CONTROL the ball, control the game.
There’s not a lot that bitter rivals Hanwood FC and Yoogali SC agree about, but both coaches are certain whichever team can keep possession for the longest in Sunday’s grand final will come away as victors.
The last two matches between the sides have been decided in midfield, where Hanwood has been able to settle down, hold onto the ball and turn their dominance into goals.
HFC sealed the minor premiership last month by taking advantage of an off-colour YSC, who struggled to string together enough passes for goal-hungry striker Dane Ballard to prove a threat.
It was much the same in the major semi-final two weeks ago, when Dem Torino and Michael Bresolin ran the show, earning a grand final spot and a valuable week off.
“Whoever can settle down and hold onto possession more ... that will go a long way towards winning the game,” Hanwood FC coach Anthony Agresta said.
“We know about Yoogali, they’ll be pretty similar as to the last couple weeks and they’ll be trying to do the same thing.”
“We’ve got to beat them at their own game,” YSC boss Sante Donadel said.
“It’s all about possession – the more you have it, the more you can score, the less they can score.
“They do it well. We used to do it well at the start of the season and we did it on Sunday, so hopefully we turn the corner.”
YSC’s 2-0 win over Yoogali FC in the preliminary final has filled Donadel with a sense of confidence that has been missing for weeks.
“We’ve been very up and down but we basically dominated the whole game,” he said.
Donadel will be looking to the likes of newly crowned GDFA best and fairest Derek McKechnie, English utility Joe Preece and experienced stopper Grant Davidson to do the same again on Sunday.
But the rumour mill suggests YSC may have a wildcard in the form of midfielder Matthew Gilston, who could be back in town in time for the match.
“I’ve been hearing the same thing – people have been telling me he’s back but I haven’t spoken to him, so I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen,” Donadel said. “He was going back overseas to see his family but said he’d be back for the first semi.
“He hasn’t turned up so I’m not counting on him at all.
“If he does, it’s a bonus, a blessing in disguise – but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
Donadel can certainly rule a line through suspended pair Phil Bagiante and Matthew Moon, who collected their second yellow cards for the finals series on the weekend and cannot play in any grand final this weekend.
For Hanwood FC, there will be no last-minute changes – and that’s a good thing.
Blessed with no new injuries or suspensions, HFC have been effectively settled since the mid-season return of Joey Schirripa, who – together with defender Daniel Johnson – will be tasked with shutting down the dangerous Ballard.
“We’ve played some pretty hard games this year and these are the sort of times you look to your experienced guys, like Joey,” Agresta said.
“There’ll be plenty of nerves through the week but the older guys can help our younger guys and put them on the right track.
“We know Yoogali will be dangerous but if we can keep them out at the back we’re halfway there.”
The other side of the equation is in attack, where Agresta is hoping striker Brandon Barski can put away his chances when they come.
“There often aren’t many in grand finals, and when they do present themselves we really need to take them,” he said.
“We had a couple that could have killed the game off last time and they had a couple of one-on-ones saved.
“With so much on the line it’s really important.”