to remember for the Grasshoppers.
And all three have been valuable contributors to the Grasshoppers this year.
Riordan, who was best-on-ground in the second semi-final, is Colbinabbin's leading goalkicker with 35; Knight, who coached the Grasshoppers the previous three years, has been a driving force off the half-back flank; and Vale a bull through the midfield.
Bull, who will coach from the sidelines, was also part of that last flag in 2008.
"And we've also got the likes of Will Morrow, Tom Hill and Hadleigh Sirett who have played a lot of footy for Colbinabbin without winning a flag and it would be obviously fantastic on Saturday if they could achieve the ultimate success with the club," Bull said.
While Morrow, Hill and Sirett have long been hunting a senior premiership with Colbinabbin, Cooper and Hugh Hamilton are a chance of winning one before their 16th birthdays.
Despite their youth, neither of the Hamilton twins have been overawed by the big stage of senior finals.
Cooper - an Under-16 All-Australian earlier this year - has been lively on a wing with his run and carry, while Hugh slotted four goals in the second semi-final against the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Bull says X-factor forward Daniel Connors is raring to go for the grand final after he had been hampered by a hip problem in the second half of the second-semi-final.
"He's all good to go... it's a bit of a pinched nerve and he's had about five treatments on it, but he's feeling good and he'll be fine," said Bull, who is coaching in his fourth-straight grand final.
Before returning to Colbinabbin this year Bull coached Wycheproof-Narraport into the past three North Central league grand finals, including to two flags.
Having finished third on the ladder, the Grasshoppers would become the lowest-ranked team since Mount Pleasant (also third) in 1994 to win the flag if they prevail.
As well as the senior football, Colbinabbin also has the chance to win the A Grade netball flag as well.
COLBINABBIN GRAND FINAL TEAM:
21 - SAM BOWERS
Games: 15 Goals: 24
32 - MATT McEVOY
Games: 15 Goals: 0
49 - CHRIS GUINANE
Games: 9 Goals: 0
2 - NICK KNIGHT
Games: 17 Goals: 11
8 - DAMIEN CARMODY
Games: 15 Goals: 3
9 - DAVID PRICE (C)
Games: 18 Goals: 9
39 - TOM HILL
Games: 17 Goals: 0
29 - SAM VALE
Games: 18 Goals: 8
6 - ALEX VAN RUISWYK
Games: 18 Goals: 11
31 - LACHLAN EZARD
Games: 18 Goals: 2
12 - MATT RIORDAN
Games: 18 Goals: 35
40 - NAT NIXON
Games: 13 Goals: 11
23 - HUGH McMURTRIE
Games: 17 Goals: 0
15 - DANIEL CONNORS
Games: 5 Goals: 20
5 - BEN SOUTHAM
Games: 16 Goals: 18
27 - HADLEIGH SIRETT
Games: 16 Goals: 1
33 - COOPER HAMILTON
Games: 7 Goals: 2
20 - TODD BRYANT
Games: 14 Goals: 7
7 - TODD CLARKE
Games: 8 Goals: 3
18 - HUGH HAMILTON
Games: 8 Goals: 11
3 - WILL MORROW
Games: 13 Goals: 3
4 - STEPHEN TUOHEY
Games: 17 Goals: 20
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