MERRIVALE big man Rhys Raymond had declared his season over on Monday night. So much so that he’d told coach Karl Dwyer.
The response from the coach wasn’t so much a vote of confidence, but more a plea to be patient. Wait until after training on Thursday night, Dwyer urged.
Raymond wasn’t convinced. He’d battled a persisted calf injury since tearing the soleus while representing the Warrnambool and District league in May.
He’d played once since round 14 and the injury wasn’t healing the way he wanted.
But he heeded the words and gave himself a few extra days.
Fast forward to Saturday and Raymond, 24, was all smiles after Merrivale thrashed Panmure 16.10 (106) to 9.11 (65) in the second semi-final.
The win booked the Tigers a berth in the grand final. The Maskell Medal winner will start as a key forward, barring any training mishap in the next fortnight.
Raymond said “four or five weeks of not being able to train, not being able to run” was behind his call to Dwyer on Monday.
He said he would have been reluctant to play in the grand final had he not lined up against the Bulldogs on Saturday.
“It was to the point where if I’d have to take someone’s spot and they’d earned that spot, I didn’t want to do that,” he said.
“They’d earned their spot, they deserve it. They’re your mates, you don’t want to say ‘I’m going to kick you out of a granny just so I can play’.
“Most of these boys haven’t played in a granny before.
“I’ve played in a few. I’ve been lucky enough to win one. It’s a great feeling.”
Raymond was far from the Tigers’ best player in the second semi-final but played a role up forward after Jet Dowie went off with concussion at half-time.
He finished with one goal, the first of the third term to blow the margin out to 25 points and contested well despite being underdone.
“It was just contest after contest, try and win every one.
“If not, make it a stalemate and do your best to try and bring the players around you into it,” he said.
Raymond said he was happy to stay deep in the forward line — giving the Tigers height to stretch their opposition — and leave Manny Sandow in the ruck.
“He flattened me in the goal square in the first quarter and I thought, he’s number one now,” he said.