Old foes Cheltenham and Dingley will battle it out for Southern Football’s greatest prize at RSEA Park on Saturday afternoon in a mouth-watering Division 1 Grand Final match up.
After several underwhelming seasons, the Rosellas bounced back in a big way in 2019 and the club returns to the big stage for their first crack at a senior flag in 24 years.
A first finals appearance since 2014 was locked in after an impressive 13-5 win-loss record and Des Ryan’s side carried their good form into finals with strong wins over East Malvern and Dingley.
The win over Dingley in particular will fuel the playing group with considerable confidence in the way they dismantled one of the competitions flag fancies.
Having enjoyed the week off, the Rosellas will be hungry to repeat their semi-final heroics but will be wary of a Dingoes outfit who will be licking their wounds from that loss.
No strangers to this time of the season, Dingley return for their fifth Grand Final appearance in six seasons after missing out in 2018.
The Dingoes have been a consistent force in the competition and another minor premiership finish left them in a great position to collect their fourth flag in five seasons.
However their alarming last quarter semi-final fade out suddenly put them up at risk of bowing out in straight sets against a quality opponent in East Malvern.
But as all good sides do, the Dingoes bounced back in resilient fashion and now earn the right to make amends on the biggest stage of all.
Expect a much better showing this time around from Shane Morwood’s men come the first bounce at 2:30pm.
Both sides are littered with stars, with no less than nine Team of the Year selections across the two teams.
Sam Hayes, Cameron Blitsas and Daniel Vaughan all form key posts of the Rosellas' defence, which is the best in the competition, averaging just 49.5 points against per game.
They’ll have their hands full though with the Dingley duo of Dan Farmer (55 goals) and Troy Parker (35 goals) consistently hitting the scoreboard throughout season 2019.
In the middle of the ground, Dylan Weickhardt and Jack Worrell have lead from the front and will battle it out against Dingley’s renowned big game players in Danny Ades, Lucas Walmsley and Chris Horton-Milne.
All three Dingoes have produced on the biggest stage in years gone by with two Meneilly medals and a league Best & Fairest between them.
The ruck battle shapes as an intriguing one, with former VFL ruckman and man mountain Charlie Kelso forming an imposing figure at 208cm tall for the Rosellas.
Kelso is crucial to his side’s structure, allowing Sean McLaren and Will McTaggart to patrol the forward 50 and provide strong marking targets.
The duo have combined for 70 goals this season and will be of chief concern for the Dingoes' defence.
A key figure in that defence is Travis La Rocca who once again has put together a consistent season off the half back flank.
Both sides have battled injuries to key players this season with Cheltenham losing Myke Cook and Josh Fox to season ending knee injures, while Dingoes co-captain Jackson Peet also had his season cut short.
However their short term departures have opened up opportunities for other players to step up and demonstrate the depth both clubs contain.
The two sides have clashed three times this season, with Cheltenham’s semi-final triumph edging them ahead of the ledger.
Bringing plenty of Grand Final experience with them, the Dingoes will be confident of squaring the ledger knowing they’ve tasted success on the biggest stage before.
For Cheltenham, featuring in their first senior Grand Final since 1995, the experience will be a bit unknown.
Will their collective lack of big game experience count on the day? The Rosellas haven’t looked troubled by the finals experience so far but Grand Finals are a whole new pressure cooker and the heat will be on early.
One things for certain, this promises to be a cracking match up and the margin shouldn’t stray too far for either team throughout the day.
When tipping a winner, as impressive as Cheltenham have been this season it’s hard to look past Dingley’s recent track record in Grand Finals and they’ll be desperate to right the wrongs of two weeks ago.