Back-to-back flags a Whitsunday goal for Sea Eagles
AUSTRALIAN RULES: Whitsunday Sea Eagles will playoff for their tenth AFL Mackay senior premiership against Eastern Swans at Harrup Park on Saturday night.
The Sea Eagles go into the Allied Pickford's Cup grand final as reigning premiers and if past years are any guide, the club is adept at repeating history.
Whitsunday won four consecutive flags between 1993 and 1996, then strung together a threepeat between 2004 and 2006.
With 14 of last year's premiership side returning 12 months later, it is no wonder there is a sense of familiarity about the preparations leading into the big one according to coach Luke Sommerville.
"It is an exciting time of the year, but our focus has been keeping things as normal as possible," he said.
"We've probably got eight or nine guys who are getting set for their first grand final, but there is that benefit that a large number of players in our side were there last year when we won it."
Whitsunday will go in as warm favourites against the Swans, who stunned North Mackay by 16 points in last week's preliminary final.
But one man who wasn't surprised by that result was Sommerville, having forecast that result when reviewing his side's second semi-final win against the Saints.
"Eastern Swans have got a number of key players back on the park and are probably as strong as they've been all year," he said.
"I watched that game and it was tough game of footy, both sides went hard at it."
The Sea Eagles go into the game refreshed following the week off and few injury concerns apart from the mercurial Regan Williams.
Williams sustained hamstring tightness in the final home and away round against North Mackay and missed the second semi-final.
Sommerville said the former Moama ace, who has booted 46 goals this season, would need to prove his fitness at training tonight.
"He trained on Tuesday night and got through, but we want him to go at full speed before the game," he said.
"We've probably got 27 to pick from, so there's going to be 3-5 blokes stiff to miss out, but they'll be named as emergencies."
The Swans defeated the Sea Eagles in the opening round, but since that point Whitsunday has won 14 of its past 15 games.
That run of form has included wins against the Swans by 25 points, 189 points and 66 points in their most recent clash on July 28.
The Sea Eagles boast some of the league's premier players.
Ruckman Mitch Bell, a Goulburn Valley premiership winner in 2014 with the Shepparton Swans, will use his big match experience around the ground.
The consistent Jake Hare, classy utility Cooper Barber, dynamo Ryan Lee, mercurial forward Michael Galonski and the reliable Daniel Hug rate highly.
Much of the Swans hopes rest on the brilliance of centreman and playing-coach George Hannaford, whose SANFL and NEAFL experience, has seen him take the competition by storm in 2018.
Opening bounce is 6.30pm.
A supporter bus, arriving before the seniors grand final, is being run.
Be at The Nest at 2pm for a 2.30pm departure with a second pick-up at Proserpine BP if required (please advise club officials).
Cost is $25 per person and includes a 2018 club singlet.
Please RSVP today via the club's Facebook page.