KEEPERS’ NERVES OF STEEL IN FINALS
THE tension in the air at finals time is always palpable.
But the two men who should be feeling it most have barely batted an eyelid this week.
With Brothers and Saints Eagles Souths going head-tohead in a blockbuster showdown at 1300SMILES Active Park, it is a clash of attacking styles.
While the prospect of fizzing strikes across the bow and blistering forwards finding space at will should have a goalkeeper quaking in his boots, it would be difficult to tell.
Brothers’ experienced veteran Mikel Breckenridge has played in plenty of finals in his time in leagues across Australia, and was hardened by regular battles to avoid relegation in the European leagues.
Breckenridge sat out for the past few weeks of the season through injury and had his first full game back in Brothers’ 4-1 semi-final loss against MA Olympic a fortnight ago.
A self-confessed analyst of his own game, the experienced gloveman had plenty of time to think about the four he conceded but said it had not plagued him.
“(MA Olympic) were very clinical with their goals, there wasn’t much I could do about a few of them,” he said.
“I like to analyse every goal conceded and every save made and see how I improve. But it was easy to move on from that one. Can’t really do much on reflection, any keeper on any level would have struggled with those.
“At training I have been head down and working hard and trying to be 100 per cent ready for Saints.”
Opposite Breckenridge in Saturday’s preliminary will be Saints brick wall Liam Murray.
Murray took up the gloves again this season after a fouryear stint in the midfield, and said he had grown in confidence with each game this season.
When quizzed about Brothers’ striking ability – the leading goal scorers of the Premier League this season with 71 – Murray said his confidence came from the men in front of him. “At the end of the day, every team is trying to score, that is the aim of the game,” he said.
“I am not nervous, not with the defence I have in front of me. There is a level of comfortability in our squad and a lot of leadership.
“With me coming into the picture this year, we have fixed the stuff we needed to early on just with the flow of the match and getting to know everyone’s characteristics. We all know what each other’s jobs are and we go into every game with the same mentality and same idea.”
While both teams have differing styles of attack, with Saints opting to put the ball into space behind the line and using their pace against Brothers’ tendency to work through the middle, there is no doubt the chances will come thick and fast.
Both sides stand 90 minutes from a grand final showdown with competition frontrunners MA Olympic, and also their own slice of history. Saints Eagles South want a chance at securing back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history, while Brothers have spent four aching seasons out of the decider after winning in 2017.
“The confidence is definitely up, we’re coming off a win against Warriors, it is hard not to be confident,” Murray said. “At training we are still cool, calm and collected.
“The vibes are high in our squad, you play better when you have fun. But it is also knowing when to flick a switch. There is a time to muck around and a time to switch on, same goes for the game on the weekend.”