Sport

MFL preliminary final preview - Nathalia v Congupna

By Tyler Maher

Nathalia's finals record in the Murray Football League is well documented.

It would be a disservice to the Purples to label it as a recent record though, because, stretching all the way back to 2004, Nathalia has won nine premierships from nine completed finals campaigns, dropping just one post-season match in 23 outings.

That run includes a clinical 86-point demolition of Mulwala a fortnight ago, but the Purples are under no illusions that today's clash against Congupna at Katandra Recreation Reserve will follow the same script.

Preliminary finals often prove harder to secure victory in than deciders and that was the case for Nathalia last season when the side was scoreless to half-time against Rumbalara but rose from the canvas to book a grand final berth.

Mal Barnes and his charges will be hoping for a less dramatic contest today.

"There's definitely a great feeling around the club," Barnes said.

"The reserves are in as well, so we had about 50 on the training track (Thursday night).

"We're excited and ready for the challenge.

"Congupna are playing some exciting footy and deserve to be here, we're going to have to be at the top of our game.

"They match up well against us, everyone does their part and it's what we try and instil into our side as well - it's not going to be one player that gets the job done, it's all of us.

"We've got to start a little bit better than last year that's for sure, we can't afford to let a red-hot Congupna get on top of us early."

The Purples will likely be unchanged today, with Brodie Ross accepting a reprimand for pinching Mulwala's Eli Boyer - an incident which drew a yellow card that kickstarted Nathalia's intensity against the Lions.

Liam Evans (seven goals), Rhys Shannon and Ryan Butler starred for the Purples last time out and will be crucial again today.

The Road has already exceeded all expectations this season after knocking off Cobram and Echuca United in the finals, but would send the small town of Congupna into a frenzy if it was to deal the same fate to the Purples.

And an upset is certainly not outside the realms of possibility today either, with Congupna kicking itself out of one meeting against Nathalia this year and falling by just 17 points in the other.

Daniel Campbell and Daniel Schaper hold the key for David Gee and Josh Chapman's side in attack, with the duo able to get off the leash and tear games apart.

"It’s hard to believe. I said to the boys after the game, I’ve been involved at the club for 15 years and that is by far the best win I’ve had at Congupna footy club," Gee said after last week's triumph against the Eagles.

"You could see the relief and the belief on their faces after the game. It’s there in the palm of our hands and we’ve just got to make sure we do everything right.

"We’ve got to beat the best to play in the grand final."