Sport

Hoppers grand final ready

By Andrew Johnston

FOR MANY, Colbinabbin walking straight into the Heathcote District Football League grand final was a shock.

The Hoppers' second semi-final opponent North Bendigo had dropped just the one game en route to what seemed to be a certain grand final, only for the Hoppers to stun the competition with a 26-point win.

While the average follower of the competition may have been shocked, Colbo coach Jeremy Bull was not.

"We knew the level we are at," he said.

"The times we played North Bendigo this year, there was a couple of kicks in it on both occasions, we knew we just had to get the team consistent in terms of both play and personnel.

"We've really been able to do that in the past month or so, which has shown what we are capable of. Hopefully it will be able to carry us a long way."

The club will be hoping their form peaks against North Bendigo in Saturday's HDFNL grand final, as the Hoppers seek to win their first premiership since 2008.

For Colbinabbin, the second most successful club in the league's history with 12 flags, it will be a return to grand final day for the first time since 2009, where they lost to Heathcote.

Bull said the playing group was excited to return to a grand final.

"It really is exciting, not just for us, but for all the supporters of the football club," he said.

"We've had success on the netball courts, but its great to be able to add to that on the football field. We have fans who have been waiting to see us back in the grand final.

"We have guys who have spent 10 years and played 150-odd games for our club who have not had the chance to win a flag for their club, so we are excited for all of those people to finally get the chance."

After finishing third on the HDFL ladder with a 12-4 record, the Hoppers accounted for LBU in the qualifying final by 29 points, before advancing to the grand final with the win against North Bendigo.

It is another step forward for the side, who under coach Nick Knight finished fourth with a 10-6 record in 2018, before crashing out in the preliminary final.

Bull, in his first year of coaching the side, held high praise for the role his predecessor - and current teammate - played in the team's development.

"Nick did a fantastic job," he said.

"He did a lot of great work over the past three years to put us in a really good position and build the foundations. Still having him in the team gives us all the opportunity to use his experience and knowledge, it makes us a better side having him there.

"From there we have been able to add players and structures that have further improved us as a side, putting us in the position we are in going into Saturday."

HOPPERS TO WATCH

Daniel Connors (5 games, 20 goals): "Everyone knows Daniel, he's going to be a big draw card for us."

Lachlan Ezard (18 games, 2 goals): "He's been fantastic for us through the midfield, he's a contested ball beast in there."

Todd Bryant (14 games, 7 goals): "A brilliant onballer, he's been winning a lot of his own ball. Really strong competitor." 

Ben Southam (16 games, 18 goals): "He's a guy who is able to go through pretty much any position on the field and play a role, gets the job done and contributes no matter what is asked of him."

BULLDOGS ANALYSIS

Having finished on top of the ladder and en route to yet another grand final, the Dogs are a great side.

The Hoppers will have their hands full with three Cheatley medalists on the field in  Jarrod Findlay, Tyson Findlay and 2019 winner Joel Helman.

With 65 goals on the season, Brady Herdman is going to be a must stop as well, having the ability to turn a game in just a few kicks.