LEONGATHA will face Maffra in this Saturday’s Gippsland League grand final at Moe for the second consecutive year, hoping for redemption.
The Parrots finished on top of the ladder again in 2017, after also claiming the minor premiership in 2015 and 2016, but ultimate success has eluded the club since 2001.
Why will this year be different?
The Parrots have addressed areas that showed up as weaknesses in previous grand finals.
They have bigger bodies in the midfield, with Cam Stone and Pat McGrath giving Tom Marriott more help, while Josh Schelling provides relief for Ben Willis in the ruck.
The emergence of Jack Ginnane as a forward has released Cade Maskell into the midfield where his ball use is supreme.
The Parrots have a settled defence, led by Chris Verboon and Sean Westaway, that’s capable of handling any combination.
There’s a good spread of goalkickers at the other end with Chris Dunne, Aaron Hillberg and Ginnane all capable of kicking a bag.
There’s also great depth across the board these days and that’s due to a strong Reserves side that will also be in action on Saturday.
The depth has shown in the fact the Parrots had just three players in the team of the year announced last night; full back Sean Westaway, Tom Marriott in the centre and Chris Dunne in the forward pocket.
As far as injuries go, the Parrots will be almost at full strength. Young Louis Riseley had established himself in defence but a hamstring injury ended his season before the finals.
There’s a couple of Leongatha players who would have been glad to have the weekend off and should play, although Tim Sauvarin is among a couple of players on standby for a call up.
For Maffra, the Parrots will have to watch goal sneak Mitch Bennett while Daniel Bedggood is hitting form at the right time.
The Eagles also only had three players in the team of the year; Sam Pleming at centre half back, Bennett in the forward pocket and Danny Butcher on the bench.
The start will be crucial for Leongatha.
The Parrots have played catch up footy in the past two grand finals and haven’t been able to get back into the game.
But they now have as much finals experience as their opponents and should break though for a win.