Souths United assistant coach Rob Haskard has the utmost respect for Gunnedah FC.
He knows just how dangerous the Tamworth District Football minor premiers are – his side was on the end of a 10-1 touch up at the start of the year.
However, Souths progress since that game is nothing short of remarkable.
In two months, they turned that result around to beat Gunnedah FC 3-2 before finishing second on the ladder.
Another lopsided affair followed in the major semi-final with Gunnedah FC winning 4-1 but a preliminary final win gives Souths a shot at redemption in the first grade grand final on Saturday at Gipps Street.
“We have to give them respect but we can’t be starstruck, so to speak,” Haskard said.
“We know where we went wrong. We need to defend a bit better, especially on their set pieces.
“We need to work as a unit, communicate well and make sure there’s plenty of talk.”
The turnaround for Souths United from a nine-goal loss to being grand finalists all started from the top, according to Haskard.
“Our head coach Andre Caetano has given us a lot of direction,” Haskard said.
“He’s originally from Brazil and has brought a lot of knowledge and passion to the club.
“He had faith in a lot of young kids and stuck by them.”
Caetano’s good work has filtered through the club with a number of players having crackerjack seasons in 2017.
“I think Brett Curran, our captain, he’s had a great year,” Haskard said.
“Cooper Barnes has been really good.
“He’s only 18 years old and has scored about 16 or 17 goals this year.
“And a guy who came out of nowhere was Dan Pyne. He was going to start as reserve grade keeper and was thrown into the first grade midfield when we were short and he’s been a weapon.”
Gunnedah FC coach Andy Cygan said while his team are slight favourites, he won’t be taking anything for granted this weekend and Curran would be a player to watch from Souths.
“They [Gunnedah FC] will need to be solid at the back and not give Souths a chance,” Cygan said.
“They will need to nullify the threat from the Souths’ captain [Curran] who scored a 40-yard screamer at the weekend to beat Quirindi 1-0.”
For his side, Curran said Rob Pryor would play a key role. “Rob Pryor has been unbelievable all year. When he gets the ball anywhere near the goal there is a chance he will score.,” Cygan said.
The game starts at 3pm.