By Beth Newman
It’s surprisingly rare to see the two best sides face off in a grand final, so Allied Pickfords Cup fans will be fortunate that this season has unfolded the way it has.
Springwood comes into the decider having only lost one match all year – to their grand final opponents, Palm Beach.
For the Pumas, this game is a decade in the making, and continues an unbelievable transformation for a side that finished with just four wins in 2012.
Springwood coach, Tony King, will be calling the shots tomorrow, but a part of him is just another parent hoping his son, Jake, can hold up the cup.
King has seen the core of the side come through from juniors and said the whole club was excited to see them play off for a flag
“I guess I’m a dad like everyone. To see the guys come through all the way from under-10s, it’s been a wonderful experience,” he said.
“Everyone supports each other very well and no matter what the result, they’ll be getting clapped off tomorrow.
“There is a certain energy down there that will really help the boys though.”
Despite all of the progress the club has made this season, there’s no doubt they won’t be satisfied just to be there tomorrow.
Having earned a week’s rest after beating the Magpies in the major semi-final, the Pumas will be well-rested coming into the decider, and King said there were no injury worries for the side.
Defender Andrew Sponneck, who rolled an ankle in their semi-final, has come up and will play a key role in stopping the Lions’ potent forwards.
King said he wouldn’t be lured into any false sense of security, despite the extra rest.
“They’ve had two games where their second halves have been pretty low-impact,” he said.
“They’re pretty much a complete side so that’s why they’ve been the benchmark and that’s’ why they’ve been able to bounce back and make the grand final for the third time in a row.”
The Lions’ run and carry will be a major threat for the Pumas tomorrow, in a match that will likely be decided by a physical midfield contest, dominated by both sides’ strong bodies.
While the Pumas as a club haven’t had much finals experience, they’re definitely not short of big-game players, with guys like Albert Proud, Jake Furfaro and Rhan Hooper in their ranks.
King said those experienced players would be invaluable on grand final day.
“We’ve got some good team leaders in there and that filters through and that will calm the boys down,” he said.
“They have plenty of input and really do support each other well and that’ll be the key factor.”
We know we’ve got to watch Palm Beach and use the ball well, and especially win those early stages to give ourselves a good chance to put some pressure on.”
Above all else, King said it was all about business as usual for the minor premiers.
“We’ve kept everything pretty much the same this week,” he said.
“A win would mean a hell of a lot to the guys, but those emotions can work against you sometimes.
“So, we’ve got to be careful to keep a lid on that and the most important thing is that they play well and don’t run out with jelly legs.”
Despite the fact that Palm Beach have proved Springwood’s only obstacle this season, Lions coach, Daryn Cresswell was quick to dismiss any talk that his side were favourites for the final.
“We’re definitely not (favourites),” he said.
“Springwood won the minor premiership and they’ve been beaten once all year.
“We respect that footy club, and I can’t see how anyone could come up with that.”
Lions veteran, Tim Fielding, is likely to come into the side, despite being named as an emergency in the initial team list, when the coaching staff have a final selection meeting tonight.
Cresswell said the grand final defeats of the past two years would be fresh in many players’ minds and would certainly add extra motivation in their third straight decider.
“Most of the players have been in a losing grand final and they understand the hurt you get from that,” he said.
So, that will give them extra drive and motivation, but this years’ a different prospect altogether.”
“We know we’re going to have to play at our best to win the game.”
Palm Beach’s wayward kicking has caused some headaches through the season and Cresswell said his charges were well aware they would need to take every opportunity against the Pumas tomorrow.
“You’re only in control of the ball for a certain amount of time,” he said.
“We need to make sure we take the opportunities in front of goal.”
Swingman Jackson Emblem has been named at centre half-forward for the match, but his ability to play either end could be the key for the Lions.
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Download the Grand Final record, with info on all three matches, here: