Warriors enter season's final battle as favourites

FLASHBACK: Old Collegians players celebrate their grand final victory over Panmure last year. The Warriors have maintained their ascendancy this season and are favoured to repeat that result in tomorrow’s decider.

FLASHBACK: Old Collegians players celebrate their grand final victory over Panmure last year. The Warriors have maintained their ascendancy this season and are favoured to repeat that result in tomorrow’s decider.

OLD Collegians start clear favourites to claim back-to-back Warrnambool and District league A grade grand finals, according to rival coaches.

Seven of the eight coaches contacted yesterday tipped the Warriors to defeat Panmure in the decider at Reid Oval for a second consecutive season.

Deakin University coach Kim Jamieson backed them to win by 10 goals, believing goalers Steph Townsend and Sophie Ballinger would be a difference.

“I just think they have come together at the right time. We all went and watched them play against Dennington at Noorat that day,” she said.

“Steph Townsend and Sophie Ballinger together are an amazing combination. It’s a really good fit.”

Sue Fleming (Dennington), Glenice Justin (Kolora-Noorat), Mel Harrop (Allansford) and Rhiannon Cuomo (Russells Creek) predicted a five-goal margin.

Fleming, whose Dogs have played both sides in finals, said Old Collegians having a settled line-up would pay dividends.

“That’s Collegians’ strength. They’ve played together now for two years straight. They know each other’s games,” she said.

Justin believed the decider would be close “but I think Collegians have been the dominant side all year”.

“Having played Panmure two weeks ago and then watching a bit of their game last week, they’ve certainly got themselves back on track,” she said.

“They had a couple of down weeks. I think they’ll challenge but I think Collegians will win.”

Harrop had a similar line of thinking. She thought Panmure would take the match up to Old Collegians, but the reigning premiers had enviable cohesion.

“Collegians, if they get into a spot of bother, they know each other so well. They don’t panic and they work their way back into the game,” she said.

“Panmure, we played them twice and they beat us soundly twice. But both times I don’t believe we had as strong a team as we could’ve.

“All credit to them, they’ve come back from a spot where they’ve had to introduce a new goal keeper.”

Cuomo said the availability of Panmure goal shooter Maddy White would have a major bearing on the grand final result.

“Watching them the last couple of weeks, she’s been a real pivotal part in the attack end,” she said.

“Without her, they’ll be robbing Peter to pay Paul. They’re still a very good side and quite a balanced side, Panmure. They all pull their weight.

“But Collegians have been pretty good all year. I can’t see anyone getting over the top of them.”

Nirranda co-coach Bridget Foster backed Old Collegians to win by three while South Rovers’ Kylie Carter predicted the Warriors by eight.

Merrivale coach Tania Ross was the only coach who backed Panmure, by two goals, but on the proviso White took to the court.

“Panmure have had tough games running into the grand final. I think they’re in better condition,” she said. “Old Collegians, even though they’ve been the best team all year, I think Panmure could get up and beat them.

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au 

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