They were the top two sides at the conclusion of the home and away season and now Macleod and West Preston-Lakeside sit just one win away from premiership glory.
The Roos and Roosters play off for the Northern Football Netball League Division 1 flag when they meet at Preston City Oval at 2:15pm today.
Macleod has made just one change for the premiership decider, recalling Nick Lynch. The veteran forward has booted 11 goals in five matches this season.
Rourke Turner is the unfortunate player to make way for Lynch.
West Preston-Lakeside has added Jaylon Thorpe, Josh Novelli and Matthew Harman to a 25-man squad.
Thorpe featured in Williamstown’s VFL preliminary final loss to Box Hill last Sunday, while Novelli and Harman both played in the Roosters’ first semi final win over Bundoora a fortnight ago.
Ahmed Saad and Ozgur Uysal are both named in the squad, despite not featuring during the second half of last week’s preliminary final win over North Heidelberg.
Macleod and West Preston-Lakeside meet for the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 premiership at Preston City Oval on Saturday. The first bounce is at 2:15pm.
Macleod is through to its fourth-consecutive grand final and is hell-bent to atone for defeats in the past two deciders. The Roos will also have the added motivation of sending off outgoing coach Garry Ramsay on the best possible note after six successful years at the helm.
West Preston-Lakeside returns to the big stage for the first time in eight years. The Roosters’ strike rate in grand finals is outstanding, which includes upset triumphs in their past two grand final appearances in both 2010 and 2003.
Statistically the two sides have set the benchmark right throughout the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 season. Macleod ranked No.1 for both points scored and fewest conceded in the home and away season, just edging out West Preston-Lakeside in both tallies.
The Roos forward line continues to function with great efficiency, with their even spread a key reason to their success. Patrick Martin, Anthony Doherty and Reid Brandt are all capable of kicking bags of goals and are hard to match up on due to their strength both in the air and at ground level. Rourke Turner and Billy Barden also provide plenty of grunt.
Martin leads the Roos’ goal kicking with 39 majors this year and has been particularly lively against West Preston-Lakeside. He was best afield with four goals in the Round 9 win at J.E. Moore Park, before adding another three in the Round 14 loss at De Winton Park.
Despite their scoring prowess, Macleod’s forwards will have to be switched on defensively to lock down on West Preston-Lakeside’s counterattacking half back line, which has proved exceptionally damaging over the past fortnight.
West Preston-Lakeside’s ball use and quick spread has cut its opponents to shreds in the preliminary and first semi finals. Their clean movement and decisiveness is perfectly suited to the larger expanses of Preston City Oval and has proved impossible to stop in recent weeks.
Jackson Clarke and Sam Glover have had outstanding 2018 campaigns and are two of the best intercept players in the competition. They are well complemented by Nathan Valladares and Joel McDonald – who work tirelessly to ensure Clarke and Glover can be released to use their elite foot skills from defence.
Macleod will certainly put plenty of time into both players to ensure they are kept accountable. However, the Roosters do also have exceptional ball users in Adam Valeri, Garrett McDonagh and Michael Ercolano ready to drive their side forward.
Similar to Macleod, the versatility of the Roosters line-up is also a major strength. They showed that best last week when Glover, Aidan Tilley and Carl Adams all rotated forward at times to offset the loss of star forward Ahmed Saad and assist young gun Liam McVeigh.
In the absence of their leading goal kicker, the Roosters still booted 17 goals after quarter time to dispel the theory they are one-man forward line. In fact, they have kicked a total of 26 goals in their past five quarters of football and conceded just seven in the same time.
Of all the teams in the competition, Macleod’s defence is best equipped to hold up against the ever-rotating Roosters forward half.
Brad Leggett holds down the fort at full back, with great support in the air from Ned McKeown, while the likes of Jack Bianchin, Laurence Schubert and Joel Kidd are capable of playing lock down roles on West Preston-Lakeside’s in-form small forwards.
Just as West Preston-Lakeside’s half backs are blessed with elite foot skills, Macleod is equally capable, with McKeown and Justin White setting up their side with penetration out of defensive 50.
Both clubs face selection headaches leading into the grand final on the back of injuries to star players during the finals series.
Ahmed Saad and Ozgur Uysal both sustained hamstring strains in West Preston-Lakeside’s preliminary final win over North Heidelberg. Saad didn’t feature after quarter time, while Uysal sat out the second half.
Both will be given every chance to prove their fitness, albeit off just a six-day break. The Roosters have proven they can still kick a winning score without the star duo, however they are undoubtedly a better side with both on the park.
Saad was simply unstoppable against Bundoora, with his 10-goal haul one of the great finals performances. Meanwhile, Uysal’s dominant final term was the catalyst for the Roosters come-from-behind win over Macleod back in July.
Should either not come up, Jaylon Thorpe is waiting in the wings for a return after Williamstown’s VFL finals run came to an end last weekend. Thorpe has booted 13 goals in seven appearances for the Roosters this year and is one of the best marks in the league.
Macleod has its own selection dilemna ahead of the grand final, most notably in the form of Lucas Hobbs.
The star midfielder, who tied for the 2018 Frank Rosbrook Medal with Heidelberg’s Michael Brunelli, injured a hamstring in the second semi final win over North Heidelberg and is racing the clock to be fit for Saturday.
The other selection query is whether the Roos take in two ruckmen to counter Mark Kovacevic. The Roosters’ big man has been a colossus in 12 appearances this year and has been one of the players of the finals series.
Jack Langford has been outstanding in the ruck for Macleod since taking on the No.1 duties as cover for the injured Chris Long. Despite returning to the team late in the home and away season, Long didn’t feature in the semi final win – a game in which Langford excelled.
The ruck battle is vital given how damaging both midfield groups can be. Macleod has two genuine game winners in Hamish Paynter and Liam Brandt, who have made Preston City Oval their own in recent years. West Preston-Lakeside will counter that with the brilliance of Luke Lirosi and Patrick Karnezis.
With both sides possessing damaging both forward lines, it may not be too simplistic to say the side that wins the battle in the midfield will be the one celebrating on the premiership dais at 5pm.
Also missing from Macleod’s semi final team were forward Nick Lynch and rebounding defender Josh Henkel – although the duo have played just five and four games respectively this year.
While the physical battle will be absorbing on Saturday, the mental side of the game could also play a major part in the final outcome.
Macleod is looking to make up for consecutive grand final defeats over the past two seasons, which includes a heartbreaking three-point loss to Bundoora in last year’s decider.
The Roos have been close to faultless in their search for redemption to date, but will any demons appear if the game is close in the final stages?
The two head-to-head battles between the two sides during the home and away season have been absorbing and create even more intrigue heading into the grand final.
With so little separating the sides this year, all is in anticipation for another epic grand final to sign off the 2018 season.
LIVE STREAM: A live stream of the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 Grand Final can be viewed on the Northern Football Netball League Facebook page, while a broadcast can be heard on 88.6 Plenty Valley FM.
DOWNLOAD: A high-definition digital download of the grand final can be purchased at www.nfnl.sportscastcloud.com.au seven days after the game for $22.00.
17 wins – 2 losses
Points For – 1851, Average For – 97
Points Against – 1206, Average Against – 63
Average Winning Margin – 40
Average Losing Margin – 18
Leading Goal Kicker – Patrick Martin (39)
Most Times In Best – Lucas Hobbs (11)
14 wins – 7 losses
Points For – 2013, Average For – 96
Points Against – 1320, Average Against – 63
Average Winning Margin – 57
Average Losing Margin – 16
Leading Goal Kicker – Ahmed Saad (63)
Most Times In Best – Luke Lirosi (12)
HEAD TO HEAD IN 2018
Round 14: Macleod 13.11 (89) def by West Preston-Lakeside 15.15 (105)
Goals: P. Martin 3, A. Doherty 2, J. Kidd 2, W. Barden, K. Manuel, N. McKeown, L. Hobbs, F. Pope, J. Condello
Best: L. Hobbs, J. Kidd, L. Schubert, K. Manuel, B. Leggett, P. Martin
Goals: A. Saad 5, O. Uysal 2, J. Clarke 2, J. Thorpe 2, M. Vincitorio, M. Ercolano, A. Tilley, J. Novelli
Best: J. Clarke, A. Tilley, S. Glover, A. Federico, O. Uysal, J. Tadd
Round 9: West Preston-Lakeside 11.8 (74) def by Macleod 14.8 (92)
Goals: A. Saad 4, L. McVeigh 3, M. Vincitorio, B. Dufficy, L. Lirosi, G. McDonagh
Best: J. Tadd, M. Harman, A. Saad, C. Adams, M. Ercolano, L. McVeigh
Goals: P. Martin 4, N. Lynch 2, S. Doherty, N. McKeown, J. White, L. Joyce, A. Doherty, L. Hobbs, J. Langford, J. Bianchin
Best: P. Martin, H. Paynter, J. White, L. Brandt, R. Turner, J. Bianchin