Sebastopol Vikings will attempt the league-cup double against a young but determined North United side in the Ballarat and District Soccer Association division one grand final at Morshead Park on Saturday.
The Vikings finished the regular season on top of the table to be crowned league champions, with 14 wins, two draws and two losses.
Sebastopol coach Rod Oppenhuis said the key to the reigning premier’s strong performance had come down to a good balance of experience and youth.
“We’ve got players coming back from higher levels to play local, either because of commitments or because they’re getting a touch older,” Oppenhuis said.
“And then we have three or four players from last year’s under-17s coming through and playing seniors, so they’ve taken the next step.”
Oppenhuis said making the decision to have a state league football team had resulted in a flow-on effect throughout the club and had started paying dividends.
“We’re essentially trying to develop state-level footballers, that’s where we’re headed and that’s our number one goal,” he said.
The Vikings will be at full strength, boasting players such as Ryan Rykers, who took out the league’s best and fairest award, and his seventeen-year-old teammate Liam Dawson, who is the leading goal scorer.
But grand final opponent Ballarat North United is a dangerous side that fell short of top spot by just four points.
North coach Tim Beggs said his team had ticked off its two main goals for the season, finishing second and making the grand final.
It would now go into the grand final with the attitude ‘anything can happen’.
Beggs said the top two teams would bring “totally different” styles and expected the game to open up.
“We’ve learnt in the last two weeks to defend a lot better, so the game might be a bit end to end,” he said.
“But we will try and control the game and they’ll try to counter us.”
Beggs said while the Vikings were favourites, his players kept improving with more time spent together and hoped they would reach a peak on Saturday.
“The two games we had to win, which were the last game of the season and the preliminary final, the whole team really stepped up and performed, so that has been really impressive,” he said.
“We’ll just try to keep positive, relax and enjoy the day, because there is nothing like finals and for the young boys this is probably the biggest game for them.”
The teams previously met in a semi final, where the Vikings managed to turn around a two-goal deficit with just 25 minutes left to defeat North United, 3-2.