A battle for the ages
Both Merimbula Diggers president Jason Raeck and senior Narooma coach Colin Fosternally agree it is a thrill to see a grand final go ahead this weekend after concerns the 2020 season would not get a start.
"At the start of the year we didn't think we would get in two games let alone a season and a grand final," Mr Raeck said. "So we just want to pass on our thanks to the volunteers and the league, we know it hasn't been easy for anyone."
Mr Fosternally echoed the sentiment, saying "We're happy it's all going ahead with COVID and after the bushfires - it's something for the towns to barrack for."
After clutching the minor premiership from the Diggers in the final home and away round, the Narooma Lions took down Pambula last weekend to see a rematch with the premiership on the line.
With both clubs offering up a strong balance of youthful exuberance, level-headed veterans and a bucket-load of high flying flair both spokesmen are confident their teams can raise the trophy this Saturday.
Mr Raeck said the Diggers had been a tight-knit playing group for a number of years and they were able to adapt quickly to play.
"No doubt we have the talls and younger blokes like Caleb Higgins and Jedd Martyn in particular that can read the ball well to take that overhead mark, but it's really about the way they read the game on the fly and adjust."
"They can depend on each other and the head coach and bench coaches have been integral as well to pulling off our game plans."
He knows the Diggers will not be able to dominate possession of the ball against a club like the Lions, so adaptive thinking could be pivotal.
"Play against a club like Tathra or Narooma is going to be to-and-fro you won't get it all your way so you have to react when you get the opportunity and take it with both hands."
Meanwhile, Mr Fosternally says the Lions will look to focus on their own play-style and not be sucked in by whatever tact the Diggers take this weekend.
"We need to play our style of football, how we want to do it," he said.
"It's what you play footy for, the ultimate success."
With players still on deck from the club's last premiership in 2017, there will be some cool heads prevailing to keep everyone on task.
"[We have to] get everyone settled as quickly as possible and try not to be over-awed by the grand final."
The senior match will headline a full day of games with play under lights from 5.40pm.
Breakers back for more
Three grades this Saturday will see Bermagui Breakers outfits returning to defend their 2019 premierships including the under 14s, ladies and reserve grades.
This will be the fifth year in a row the club's under 14 division vies for the flag says Breakers president Phil Summerville.
"They're playing their fifth in a row," he beams. "They've won one, lost one by a point and then won the last two so they're going for the three-peat."
"We're yet to win an under 16s premiership, but hopefully that will change on the weekend," Mr Summerville said with a grin.
In the reserve grade, there will be plenty of energy from the Breakers who came close to the minor premiership, but ultimately lost it to Eden in one quarter of footy.
Finishing the comp just a handful of points shy on for and against, Mr Summerville said the reserves could have secured the title, but faced a worthy challenge from the Eden Whalers.
"In our last encounter, we were six goals up at three quarter time and they kicked six in the last to our none to draw, so that probably gives them a bit of hunger."
However, Mr Summerville said he was a firm believer that minor premierships didn't matter and it would be the big dance on Saturday that decides the ultimate prize.
In the ladies grade, the Breakers are a youthful and close-knit group, who have advanced through the junior grades and will bring a skillful enthusiasm against the Eaglettes at Berrambool.
"We've got only two girls over 20 and the rest are 18 or younger, they're hungry for the ball, they can move it around and boy can they tackle," Mr Summerville said.
"Most of them started in the under 13s, so it's been a natural progression for them."
He said fostering strong junior grades had been a cornerstone of the Breakers for almost a decade and the Breakers were now reaping the rewards.
"Luke Moresi and Scott Ballard have been our junior coaches for the past eight years and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude," Mr Summerville said.
After having four title wins last year, the Breakers again have four teams in contention, no small feat.
"For a little town like Bermi to have four teams in again, it's just massive."
Mr Summerville said the community were the strength behind the football club and the Breakers were a reflection of that.
"All I ever say is 'build it and they will come', we've got a club where people want to be around, the days of being a men's club are over and we're a family club now more than we are a footy club," he said.
"We've got a great bunch of people and it's pretty special.
"We want to say good luck to all the clubs in the grand final this weekend, everyone has earned their place and let's hope it is a great weekend."
Whalers on the hunt for glory
The minor premiers Eden Whalers cruised to victory over the Narooma Lions on the weekend to progress to Saturday's grand final where they will face down the Bermagui Breakers.
Eden coach Shane Crowe expects it to be a tight contest.
"I think we're pretty evenly matched sides," Mr Crowe said. "We've both got a good mid-field and a couple of good forwards so I don't think there will be too much in it really."
Meeting just twice during the regular season, Mr Crowe said the Breakers had a narrow win in the first encounter, while the Whalers had a thrilling fourth period in their second game to secure a draw.
Mr Crowe said a grand final ticket was an awesome conclusion to the year given the Whalers had been pressed for numbers when COVID-19 forced a delay to the season.
"We were struggling for numbers, but we picked up a half-dozen guys when the league folded," he said.
Of those six Ben Maher is the only true league convert with five of the others already having some previous or junior experience on the Aussie rules field.
It made for what Mr Crowe said was a "pretty easy transition" and the team have become incredibly close-knit.
"They're good mates off the field, they've bonded really well and they just seem to be having fun."
He said the team was buzzing with energy off the back off a strong win and Tuesday night's training run was also enthusiastic.
"Everyone is jumping out of their skins, they're all excited."
Both the Whalers and Breakers will line up with youthful, speedy and skillful squads in the grand final on Saturday.
And for the Eden coach it will be key for the Whalers to keep up their previous form.
"We're just sort of focused on our game and what we have been doing this year - it's been working so there is no reason to go away from that," Mr Crowe said.
Ahead of the weekend Mr Crowe wants Eden fans to know they can attend the grand final and get behind the Whalers, but tickets must be purchased online this year.
"If you want to come up and support the boys on the weekend, get online grab a ticket and join us to enjoy a bit of footy and hopefully get the win," Mr Crowe said.
Eagles swoop on premiership shot
Tathra Eagles captain Brea Williams and vice-captain Elouise Russell commended all clubs on their grand final appearances this week, but also praised a strengthened women's draw.
"I think we're pretty excited overall that the standard of the women's competition has increased dramatically," Williams said. "Coach Mark [Coulton] has pushed us and we've grown heaps.
"It's our fifth grand final attempt and that in itself is huge - we're stoked with that, but a win would top it off," the pair beamed.
The Eagles and the Breakers have gone tit-for-tat on the scoreboard across the season and there is little to distinguish the speedy, skilful and agile squads.
Williams said the Eagles had mostly joined as fledgling Aussie rules players with the past five seasons of the women's draw the driving force behind their development.
She said some exciting additions to the roster this year, while maintaining a core group had also bolstered the team.
"We've got a cracking line-up that is strong across the field and there are no passengers," Williams said.
"Everyone has been a key player."
Both Williams and Russell agree voices of leadership could be pivotal on the weekend and felt comfortable knowing a number of players had stepped into leadership roles.
"We've got leadership in each segment of the field," Russell says. "Brea runs the backlines, myself and Cymmon through the middle and up front Sarah and Sam really run the forwards."
Bridging the gap is Tanya Waites out of the backline, who the pair said had a brilliant footy mind, reading play and giving strategic leadership. "She's our loud voice at the back reading play," Russell said.
Williams said the Eagles had come together incredibly well this year after recruiting early in the year the team made the conscious effort to hold additional bonding sessions following COVID-19 lockdowns.
"We were so pumped for footy we started pre-season quite early so we tried to hang out and see each other as some social time," Williams said.
The duo conceded that Bermagui had some strong players, but were playing their cards close to the chest ahead of the weekend.
"They should know who they are, and they should feel the pressure just as much as we do."
Both Williams and Russell agreed the Eaglettes have a good relationship with the Bermagui outfit, but on Saturday the final would be front of mind.
"We've got a pretty good relationship with Bermi and we definitely get out there to have fun, but we're here for the competition," the captain said.
With Bermi boasting four teams in the final, Russell said their support would be immense and encourages Tathra fans to rally around the Eagles in their fifth grand final tilt.
"We really hope the community gets around us and can show their support, but for those who can't make it our major sponsor the Country Club will be showing the live stream on the big screen," Russell said.
Best and Fairest winners
Normally best and fairest winners would be announced during the annual Sapphire Coast AFL presentation dinner, but this year the league has adapted to the COVID-19 landscape and have announced winners day by day with the points count on Facebook.
Merimbula Diggers duo and brothers Harry and Walter Blewitt were the first winners announced since Sunday, taking out the top of the under 12s and under 14s ranks respectively.
Harry finished the season with 13 votes to edge out Tathra's Flynn Cook and Bega's Jai Fulton.
In the 14s Walter also edged out some close opponents, securing 14 votes for the season to win by one from Pambula's Anthony Seach and Tyge Matters out of Bermagui who both had 13.
After a nerve-wracking count, the under 16s have emerged as a three-way tie with Pambula's Will Kellar, Merimbula's Damon Kerr and Bermagui's Curtis Jack all sharing the prize.
The ladies and seniors awards are yet to be announced, but the tally for reserve grade was the most recent prize awarded with Bermagui's Sebastian Hannebury securing the coveted title for 2020.
Merimbula's Berrambool Oval will play host to the Sapphire Coast AFL's 2020 grand final on Saturday.
Spectators will need to buy digital tickets (available here) via the eventbrite website. As of 9am on Thursday around 150 tickets are still available and if they sell out, no further tickets can be released officials said.
"We had to do that or the field would be limited to 500 people [including players]," Says Diggers president Jason Raeck.
The digital tickets can be downloaded or viewed from your phone, which can be scanned for contact tracing measures at entry to the ground.
"The main takeaway is maintain your social distancing, please try and use common sense."
Mr Raeck said there would be a security and police presence on the day to ensure people were doing the right thing and reminds spectators that no alcohol is to be brought into the ground.
There will be security at the entry and any alcohol would be confiscated or entry could be refused to those who do not comply.
Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time as tickets will not be available at the gate.
If you can't make it to the ground, SCAFL confirmed on Tuesday that all six grades would be live-streamed via the AFL Sapphire Coast Facebook page.
9.45am - Under 12 - Merimbula Diggers v Narooma Lions
11.00am - Under 14 - Bermagui Breakers v Merimbula Diggers
12.30pm - Under 16 - Bermagui Breakers v Pambula Panthers
2.15pm - Mens Div 2 - Eden Whalers v Bermagui Breakers
3.50pm - Senior Womens - Tathra Sea Eagles v Bermagui Breakers
5.30pm - Mens Div 1 - Narooma Lions v Merimbula Diggers