Bendigo Advertiser | Mitiamo isn't daunted by the challenge that awaits in Saturday's Loddon Valley second semi-final against the might of the undefeated Bridgewater.
MITIAMO coach Justin Maddern says the Superoos go into Saturday’s Loddon Valley second semi-final full of belief that they can pull off what has so far this year been mission impossible.
And that’s defeat powerhouse Bridgewater.
The Mean Machine head into Saturday’s clash at Calivil not only undefeated with an average winning margin of 90 points, but having won 13 finals in a row during their run of six premierships on the trot.
But that means little to Maddern and the Superoos, whose focus is purely on themselves and what they need to do well to take down the Mean Machine.
“The message to the boys this week is we can’t worry about Bridgewater as a team, we just need to focus on ourselves,” Maddern said on Friday.
“We’re confident that if we have all 22 blokes playing their role on Saturday then it’s going to be a good battle.
“Finals football is a different ball game where anything can happen and if we can put four consistent quarters together then we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“There’s no pressure on us… we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain and that’s the way we’re treating this week.”
The Superoos last week produced what Maddern – who has 97 goals for the year – rated their most complete performance of the season in a 40-point qualifying final win over Calivil United, led by another stellar performance from star midfielder Tyson Sidebottom.
“I feel the guys are in the right space at the moment and we’re putting it together at the right time of the year,” Maddern said.
“Last week was a good step in the right direction that we need to build on again.”
Bridgewater – on a country-Victoria best 28-game winning streak – has been in a rich vein of form, with its past nine games since the general bye in late May all wins by at least 10 goals.
As dominant as the Mean Machine has been, coach Marc Lindsay is confident the side has another gear to lift to in the finals in what’s a scary prospect.
“We’re certainly looking forward to getting stuck into it after not having a game last week,” Lindsay said.
“We set out at the start of the year to improve as a side every week and that will be our aim again on Saturday.”
The Mean Machine go into Saturday’s game injury-free, but missing four players – Deon Jones, Rick Ladson, Josh McLeod and Andrew Collins – through suspension.
All will be available to return for the Mean Machine’s next game, be it the grand final or preliminary final, which adds some pressure for those in Saturday’s side to play well to keep their spots in the team.
“We pride ourselves on getting a contribution out of everyone who plays in our 22,” Lindsay said.
“The expectation is everyone will give us everything they can, and it’s a good opportunity for the guys who are in the side to play well and make for a selection dilemma the following game.
“There’s obviously no hiding from the fact it’s a unique situation, but in someways it’s also what every team goes through in finals when you’ve got to pick a team and there’s times when blokes miss out and others get the nod.”
This season’s meetings:
Rd 5 – Bridgewater 18.14 (122) d Mitiamo 15.9 (99).
Rd 14 – Bridgewater 19.10 (124) d Mitiamo 8.13 (61).
• Pyramid Hill will take a “nothing to lose” mentality into Sunday’s first semi-final against Calivil United at Mitiamo.
It’s the same approach the Bulldogs had to last week’s elimination final when they went in as underdogs against Marong, but emerged 45-point victors on the back of a flying start.
Expectation-wise, anything less than getting through to the final three would be a disappointment for Calivil United, while the Bulldogs have already advanced further than most predicted by reaching the second week of the finals.
“There has probably been a bit of talk around the league that we weren’t expected to do much in the finals, but we went in last week with the right attitude, the boys responded really well, did the hard stuff and we’ll take in the same mindset this week and play with a bit of freedom of nothing to lose,” Bulldogs coach Brad Fawcett said.
The Bulldogs have had injury concerns this week with Michael Callinan (corkie), Dylan Tonkin (hamstring), Michael O’Neill (hand) and Mick Dundon (hamstring).
All were named in an extended squad of 24 on Thursday night.
“We’re still waiting to see who will be available and who won’t be, but playing the Sunday game will give extra time for them to, hopefully, get up. We will give them all as long as possible before making a final call,” Fawcett said.
The Bulldogs lost both home and away encounters to the Demons by 29 and 30 points in almost identical scorelines.
“Mental lapses during both those games hurt us. We lose concentration for 10 or 15 minutes and are then playing catch-up footy, which has been our weakness against the better teams, so that will be the challenge on Sunday to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Fawcett said.
The Demons have used up their second chance after losing last week’s qualifying final to Mitiamo by 40 points – a game where they were wasteful in front of goal, kicking 4.10 in the first half, but also lacked finals intensity around the ball.
“Our pressure around the ball let us down last week and we’ve got to be a lot better around the contest,” Demons coach Anthony Dennis said.
“And we’ve got to be a lot cleaner with the ball… we were too fumbly last week, so they are some areas we’ve looked to address.”
The Demons have lost Zach Alford (knee) and Nathan Ryan (calf) to injury.
This season’s meetings:
Rd 9 – Calivil United 13.7 (85) d Pyramid Hill 8.8 (56).
Rd 18 – Calivil United 13.9 (87) d Pyramid Hill 8.9 (57).