IF ANY man has the ability to tear a grand final apart off his own boot, it is Sunbury’s Simon Clarke.
A huge frame, almost unbreakable hands and the fitness to present all day, Clarke has today been identified as the man The Courier believes can prove the hero for the eastern Lions.
The midfield is where the game will be won and lost – that is almost always the case in football, especially grand finals.
But, with both sides posing the elite midfields in the Ballarat Football League, it is almost safe to say that battle will end in a stalemate, if not extremely close to it.
That means the game could easily be decided within the 50-metre arcs.
And when you think of one player within the arcs for either side, you think of Clarke.
We have rarely seen him at his best this year, but the glimpses the 31-year-old has shown prove he is very much the threat.
You only have to wind the clock back 12 months to a day which would still cause nightmares to the likes of Redan defenders in Luke Nunn and Pat Britt.
It was at Eastern Oval in the grand final last year that Clarke put on a clinic, booting seven goals in a near best-on-ground performance.
The Lions forward has not turned it on to the same degree this year, but he has not had to. Until now.
Troubled by groin problems early in the year, he only played eight home and away games for the year.
However, he has shown in the last month that he is back near his best, his equalising goal against Redan to draw the match in round 17 showed her very much still has what it takes.
“It’s been good to have a coach (Rick Horwood) that understands that getting my body right is a big part of playing good footy,” Clarke said.
“Rick and myself have a really good understanding of each other and that definitely helps.”
Clarke said he did not feel any pressure to perform at the same machine-like level he did last year – he just wanted to do his bit for the team.
“This year has nothing to do with last year at all,” he said.
“This year would definitely mean a lot to go back-to-back. The guys are all amazingly hungry.”
Most likely set to start in the goalsquare, if Clarke gets early hands on the footy, watch out North Ballarat City defenders.
PREDICTION: Sunbury by 11 points.