ARCH rivals Koroit and Port Fairy are preparing to face off in a grand final for just the second time in Hampden league history.
The misfiring Saints booked their spot in a fifth consecutive decider after dismantling Cobden 11.24 (90) to 6.9 (45) in the preliminary final at Reid Oval on Saturday.
They must now overcome the Seagulls – a side hoping to end a 59-year flag drought – to extend their premiership streak to four in a row.
The Saints won the two clubs’ one and only grand final meeting to date in 1971.
Koroit coach Chris McLaren said he felt the two best sides this season would battle for the 2018 cup.
“Our players put in so much. The way these blokes train, prepare and recover – half of them train five nights a week – they put so much in to try and play in a grand final,” he said.
“I had that bit of coaching anxiety throughout the week thinking ‘we deserve to be there and we’ve been with Port Fairy as the best team’.”
Koroit made a statement early and carried that dominance throughout the contest.
Renowned September specialist Ben Goodall was at the forefront early, booting two of the Saints’ four opening-term goals.
HIs first was the game’s first – a long bomb out of congestion at the 10-minute mark – and the second a weaving effort through traffic.
Koroit took a 17-point lead into quarter-time and increaed its buffer to 27 at the main break on the back of their smart ball use.
“I watched them play both their finals and once they got on top they were able to put the foot down, so we were mindful of being in the game early,” McLaren said.
A stalemate in the third term ensued but it was only poor kicking for goal – the Saints kicked 2.8 for the quarter – that kept the Bombers in with a chance.
McLaren said the inaccuracy was frustrating but also highlighted their pressure.
“Are we missing our shots or is it repeat entries and we’re forcing kick-out turnovers?,” he said.
Koroit had winners on every line – Liam Hoy was strong across half-back, Isaac Templeton and Brett Harrington did the grunt work in the middle, steadfast defenders Tim McPherson and Dallas Mooney and Jarrod Korewha, both around the ground and in attack, became a bigger presence as the game wore on.
Returning forward Will Couch, playing in his first senior game of the season following hip surgery, also chimed in with two clever goals.
His first was came when he used his smarts around goal to snap truly after a Cobden turnover.
“It’s good to run around pain-free and get the fitness back playing in the reserves,” Couch said.
“I enjoyed playing in the reserves, that was a lot of fun and (it was important to) gett my basics back right so I could play games like today.
“I felt all right. It was good coming on through the bench and then (Chris) slipped me forward and that was perfect for me.”
Taylor Mulraney was a late withdrawal with a bruised leg but is expected to be fit for the grand final.