HE was the name on everyone’s lips last week, now Shaun Lyle is hoping for a repeat performance for North Ballarat City in the club’s first ever Ballarat Football League grand final tomorrow.
Arguably the standout player in the 2013 finals series with 16 goals to his name from just three outings, Lyle was unstoppable against Redan in the preliminary final last week.
He booted a career-best nine goals, with four behinds also against his name.
Dead-eye set shots, solid marks and nimble movement when in possession mean Lyle has appeared a class above the rest of late.
But all that will mean nothing if he is not holding the Ballarat Football League premiership trophy aloft tomorrow afternoon.
“Nobody ever remembers who kicks goals in the prelim,” he said.
“Premierships are what everybody plays for, there’s no point coming out and playing well in the finals if you can’t do it in the grand final as well.”
Just one game has gone by where Lyle has been held goalless this season – a match which he will be hoping is not a sign of things to come.
Lyle did not open his account against Sunbury in round nine but found the going a little easier in round 18, where he got on the end of five majors.
An early season hamstring injury, then another against Redan in round 11, kept him out of action for a month, but now he is back to his best.
“It makes it pretty easy when your midfielders are hitting you on the chest every time and that’s what happened last week,” Lyle said.
“It won’t happen as easily against Sunbury this week, though.
“It’s a grand final so there will be more pressure obviously and everyone will be trying that much harder.”
A Northie through and through, Lyle has played football at Eureka Stadium his whole life.
Starting out playing for North Ballarat in the under-10 league, the 22-year-old has spent more than half of his life running around in the black and white.
North Ballarat Rebels commitments meant he was not part of the dark days when North Ballarat City was forced to compete in the Bendigo Football League, but he knows all too well the pain the club went through back then.
“Those years we used to lose by 100 points every week. I wasn’t there but you still follow it and you know what is happening,” he said.
“There are guys that were around the club back then that are still here now and you know what it means to them.
“People have put in so much work to get us where we are now but there’s still more left to do.”
Playing for North City all his life has not come without its challenges for Lyle.
Perennially, the club which other teams are most willing to sink the proverbial boots into means he has had to build a certain immunity to what outsiders say about the black and white.
“I’ve been copping it since under-12 days, it’s always been there,” Lyle said.
“People always say we get fed by the Roosters but I think we had 15 junior players against Redan last weekend.
“We deal with that sort of stuff week in, week out so it doesn’t make that much difference to us.
“I’ve played juniors with a lot of these guys. Guys like the Georges (Keegan and Tyler), the Howard brothers (Sam and Brendan), the Bromley-Lynch’s (Sam and Josh) were a bit younger. We’ve all come up together.”
North Ballarat City has never played in a senior premiership before, let alone a BFL grand final.
Lyle has played in five junior grand finals for the club, including three premierships, but would trade all of them in to gain just one senior flag.
“Our mantra at the start was that it’s our time this year,” he said.
“At the moment it still feels the same as every other week, but I reckon that will all start to change on Saturday.”