Li­ons to break ice

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport - BY JONATHAN BOX

Great West­ern is only days away from em­bark­ing on its first se­nior fi­nal se­ries since en­ter­ing Minin­era and Dis­trict Foot­ball League in 2012.

Al­though the se­niors have taken a while to make the fi­nals, the club’s re­serves were able to make a splash in the league in their sec­ond year when they beat Wick­liffe -Lake Bo­lac to cap­ture a 2013 flag.

It has been a long process for the Li­ons’ se­nior team to get the op­por­tu­nity to show their stuff in the fi­nals, with their re­sults be­fore this sea­son be­ing far from flat­ter­ing.

They have spent most of their time in the bot­tom three, with their best pre­vi­ous sea­son in seven years com­ing in 2013 when they fin­ished ninth on the lad­der with six wins.

In 2017 William Bell joined the ranks as coach and has taken the team from 12th place to the top three in the three years.

Bell’s fo­cus, along with coach­ing, has been player re­ten­tion and re­cruit­ment.

Hold­ing onto play­ers for mul­ti­ple years has en­abled the Li­ons to main­tain a core group and add qual­ity foot­ballers to build up to the pow­er­house they have this year.

The Li­ons are de­lighted to see im­prove­ment in their whole list; their re­serves also fin­ished in the top two. The club at­tributes this to ‘stick­ing tight to team values’.

Mov­ing into the un­known of the fi­nals, the Li­ons will be ex­cited but also ner­vous.

They have played a good brand of foot­ball dur­ing the home-and-away sea­son and how

they will hold up in the heat of the fi­nals is any­one’s guess.

How­ever, with the qual­ity play­ers they are boast­ing as well as the ex­pe­ri­ence through­out the team, there is no rea­son to think their great run won’t con­tinue.

Al­though a flag is in sight and def­i­nitely on the cards, the main fo­cus for the team will be to win their first MDFL se­nior fi­nal and to not get ahead of them­selves, tak­ing it all ‘one step at a time’.

Great West­ern has shown plenty of prom­ise and is in the post-sea­son for good rea­son.

They do, how­ever, find them­selves in the sea­son play-offs with some fi­nals specialist­s in Lis­more-der­ri­nal­lum, Pen­shurst and Taty­oon, which have all been strong for many years.

In fact, they have featured in the top five to­gether eight times in the past 11 years and won two flags each in that time.

Round­ing out the top five and not to be pushed aside is Woorn­doo-mort­lake, also play­ing in its first fi­nals for more than a decade.

Great West­ern might lack fi­nals ex­pe­ri­ence, but what they do have is a long list of play­ers who have shone through­out the sea­son.

The Li­ons’ mid­field has con­tin­ued to go the ex­tra mile ev­ery week, do­ing their fair share of the heavy lifting and giv­ing their for­wards plenty of scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Jesse Bennett, An­drew Cameron, Nick Dun­ford and Lachie Mal­loy have all reg­u­larly featured in the best play­ers as well as do­ing their own bit in front of goal, with Cameron and Dun­ford kick­ing 48 and 28 goals re­spec­tively.

Com­bin­ing with th­ese play­ers have been the Li­ons’ big men in Jeremy Cronin and Josh Hustler, giv­ing their play­ers plenty of first use around the ground.

That’s not for­get­ting the Li­ons’ X-fac­tor play­ers in the ‘Tiwi Boys’, Ger­ard Cun­ning­ham, Steven Lorenzo and Bradley Palipuamin­ni, who all per­form each week. Cun­ning­ham and Lorenzo have kicked more than 115 goals be­tween them for the sea­son, and give their sup­port­ers some­thing to cheer about each week.

With the top five all so close it is set to be a great fi­nals se­ries and it is any­one’s for the tak­ing.

Great West­ern has posted some great wins dur­ing the home-and-away sea­son but the sea­son has not been with­out its faults, drop­ping games to Cara­mut as well as Pen­shurst and Lis­more-der­ri­nal­lum.

Great West­ern’s fi­nals cam­paign opens this week­end against Lis­more-der­ri­nal­lum at Wil­laura.

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