IT WOULD take a crystal ball to have any chance of accurately predicting who will be waving the A Grade premiership flag on Saturday – that’s how closely matched the two grand final teams are.
Laharum and Natimuk United have built a compelling rivalry over the past few seasons, dating back to when they faced off in the 2015 A Grade decider.
In all but one game between the teams since, the margin has been 11 goals or less.
This year, the Mountain Maids got the upper hand when they beat the Ewes in round nine.
The teams were on level pegging early, but a second-quarter Laharum blitz saw them head into half-time with a 12-goal lead.
An impressive defensive effort to keep prolific Natimuk United shooter Shannon Couch to 19 goals was the catalyst for the win.
But the Ewes got one back in a semi-final two weeks ago in what was one of the best games of the Horsham District league netball season.
Natimuk United was up at the first break before Laharum drew level by half-time.
A high accuracy rate from the Laharum shooters in the third quarter enabled them to take the lead, but the Ewes kept their heads and chipped away, and were ahead by one at the final whistle.
Mountain Maids coach Rebecca McIntyre said her team would take confidence from that match.
“We stuck with them to the very last whistle. We know we can match them one on one, and collectively we know we have the capacity to beat them,” she said.
“It comes down to effort in the grand final, and we know we can put in 150 per cent.”
McIntyre said the teams matched up incredibly well in all positions.
“Their defenders Jo Taylor and Casey Vanstan are fantastic – very athletic and strong, and so are our goalers in Caitlin Story and Maddie Iredell," she said.
“Ema Iredell and I have only really played together this season, but we play together as a defensive unit really well now and match up well on their goalies.”
Ewes coach Cheryl Sudholz said her team was a little underprepared the first time they faced Laharum this year.
“We knew how they played, but I don’t think you’re as prepared as you think sometimes,” she said.
“So the second time round we had practice matches leading up to it and were really talking among ourselves and nutting out things we could improve on, tweaking things and working out little plays.
“We’ve been really working hard on that as a team.”
Sudholz said she was confident with making changes in the grand final if need be.
“We know whoever comes on court is going to give it their all, and that the combination will be just as strong with whoever is out there,” she said.
“Our midcourt can change so much, and we have multiple goalies who play different styles, and that can be to our advantage.”