Shepparton will take the bit between its teeth and tackle the hardest task in country football on Sunday.
Defeating Kyabram is a feat no side has managed since the 2015 Goulburn Valley League grand final, but after sounding out the Bombers on last year’s biggest stage — and sending a scare through their camp in week one of the current finals series — the Bears believe they are ready to make history.
‘‘I think the exposure we gained last year is going to be beneficial going into the weekend,’’ Shepparton coach Sean Harrap said.
‘‘Last year was a bit of an unknown for the majority, even for the experienced blokes like Nick Allan, for example, he’d never played in a senior grand final, so I think this year’s going to be a bit different for those guys as well.
‘‘I think there’s 15 that played every final last year and this year from what we’ve got going out on Sunday, which is going to be a big bonus. Obviously we know Kyabram is a very experienced finals team, but that exposure is going to hold us in pretty good stead hopefully.’’
The Bears led early in the final term against the Bombers in the qualifying final and Harrap hopes his troops learned enough from that performance to give themselves confidence heading into Sunday’s clash at Deakin Reserve.
‘‘We can take so much out of that in both ways as positives and negatives, I suppose,’’ he said.
‘‘We dropped about four goals in about three or four minutes of footy, which results pretty much in the game to be honest, so we’ll look at both ends and even last week’s game (against Echuca), yes it’s not Kyabram, but our first half was really good and our second was probably not so good, so there’s a lot that we can take out of all three finals games that we’ve played up until now.’’
A fast start will be crucial for the Bears, especially after last year’s grand final was virtually decided at half-time.
‘‘We fought hard (last year), but the damage was probably done because we didn’t utilise that wind that we had in the first quarter,’’ Harrap said.
‘‘In any game of footy, no matter if it’s a grand final or a round one game, you’ve got to make the most of the early part of the game for sure.’’
Shepparton’s list is healthy heading into Sunday’s decider, but young gun Lachie Ash could miss the match due to playing restrictions placed upon him after being included in the NAB AFL All Stars Futures match at the MCG on AFL grand final day.
If Ash is not made available, the door will open for Jordan Cox or Rhiley Lau to secure a spot in the team after missing the preliminary final.
‘‘We’re still waiting to hear, but hopefully we can get him across the line because he’s obviously a very good player and he’d be a really, really strong asset to our group, but we’re not 100 per cent sure on that,’’ Harrap said.
‘‘It is his local club too, so we obviously want him to play and he wants to play, so we’ll just let the powers that be work that out I suppose.
‘‘There’s obviously good depth there to come in, Cox and Lau have played two finals games and been in the mix, so it was hard to let them know last week that they weren’t going to play. If an opportunity arises, I’m sure they’ll put their hands together and go yep, I’ll take that, thank you very much.’’