HAMISH Gurry played in a premiership last season — at under 14½ level, the bottom age grade in the Warrnambool and District league.
He could become one of the youngest senior premiership players in league history if Merrivale upstages Panmure at Reid Oval on Saturday.
The transformation of Gurry, 16, into a seniors regular is one of the feel-good stories of the season and testament to innovation and faith in equal measure.
The innovation came from the WDFNL executive. Its landmark substitute rule helped give Gurry his first taste of senior football against Panmure in round nine.
The faith of coach Karl Dwyer then ensured the experience wasn’t fleeting. Gurry, 16, has played every match since as the Tigers stormed into the decider.
The Brauer College student said he started the season wanting to “try and have the best year I can in under 17s, and I just got a chance, playing sub”.
“It struck me, I took it on and played pretty well that game, I didn’t go too bad. I took it game by game, kept training with them and hoped for the best,” he said.
Gurry said the speed and physicality of senior football stood out when compared with juniors.
“Just being up against bigger bodies, it’s so much faster and you’ve got to get rid of it quicker and make more decisions,” he said. “I’ve been quicker with my skills and quicker with the hands.”
As for playing in a grand final, he said “it’d be a dream come true, really”. He credits Dwyer with helping him make the step up to senior football.
“Karl has been awesome. He gives all the young kids a good run. He’s been great for the club,” he said.
Gurry is one of three still-eligible juniors who could feature in the grand final.
Alex Pulling has been the Merrivale substitute in its past four matches and kicked a memorable goal on the run in the second semi-final.
Louis Kew has donned the green vest for Panmure for much of the season and is a good chance to receive the nod for the decider. On the selection front, the Tigers are likely to make at least one change to make room for key defender Todd McLean.
McLean was a late withdrawal for the second semi-final but is all but certain to return with a premiership up for grabs.
Assistant coach Joe Woonton has declared himself a certain starter, despite an ankle injury forcing him from the field in the same match.
Panmure is hoping key forward Tom White recovers in time after suffering what looked like a knee injury late in the preliminary final win last Saturday.