NEW ENGLAND Nomads would become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Essential Energy Tamworth AFL premierships if successful against Inverell Saints in today’s grand final at Bellevue Oval, Armidale.
The Nomads and Saints have been the top two teams all season and the game is a replay of last year’s final, which started a streak of wins for the New England side.
They have won their last five games over the Saints, with the margin growing in the Nomads’ favour with each win.
The home side decimated an understrength Saints in the major semi by 96 points two weeks ago, although coach Tom Granleese knows it won’t be that easy again.
“Going back to back is a tough ask regardless of form,” Granleese said.
The side has only dropped one game this year and probably has the most depth of any team in the comp, with a pool of 35 players to choose from.
The coach and defender said if the Nomads can attack the ball really well and protect the carriers, the team has enough skill on the park to get on top.
“The Saints’ run and carry is the best in the comp but we outplayed them last time in that regard,” he said.
“If we can do better at what they do best we will always win.”
Although the Nomads have lost 12 players from last year’s team, there is still plenty of experience and big-game players in the squad.
“I know our big players will play well and have good games,” Granleese said.
“In games like this it is a matter of the fringe players, the guys who aren’t stars, having good games that get you over the line.”
The Inverell Saints are looking to fight fire with fire, adopting some Nomads’ tactics for the game.
“Their forwards are awesome and we will have to play defensively,” Saints coach Jason Gobbert said.
“But we have to turn that defence into attack and get the ball down the edges to the other end quickly, like they have been doing all year.”
Gobbert is very wary of Nomads forward Jed Ellis-Cluff who has had a great season with the boot, although has matched him up with this year’s Gillies Medal runner-up Hamish Bird to keep him under control.
Despite the Nomads’ record this season, Gobbert believes the teams are evenly matched on paper and is looking forward to a high-scoring entertaining final.
“We have prepared well and believe we can win.
“Anything can happen in a grand final.”