River Murray Football League grand final preview: Meningie v Mypolonga

What a feeling: Mypolonga players Clint Diment, Lachlan Butler, Ben Gogel and, in the background, Brad Martin, celebrate their win over Meninige in the second semi final. Photo: William Bailey.

What a feeling: Mypolonga players Clint Diment, Lachlan Butler, Ben Gogel and, in the background, Brad Martin, celebrate their win over Meninige in the second semi final. Photo: William Bailey.

SATURDAY’S River Murray Football League grand final has all the makings of a classic encounter between two very different, yet equally-entertaining sides.

At the start of the season, Mypolonga coach Steve Sumner said he felt everyone had written the Tigers off, and that was the way he liked it.

As pre-season premiership favourites, Meningie are pitted against the hungry Mypolonga side who has taken the competition by storm in September and now set their sights on ruining the Bears’ party.

In one corner we have the classy, highly-rated and star-studded Meningie Bears, who powered through the season as premiership favourites, only dropping two games in the minor round.

In the other corner we have the workmanlike, developing and exciting Mypolonga Tigers.

The Tigers

The Tiger league side has taken its fans on quite a journey in 2017.

At the start of the season, Mypolonga coach Steve Sumner said he felt everyone had written the Tigers off, and that was the way he liked it.

Early in the season, Mypolonga blooded a young side and had a turbulent start due to the inexperience of the list and the Tigers joined the pack of teams who were ‘around the mark’.

However, a season-defining win over Meningie in round 11 saw Mypolonga pull away from the pack and finish third on the ladder and full of confidence.

The Tigers took their belief into the finals and made their grand final dreams a reality; first with a gutsy, entertaining win over Mannum in a shootout and then with a tight, hard-fought win over Meningie to qualify first for the big dance.

The Bears

The Bears ended their minor round dominance with a big round 19 win over Mypolonga to have the first week off in the finals, leaving punters to doubt the Tigers’ status as contenders after the result.

The Bears then fronted up against Mypolonga in week two of the finals and the Tigers flexed their muscles and forced Meningie to take the long route to the grand final, via Jervois to qualify.

As expected, the Bears responded in the preliminary final with a big win and will be seeking revenge.

The Bears have been poked and should react, however Mypolonga have had the eye of the Tiger about them in September; they are full of confidence and will be hard to beat.

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The Clash

The sides have met four times in 2017 and share two wins each. Each side has its stars, each team has its match-winners.

For the Tigers, captain James Moss fits into both categories. His heroics in the first round of finals had the whole River Murray community talking. He took big marks, pulled off miraculous shots at goal and generally dominated play on his way to 13 majors.

Meningie will try and counter Moss’ influence and the newly-crowned River Murray best and fairest Brodie Martin may be instrumental in doing so.

A clever and talented former AFL star, Martin is a regular starter off a back flank, chopping off opposing team’s forward entries and setting up Meningie’s attack.

It can be tempting on the small Tailem Bend oval to kick long, but shallow entries can easily be stopped and repelled with less free space for defenders to zone off on.

Meningie coach Brian Fenton leads the Bears’ midfield and he has not only a quality band of Bears in the middle with him, but an experienced lot too.

Karl Lodhe is a strong veteran who knows how to stand up in big games and Myles Warmington is no stranger to the big stage.

Fenton is a star himself and the Tigers will need to monitor him closely.

The small size of the Tailem Bend oval often sees more stoppages so Meningie may have an advantage with the size and strength of their big-bodied midfielders.

Mypolonga’s Clint Diment, Ben Gogel and Seamus Mcdonnell are stars in their own right and have all been impressive this season; they will take it right up to the Bears.

Young gun Jack Kluske has added some X factor to the Tigers’ midfield since returning to Mypolonga.

It will be an entertaining battle between Meningie’s Peter Nelson and Mypolonga’s Nathan Wright in the ruck.

Meningie’s forwards in Jed Durdin and Rhys Smart were good last week; Durdin leads the Bears in goals kicked while Smart was impressive with his long-kicking and work rate.

Mypolonga’s Brad Martin is a big target who knows where the goals are and must be restricted, Simon Norris is a crafty forward, while Corey Jones, who is traditionally a defender, hit the scoreboard last week and is handy in any position.

Mypo last won a premiership in 1994; the Tigers’ drought is the longest in the league.

In recent years, the Tigers have had their chances - in 2012 the Tigers lost by five points in a thrilling shoot out and they lost their previous chance in 2008.

Meningie last won the flag in 2014 and seven players from that premiership side played at Jervois on Saturday. The Bears are a more experienced unit and a team full of champions who start favourites.

It was only two weeks ago the Tigers proved they are more than just a silly chance of winning the title; they qualified first and sent a strong message to the Bears.

The Tigers are underdogs and that’s exactly the way coach Sumner likes it.

The Standard’s tip: Meningie, 11-20 points.

Reserves

RAMBLERS v IMPERIALS: The top two reserves sides will meet in a showdown between the Murray Bridge rivals.

Not much separated the two clubs during the minor round and that was reflected on the premiership table.

Ramblers finished on top with 12 wins and Imperials were only one premiership point away in second on 11 wins with one draw.

Last time the sides met, it was Ramblers who won the battle, taking out the semi final to qualify first, beating the Blues by 10 points in an entertaining reserves match.

Ramblers go into the match favourites with plenty of match winners in their line-up; none more so than three-time Mail medalist Mervyn Kartinyeri.

Muffy is a gun while Jarrad Sykes is a star up forward and averages 4.3 goals a game.

Rooster Harry O’Neil was runner-up in the Lokan Medal count; he has had a good year and will want to take that form into the grand final while Tom Paech, James Kerley and Andrew Holland have all had good seasons. 

Imperials are led by some experienced footballers with lots of A grade experience.

The likes of Matthew Gogel, Sam Mobbs, Ash Temby, Tom Hines and Thomas Puiatti will not let the Blues team down.

It will be a good match between two good teams, but Ramblers hold the upper hand.

Ramblers, 1-10 points.