MOUNT Burr forwards Dylan Ridley and Jack Gregory are the players most likely to deny Hatherleigh the premiership when the Mid South East Football League grand final is played at Nangwarry today.
The lively pair have the form and the firepower to take the Mozzies to a 19th flag and dash the hopes of rookie Eagles coach Jase Faulkner and his team.
Ridley can turn the fate of a game in the space of five minutes while Gregory has been the most consistent and prolific forward in the MSEFL for almost a decade.
Come-what-may, both Faulkner and Mount Burr counterpart Tom Renzi will be long remembered for their personal playing and coaching feats in a remarkable season.
Their respective clubs have already reappointed them to their coaching roles for 2018.
While quite a number of other MSEFL clubs have spent like drunken sailors in a bid to play in the season decider, the Mozzies and the Eagles have chiefly relied on local talent and their talented juniors to reach the last match of the season.
For Renzi, 2017 has been a time to consolidate on the success he enjoyed in his first year at the helm.
Although Mount Burr had won the flag, the club had been unbalanced by the departure of skipper and past Mail Medallist Clint Gallio and fellow key premiership players Zacc Watson and Mitch Gordon.
These losses were balanced by the return of Tom Fennell and Gregory who are both past premiership players.
The early season form was lacklustre and the reigning premiers were sitting at second-to-bottom after a handful matches.
However, the form of the Mozzies revived and the return of dual premiership player Zacc Watson from Adelaide late in the season was a bonus
Faulkner is also held in high esteem around the league as he took on the job in succession to departing teacher Brad Haskett and after the Eagles had endured three seasons without any major round participation.
It was a rocky start to the season for the Eagles and two losses, a bye and the Easter break meant Faulkner did not enjoy a breakthrough win until near the end of April.
In head-to-head contests in 2017, the tally stands at one apiece.
Hatherleigh won by 36 points on April 29 and the Mail Medal votes went to Hatherleigh’s Sam Waring (3), and Brad Wight (2) along with Mount Burr’s Henry Crauford (1).
In the return match on July 13, the Mozzies won by 9 points with the umpires recognising Renzi (3 votes), Mount Burr’s Josh Wallis (2) and Hatherleigh’s Gerard McGrath (1).
The rucking duel between “skyscrapers” Waring and Crauford will be one of many critical clashes on the day.
In terms of experience, Mount Burr has the obvious edge as it has played more finals in recent years.
Both teams have a player who has tasted success on grand final days dating back 15 years.
Mozzie Dale Bowering played in the first of his eight winning grand finals in 1995 while Eagle Matt Faulkner sang his victory song on the last playing day of the 2002 season.
He has also celebrated premierships in 2005, 2008 and 2013.
Coming into this match, the Mozzies have had to consider the fitness of Gregory who looked to be favouring a leg during his game-high tally of four goals in the big preliminary final over Kalangadoo at Tantanoola.
Veteran Will Whitty has been battling some serious health issues but is expected to play.
Renzi has stated the final 22 for Saturday will not be known after the last training run and a check on the weather conditions.
Ever since the latest Mount Burr golden era began in 2009, it has had a lucky run with injuries.
The Mozzies have played in six grand finals for five flags and had every first-choice player available for selection in those games.
Hatherleigh is close to full strength with four obvious exceptions due to injury.
Tom Bell, Dylan Clough and Tom Schulz all played in the club’s last premiership four years ago while key 2016 recruit and veterinarian Dr David Oswald has been sidelined for much of the past two seasons.
The Eagles have a good running game and use the wide flanks of Nangwarry Oval to good effect.
This season began with the pre-season carnival on a hot March day at Kalangadoo.
It has been even longer for six Hatherleigh players and one Mount Burr player as they accepted the invitation to play in the South East zone carnival at Mount Gambier in June.
Eagle Brad Wight also had the opportunity with a few others from the MSEFL to experience an even higher level of football in the annual SA Country Championships at Murray Bridge in July.
In the past 70 seasons, Mount Burr and Hatherleigh have met just once in grand final and that was 41 years ago at Nangwarry,
The Eagles were no match for the Mozzies and went down by 94 points: 20.15 to 4.17.
The gatetakings amounted to $1600 and Mount Burr teen John Seebohm was the star with 8 goals ahead of a successful career at SANFL and State level.
There won’t be too many similarities between 1976 and 2017 as the gatetakings will be higher, the margin will be much closer and there will be no individuals booting 8 goals.