Grand final berth in sight

By Tyler Maher

Nathalia has been unstoppable in Murray Football League finals campaigns for longer than the length of many playing careers.

In the 13 seasons before this year, the Purples have made the post-season eight times for eight premierships and just one loss — a second semi-final defeat at the hands of Numurkah last year.

Once again, the Murray powerhouse is there when the heat is on, but the thermostat will certainly be turned past boiling point today when Craig Kellow and his charges take on Rumbalara in a preliminary final at Mercury Dve.

A quirk of the fixture — and a rampaging finals run from Rumba — has given the sixth-ranked side after the home-and-away season the chance at a home preliminary and grand final double.

Kellow and his Purples know full well the effect finals momentum has on a team and will be looking to take the air out of Rumba’s sail early in today’s clash with a strong start.

‘‘They were very slick and moved the footy pretty well (against Finley last week) and they kicked goals from multiple sources,’’ Kellow said.

‘‘It makes them a very dangerous prospect, especially on their home deck as well.

‘‘One of the biggest things will be our level of accountability.

‘‘With the forecast conditions (13°C with 34km/h wind gusts and scattered showers) it will be a reasonably contested game as well so structuring up at the stoppages will be key.

‘‘An even spread of contributors will be important as well.’’

Nathalia got through its qualifying final against Cobram with a 20-point victory and will be bolstered by a number of key inclusions today with the return of Alistair Corry and Harley Cobbledick from injury and Tom Boyd from Murray Bushrangers duty.

‘‘It’s good to have a break, especially when we’re an experienced side who’s been there before I suppose,’’ Kellow said.

‘‘It’s allowed us to get some sore guys back in after not risking them against Cobram. Having Al, Harley and Tom back in is a big positive for us.’’

Rumba has also named a number of possible inclusions, including Anthony Walker, Rex Taylor, Tim Hunter and Josh Baginski on an extended bench, but the fitness of Djaran Whyman (hamstring) remains up in the air.

Whyman (three goals) combined with Josh Wanganeen (four), Jamie Atkinson (four) and Vaasili Tuifao (three) to help complete an impressive win against Finley last week and would be a big loss to his side today.

Nathan Terlich, Clayton McCartney and Jerome Sorgel were magnificent for Rumba against the Cats and will be crucial again, while Bowen Smith, Drew Barnes and Tom Nihill will look to win the ball at the coalface for the Purples and get it down to the likes of Brodie Ross (63 goals), Liam Evans (44) and Adam Jorgensen (30).

Last time the teams met was in round 13 at today’s venue and the Purples were able to hold off Rumba to claim victory.

‘‘A lot of the game comes down to the guys in the middle and what they’re able to do, it will be a very even contest in there and we’ve got to try and give our forwards first opportunity,’’ Kellow said.

‘‘We’re looking forward to the challenge.’’