The stakes couldn’t be any higher. Murrumbateman versus Yass. 1st versus 2nd on the ladder. Battle of the Barton. Two sides from the Yass Valley. Grand Final day.

This Saturday’s AFL Canberra Fourth Grade Men’s Grand Final is set to be an all-time epic.

 Everything you need to know about this weekend’s game:

This weekend’s AFL Canberra Fourth Grade Men’s Grand Final will be played on Saturday at EPC Solar Park at Phillip Oval. The first bounce will occur at 12:45pm. 

Both Yass Valley sides recorded relatively straightforward wins in their respective preliminary finals last Saturday.

Murrumbateman qualified for the big dance with a 44-point, 9.10.64 to 3.4.22 win against the Woden Blues at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval.

Yass booked its place in the season decider with a 37-point, 12.14.86 to 8.1.49 win against the Goulburn Swans at Joe O’Connor Park.

Both sides finished first and second on the 2022 ladder and were head and shoulders above the quality of the rest of the competition.

Murrumbateman finished on top of the ladder with 13 wins and two losses – those only two losses being handed to them by Yass this season and recording a staggering percentage of 210.76.

 

Yass finished one win behind Murrumbateman on the ladder with 48 competition points and 12 wins, losing just three and also achieving an impressive percentage of 203.88.

As aforementioned, the Eagles and Roos have come up against each other twice in the 2022 season, with Yass taking the honours on both occasions in close games.

The first clash came in round 3 on April 23rd, when both sides met at Murrumbateman Oval. The Roos won 11.12.78 to 11.9.75, recorded a three-point win, and led by more than five goals at half-time.

The second match-up against the two highly fancied sides came in round 15 on July 23rd, this time at Joe O’Connor Park in Yass. The Roos were once again victorious, winning 9.10.64 to 8.9.57, by seven points.

While both of Murrumbateman’s losses this season have come from the hands of Yass, the Roos three losses came in round one to the Goulburn Swans, round five to the Southern Cats, and round eight to the Woden Blues. 

From the horse’s mouth: Murrumbateman Eagles Club President: Andy Ingold

“It’s a massive achievement from all involved to make the grand final after just our fourth season on the field. From the playing group, the coaches, our supporters, sponsors, and committee, it’s been a great team effort and it’s just good to see that we’ve got to this point,” Ingold said.

“The guys enjoyed getting out onto Gungahlin Enclosed last Saturday and play on a bigger ground. It was very wet underfoot and very slippery, looking at a few guys from both sides, but the rain held off and it was a decent day. When the sun came out, it was beautiful. They did what they had to do and got the job done.

“It was a good turnout from the home supporters. Fans were waving flags. You always want more support, but our faithful were all there, the ones we see every week. I did see a few new faces too, which was great. Obviously, it’s getting through the Murrumbateman community and hopefully, we can get that, if not more supporters to Phillip on Saturday for the big one.

Ecstatic Eagles after Saturday’s preliminary decider

“The two games we’ve played against Yass this year were very good games of football. I’m expecting another great game. They’ve obviously got the win on both occasions throughout the year, but they were very close games, being a 3-point and 7-point loss. If it’s going to be like any of those two games, it’s going to be a cracker. 

“It’s good experience for the guys to get out on grounds and facilities like Gungahlin and Phillip Oval. I’d rather be playing home finals at home, so that’s probably an achievement that’s fallen short. We’d rather a good surface to play on at Murrumbateman, but it’s not up to standard, so we’ve got to come into town. But I think every player enjoys playing on a premier surface like the ones we have in the finals. 

“Last weekend in the preliminary final against Woden, they came back at us quite hard in the second quarter. There were a few words spoken at half-time, and the boys responded really well. Woden are a quality side, they always have been. We are just glad that we were able to get it done and look forward to this weekend.

“To any of our community in Murrumbateman, the Eagles have been here for four years now. We’re part of the community and are a club that gives back to the community. We’d love to see as many supporters as possible from Murrumbateman at Phillip Oval at 12:45pm on Saturday.

“If we can take home the premiership on Saturday, it’ll tick off a massive year for the Eagles in 2022. The year’s been a success already, but this is one more win we’d love to have in our cap.”

Yass Roos Club President: Jarrad Forlonge 

“Murrumbateman have been super consistent all year. I’d say that’s probably one area where we haven’t probably been as good this year, is probably just our consistency. We’ve beaten them a couple of times this year, but it was just three points and seven points, so it’s been super close all year,” Forlonge said.

“They’re a really strong side and got a really good backline and midfield as well. Their forwards manage to kick goals every week too. But we’re confident, we’re always going to be confident no matter who we play; whether we finished first, second or sixth, we’re always going to be confident.

“We’ve played in enough finals and grand finals, we’ve maybe not always got the results that we’ve wanted but we’ve been there before and back ourselves. It’s just another game, and if we can beat Murrumbateman for the third time this year, that’ll be good.

“We’d play the grand final on the worst ground in Canberra if it meant getting a chance to win it. But to go and play at Phillip Oval, which is one of the premier grounds in the competition, we’re excited about that. It’s a bigger ground, so not quite as small as both Murrumbateman and Yass, which is something we’ve got to be mindful of, but we like playing there; it’s a big ground and should be a pretty fast track. Hopefully, the water has drained off it, and we are keen to get out there and retain the Battle of the Barton and win the premiership.

“Last season, we were sitting in the top three when the competition got called off due to Covid and the previous year we lost the grand final, so we’d love to win this one.

“I’d like to give a shoutout to the Yass Valley. I think it’s pretty cool that the grand final is being played by two teams within the same local area. For that matter, to have Goulburn in the finals last week as well, that’s three country town teams with only one team to pick from, and we’ve managed to sort of beat everyone from Canberra that have 70-odd players to pick from each week, where sometimes we have to scrap for players. I think it’s a big credit to ourselves but also to Murrumbateman and Goulburn. It’s a pretty cool thing for the Yass Valley.

Roos revelling after last Saturday’s preliminary decider

Hopefully we get a good turnout and massive atmosphere at Phillip on Saturday. 

“One of our players, Nic Thomas, injured his ankle last week and it’s probably the biggest concern going into this week’s game, but we had a couple of players such as Toby Serafin out last week that will come straight back into the team this week, so realistically we’re at full strength. We’ll see if anyone else pulls up a bit sore, and we’ll go from there. 

“Three sets of brothers will be playing for the team this weekend, including the Stacey’s, Forlonge’s and Johns’.

“Council has gone and closed the grounds on us due to the wet weather, so we are in conversation with Canberra at the moment to try and find an oval to train this week. We don’t have a plan in place, but we’ve got a few options on the table. We just need to figure out what’s best. Murrumbateman have the same issue as they’re in the same Council area, so it’s not like they’re able to train somewhere. It’s not ideal but it’s the end of the year and we’ve trained 100 times so far. We know how we want to play and what to do. 

Who will win?

Whilst Murrumbateman have been the best side across the home and away season by finishing top of the ladder and recording just two loses, their opponent this weekend is the only side that has handed them those losses.

On the other hand, Yass have shown that they can match it with the best but also have the ability to drop games to mid-table sides. 

This one’s too close to call, but the Yass Valley will be victorious no matter the winner.

The Yass Valley Times wishes both Yass and Murrumbateman good luck in this weekend’s grand final. You are both doing the area proud.

Tim Warren