Shepparton is one win away from its first grand final in 17 years.
This century has been the toughest period in the proud Goulburn Valley League club’s history, but the Bears are back where they belong.
After winning their first final since the 2000 premiership last year before being knocked out in the semi-finals, they have gone to another level this year.
Shepparton will battle Seymour at Deakin Reserve on Sunday in the preliminary final, with the winner to take on the all-conquering Kyabram in the decider.
Bears coach Brad Campbell said his side would take belief into the blockbuster match after ending its hoodoo against Rochester last Sunday.
‘‘It’s fantastic to still be alive at this time of year and everyone is keen to be apart of it,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘The win (against Rochester) definitely gives us belief and some confidence and if we commit the way we did on the weekend, then we’ll be right in the game.
‘‘But we saw it during the year that it can go the other way as well and if we don’t bring everything to the game, then we’ll get beaten.
‘‘Our consistency has improved, but we’re also mindful of what Seymour and their best looks like as well.’’
Shepparton could go into the game unchanged, with Matt Shannon and Levi Power extremely doubtful to recover in time from their respective injuries.
Shannon pulled up sore following his comeback game in the qualifying final against Kyabram, while Power is trying to make his way back from a hamstring injury.
Campbell said both players would push their claims for selection at the Bears’ final training run tonight.
Onballers Ben Davies and Nik Rokahr and ruckman Ash Holland took the game by storm against the Tigers, with key forward John Bradaric also stepping up with five goals.
The midfield battle, with Seymour boasting players such as Brandyn Grenfell, Jason Cole, Andrew Sturgess and best-and-fairest winner Harry Wheeler, will be a fascinating one.
But the Bears will have to keep an eye on the Lions’ forward line, which has been more unpredictable since the shock mid-season retirement of Saad Saad.
‘‘They’ve got a good mix and good variety in their forward line, obviously their midfield bats pretty deep, but you’ve got guys like Jake Anderson and Hugh Robertson around goals and Grenfell can push up there too,’’ Campbell said.
Shepparton has played Seymour only once this season, winning the clash at Deakin Reserve in round 11 by 25 points.
The Lions were missing Sturgess, Cole and Brett Meredith in that clash.
The teams met in last year’s elimination final at Kyabram, with the Bears prevailing in an epic by six points.