THERE will be heartbreak whatever the result of tomorrow’s twilight Western Border football preliminary final clash between West Gambier and Casterton Sandford at Vansittart Park.
Both teams have earned their place in the top four, but only one can progress to the grand final against North Gambier.
After a rewarding recruitment period during the off-season and a strong start to the year, the Roos soon built up an impressive reputation.
While they did not finish the minor rounds as strong as they started, they can never be ruled out and will be hungry to earn a rematch against the Tigers.
For the Cats the story is almost a mirror image.
The loss of key personnel before the season’s start saw fresh inclusions and a team which took the majority of the year to gel and find consistent form.
It was not until round 13 where the Cats recorded their first consecutive victory, when they accounted for a win-less Millicent.
The round 12 win came at West’s expense, while another upset in round 14 over East Gambier fuelled the momentum.
A hiccup against North Gambier put the pressure on and after a finals-like meeting with South Gambier, the Cats booked themselves a last-minute berth.
Last week Casterton Sandford overcome its hoodoo against East in finals, after the Bulldogs had put an end to its last three finals campaigns.
It emerged the victor after a goal from Daniel Richardson in the dying moments.
The Cats now look to brush another chip off their shoulder, when they appear in the preliminary final for the third consecutive year.
Will it be third time lucky for the Victorians?
They have the grit and have proved they can play the game down to the final stages without crumbling under pressure.
However, the Roos have their own points to prove and will be desperate to keep their season alive.
There is no doubt they have the talent to do so, but they will need to start strong to prevent a repeat of last week’s qualifying final.
Lawry Bradley-Brown will be looked to again after a best-on-ground performance against the Tigers, with his intensity and pressure on the ball a big asset.
That is one area the Cats excel, with their hard-tackling and pressure-filled style of game.
However, Michael Minuzzo is another Roo capable of finding the hard ball and he has been praised for his tackling this season.
Tom Zeitz comes off a solid outing and his defensive efforts will be pivotal, while he is also dangerous when moved up forward.
His brothers Sam and Jordan also played important roles last week, while Jordan Williams and Tom Holmes will look to back up as well.
For the Cats, tall man Will Macdonald will be looked to for another big game and it is more than likely he will deliver.
He and Dylan Ayton have been the standouts for the side this season and will need to be kept under wraps if the Roos are to take control of the clash.
Macdonald’s contested marking ability is first class, while Ayton is reliable in front of goal.
Richardson also carries form into the clash.
His pace through the middle of the ground will be a key and he will be joined by the likes of Tom Sullivan and Kyle Carlin, who can also tear up the midfield.
Last week Trent Nesbitt was best-on-ground and his efforts off half back will be pivotal again.
West has plenty of options up forward and it can be difficult to pinpoint who will step up on any day.
Ben Papps, Garret Ha and Jett Attard can all be explosive in front of the big sticks, while Dwayne Phillips and Josh Schapel can also stand up when it counts.
Last time the sides met the Cats ran away with the game in the third quarter after a close opening half and fourth term.
It will all come down to which team can maintain the intensity for the full four quarters, with another thrilling finals’ contest expected.
The match is scheduled to tip off at 4pm.