There will be a nice reward for the winner of battle between Murchison and Merrigum, a grand final berth.By Marc McGowan
Murchison is one win from earning Kyabram District Football League’s first grand final berth, but will have to beat the one side it has not done so.
The Grasshoppers meet Merrigum at Avenel on Saturday in the qualifying final, knowing the Bulldogs won their round eight encounter by 15 points.
Stanhope was the only other team to trump Murchison in the home-and-away season, but they met twice and Steve Reeves’ Grasshoppers took the honours the first time around.
‘‘It’s a good spot to be in and the boys have worked pretty hard to get there,’’ Reeves said of the possibility of earning a direct route to the decider.
‘‘I’m expecting it to be a tough game either way.
‘‘It’s going to come down to a lot of things; who wants it the most, who gets a good start and even injuries.’’
The match marks the first time the two sides will clash since the incident which left Merrigum defender Geoff Connally with significant facial injuries.
The injuries occurred when Murchison’s Luke Chapman attempted to spoil an incoming ball and instead made contact with Connally’s face.
Bulldogs officials requested an investigation, but tribunal members found Chapman not guilty.
Connally has since returned after an extended period out.
Merrigum playing coach Christian Barnett said his side had greater issues than worrying about redemption.
‘‘We’d be silly to get too worried about it. We have bigger things to worry about, like winning a spot in the grand final,’’ Barnett said.
‘‘There is a game to win, so there are no dramas there. We’ll just go about our business.’’
Both sides are close to full strength, with the Bulldogs welcoming back Josh Stammers — who came fifth in McNamara Medal voting behind teammate Josh Pell — and Graeme Giles (both general soreness).
Reeves was confident of overturning the result, given none of Jake Ewart, James Peck, James Milne and James Londrigan played for the Grasshoppers in their loss to Merrigum.
‘‘We have four new players into the side since then and the opportunity to play nine or 10 more games together,’’ Reeves said.
‘‘We’ve played some really good footy the last month and we understand each other well and the processes we need to stick to.’’
Barnett said Murchison was even across the field and was more focused on that than any individuals.
‘‘They’re pretty even on their lines and there are not too many weaknesses in our side, so we’ll just see how it plays out on the day,’’ Barnett said.
‘‘It’s exciting and the footy club is really happy to be in this position, with five sides (four netball) in finals.’’
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