Sport

MFL grand final preview - Nathalia

By Tyler Maher

Nathalia will step into uncharted territory if it is able to snare another Murray Football League premiership today at Finley Recreation Reserve.

The Purples have had almost a monopoly on the league's Coxon Cup since beginning their remarkable journey in 2005, winning nine flags in 14 seasons and completing two four-peats.

Every time Nathalia has entered September action in that time it has claimed the title, losing just one finals match along the way.

But a possible fifth consecutive success today against Tongala would be the first time an MFL side has accomplished that feat.

“The boys have definitely been there and done it before,” Nathalia coach Mal Barnes said.

“But there's a bit of history riding on this one if we can win it and a few people are playing in their first (grand final).

“Our experience should hold us in good stead.”

Nathalia's dynasty is not only astounding for its longevity and ruthlessness, but for exactly how it has managed to maintain it.

“This group is really exciting,” Barnes said.

“We're all one-point players and every player who runs out will have either played junior football with Nathalia or gone to school in Nathalia, so it's great for the town.”

Also adding to the theatre of today's decider is senior game number 100 for Barnes' brother Drew.

In those 99 outings thus far, Drew has secured five premiership medals with the Purples - meaning he is chasing an incredible sixth flag today in Finley.

“It's unreal his achievements,” Barnes said.

“He's 32 and every year he's played senior footy he's finished in the top three.

“He won't care that it's his 100th game though, he'll be wanting to see the whole group get up and win.”

How the Purples will go about winning will be to have confidence in their own ability.

And after defeating Tongala comfortably twice already this season that is as solid a plan as any.

“They're in the grand final for a reason and are playing really good footy with nothing to lose,” Barnes said of the Blues.

“They'll throw the kitchen sink at us and whichever side settles first will go a long way towards winning the game.

“I've been telling the boys all week that they don't actually come around every day and it could be the last time they ever run out in a grand final so they have to make the most of it.

“We'll play it as it comes in the backline and rotate around, it's the bonus of being really flexible back there.

“The forward line have a few tricks up their sleeve too.

“They're really good at identifying a mis-match and then it's up to us in the midfield to see it too and use it.”

And as for attempting to shut down Tongala star Cam Ilett, Barnes feels it is not on the table to begin with.

“I think early in you have to back yourself to win the ball first,” he said.

“Cam is a good footballer and will get plenty of the ball, but we have to back ourselves as a team.”