The New England Nomads are vying for their sixth straight title when they hit the field against the Gunnedah Bulldogs this Saturday.
For the first time since 2012, the Nomads will head into the decider as underdogs. They enter Saturday with a vastly different team to the one who thumped the Tamworth Kangaroos by 92 points in 2016.
“We lost 10 from last year's grand final side,” president Adrian Walsh said.
“There were some very good footballers, like Jed Ellis-Cluff who was the coach, Zac Economou, a former coach, Hamish Pearce who won the best and fairest last year.
“It has really been a rebuild this year and Tom [Hunt] has done a wonderful job.”
The Nomads are the only North West AFL team to have beaten Gunnedah this year, in round one, but have lost their three most recent encounters against them.
They lost the semi-final two weeks ago to the Bulldogs but Walsh said if the reigning premiers play to their full potential, they could be bringing the trophy back to Armidale.
“If we play well we can beat them,” he said.
“It is harder out at their ground, they have a good side.
It is the first time for a while we have pretty much had a full side, there's a couple out with injuries but we will pretty much have a full side.”
Walsh put their losses against the Bulldogs down to struggling to get the ball to the Nomads’ danger-men.
“Their defence has won over our forward line and often we have had trouble with our transition from the backs to our forwards,” he said.
“We have good forwards up there but we just haven't been getting it to them.
“Harry Wakefield, Dave Richards and Ethan Karpany are all very good forwards but they can't do much if the ball is not up there.”
Richards has won best on ground in a grand final three times, including last year against the Roos when he kicked 10 goals.
Walsh said the Nomads’ captain is a big game player and thrives under the pressure of a grand final.
“I don't want to put too much pressure on him but I expect he will do again, he always plays well in the grand final,” he said.