By Jason Barbin
So it all comes down to this, the last game of the season. Chelsea Heights and Murrumbeena will go to battle at Doveton for premiership glory and a spot in Division 1 in 2018.
Round 1 – Chelsea Heights 11.8 (74) def Murrumbeena 7.7 (49) at Beazley Reserve
Round 12 – Murrumbeena 8.13 (61) def Chelsea Heights 8.11 (59) at Murrumbeena Park
So it all comes down to this, after 24 weeks of football it comes down to one game.
All the hard work put together across the preseason and through all the highs and lows that come with playing the sport we all love.
It all comes down to two hours of football between two teams that deserve to be standing there on that one day in September.
Fittingly, the match will be played by the best team in the competition and the first team to knock them off during their minor premiership run.
Chelsea Heights, after finishing with 15 wins from 18 games, will go into the match as short priced favourites, and rightly so after being the team to beat all season.
While comfortable victories have been a staple of the Heighters’ season, it hasn’t all been easy for Brad Canavan’s men with the club experiencing several difficulties across the year, most noticeably the revelation of Cal Dodson and his battle with cancer.
Dodson’s battle has done nothing but inspire the playing group and has helped shape their season into what it has become.
Led by gun midfielder Nathan Herrington, who has been the standout player for the year, Chelsea Heights boasts a deep and talented midfield core.
Herrington, along with the likes of Joel Williams, Michael Shaw and Jarryd Uren have stood tall throughout the season and will play important roles in Saturday’s clash.
The man to watch will no doubt be big man Phil Smith, especially after last year’s heartbreak in the Preliminary Final.
Smith has dominated inside 50 this season to the tune of 64 goals from 16 games and is comfortably the best forward in the competition, establishing dangerous partnerships with the likes of James Robertson, Lachlan Dobson and Phil Matheson.
For Murrumbeena, it’s hard not to look back on the last time it was in a Grand Final, but it wasn’t a happy occasion for the Beena, going down to Oakleigh Districts in 2015.
But two years is a long time in football, and the Murrumbeena team that played then is vastly different from the one that will run onto Power Reserve on Saturday.
Leading the way is gun midfield duo Jake Semmel and Liam Wilson, who have both had outstanding seasons and can win the ball seemingly at will.
Not to be overlooked are the combination of Chris Evans, Darcy Hargrave and Jarrod Walker, who have also been standouts across the year.
Not known for being a high scoring team, the Beena does have a more than capable target inside 50 in Alaster Bradley, who has had an impressive finals series to date.
Despite being held goalless in the preliminary final, Bradley has produced 34 goals on the year and, combined with Rhys Clayton and Eduardo Espinosa, forms a formidable forward line trio.
Last, but certainly not least, is captain Mitch Walder, a versatile leader who plays with his heart for coach Stevie Wright.
But enough about the stars of the game, it’s time to predict a result.
While logic certainly dictates a likely victory for Chelsea Heights, it has been the better team all season, the way Murrumbeena has played not only in the lead up to the finals, but for three straight weeks, cannot be ignored.
As most games do, it will come down to possession through the midfield and which side can make the most of their opportunities.
Before I pick a winner and a margin, I would like to congratulate both sides on their outstanding years and wish them all the best in Saturday’s clash.
Chelsea Heights by 12 points.