TOMORROW is the pinnacle of the 2018 Millewa Football League season. Lake Cullulleraine will host a clash of the titans when Werrimull looks to stop Nangiloc winning back-to-back premierships. Magpies skipper Larry Petrolo and Demons captain David Keens will lead their respective sides. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
WITH the weight of history off the shoulders of the Nangiloc Football Club, the Demons have their sights set on creating some more.
Last year the club broke their 22 year Millewa Football League premiership drought, a cause for widespread celebration for the small community.
It didn’t take long, however, for the playing group to switch focus on making it back-to-back flags.
The squad was relatively unchanged in 2018, bar the loss of a few premiership players and some new additions coming in.
The Demons finished on top of the ladder and automatically qualified for the grand final two weeks ago over Werrimull.
They may be odds on for another title, but coach John Guthrie said his side won’t take their opposition lightly.
“I think if we play to our very best we’re the best team in the competition,” he said.
“If we let a side have a sniff early, we give ourselves a lot of work to do. Getting our start right will be so important, especially on grand final day when anything can happen.
“Once you get the same group together for a couple of years it makes my job as coach much easier.
“We’ve had a good group from the start and with the team we’ve had this year I’ve expected nothing less than another grand final appearance by late in the season.
“Losing a good ruckman was probably our biggest loss, but what we gained was nearly equal. We got a few defenders and another forward come in, and, to be honest, I think it’s helped our depth and versatility become stronger. That’s the biggest difference I’ve noticed from last year to this year.”
The Dees have lost just three matches for the year, but Guthrie said there were lessons learned from each of those contests.
“In those three losses I think it was a consistency thing and, honestly, I think we got a bit ahead of ourselves,” he said.
“From those losses, once we took a step back and realised what our strengths and weaknesses were, and where we could improve, our form has headed back in the right direction.
“The best thing for us is that all of us have played in every part of the ground at some stage this year.
“As a coach you never know when you may have to swing a change and now I’ve got a good handle on how can make an impact in what position if we need it. A couple of our forwards have shown they can play a good role in defence.”
The success of the men’s team hasn’t been the only bright light for Nangiloc in 2018. For the first time in the club’s history, the A Grade netball side made the Millewa Netball Association finals. They were one of four grades who made the play-offs, another record for the club.
Add into the mix the continued improvement of the Sunraysia Women’s Football League side and it all adds up to Nangiloc being a great place to be.
“It’s brilliant (the atmosphere at the club),” Guthrie said.
“For the boys from day dot we’ve had 30 or so at every training session, and the supporter base really seems to be pushing us along. Success breeds success as well, so we just have to capitalise on the opportunity.”
FINALS footy is in the DNA of the Werrimull Football Club.
The Magpies have been one of the most consistent Millewa Football League (MFL) sides of the past decade, having played in every finals series since 2010. That included five consecutive grand final appearances from 2011 to 2015, culminating in back-to-back flags in 2012 and ’13.
Getting themselves back onto the winners dais will be a tough ask against a Nangiloc side that has taken the competition by storm in the past few seasons.
The teams have met four times across the 2018 season, with Nangiloc leading the match-ups three wins to one.
The semi-final clash between the top two sides was the closest result, with the Demons getting up by just five points, largely thanks to an inaccurate Werrimull side. The Pies had 30 scoring shots to 20, but shot themselves in the foot by scoring seven goals and 23 behinds.
Werrimull made amends last week by defeating old adversaries Bambill to give themselves another shot at defeating the Demons.
Magpies captain Larry Petrolo admitted his side started the season slowly, but believes the team has come into form at the right time.
“Over the last six weeks we’ve really begun to hit our straps. We’re really keen to get out there and give it our all,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of trust in everyone. At the start of the year we had a lot of new players come into the club and it took that bit of time to gel. That trust has really built up now and I think we’ve timed our run pretty well into the finals.
“They’re tough to match up on but I think we do pretty well.
“We’ve got a lot of talent over the ground, but our midfield is definitely a strong suit. “When you’ve got guys like Scotty Clark and Mark Thomson, when he’s come back from injury, it’s a good on ball group.”
It won’t only be a big day for the Werrimull boys, as the club’s Sunraysia Women’s Football League (SWFL) and Millewa Netball Association (MNA) A Grade and A Reserve sides will also be competing in grand finals.
It could be a big day for the Magpies if all goes according to their plans.