Ararat forward Tyler Cronin kicked a game high three goals last weekend against Stawell and will be important to the Rats’ fortunes in Sunday’s elimination final.THE Ararat Rats will compete in Sunday’s do or die clash at Horsham City Oval against the team which helped them qualify for their first Wimmera Football League finals’ series in four years.
Minyip/Murtoa’s win over reigning premier Dimboola in the final round of the home and away season opened the door to the top five for the Rats and they completed the final piece of the puzzle with a hard fought 10-point victory over rival Stawell.
Joint-coach David Hosking said after 16 rounds of highs and low it is a relief to be featuring in week one of the finals.
“We left it to the absolute last moment and had to rely on other results just to get there, so yes relief is a good word,” he said.
“Given the club has had a lean spell in the last couple of years it is good to make the finals and it is an achievement, but at the end of the day there is no point being there to just make up the numbers.”
That ‘lean spell’ of finals’ appearances stretches back more than 10 years, with only skipper Alan Batchelor and Jake Williamson the remaining senior players of the team that lost the 2010 elimination match.
When it comes to senior finals’ campaigns the Rats have been part of the September action on just three occasions over the past decade 2006, 2008 and 2010 for a return of zero wins, five losses.
To notch up a victory you have to flick back through the record books to the first semi-final of season 2003, where the side smashed Horsham United before falling short of a grand final berth the following week by just two points to arch rival Stawell.
“It is time we improved that record,” Hosking said.
“That is pretty poor when you consider that we are a club from the second biggest town in the league, to have that as our recent finals’ record, is not good enough in anyone’s eyes.”
With only a handful of players in Ararat’s line-up experiencing senior finals football, Hosking said those players will need to lead the way.
However, he is also adamant that the only way his team will defeat the Burras is with 21 contributors.
“The obvious ones are the players that have done it before, the likes of Cosson, Mendes, Batchelor, Williamson and Searle — they know what is required,” he said.
“They are players that I guess have a bit of an X-factor. They also have this type of experience and know what needs to be done.
“What I’d also add to that is that we have some blokes who I reckon have got a real ability to have a major impact in games like this too. Guys like Liam Cavanagh and Brady Miller can perform in big games.”
Burras’ leading scorer Clinton Midgely is coming off the back of an eight goal haul last weekend against Dimboola, however in round 11 Miller held the full forward to just one major.
Hosking believes this match-up will be one of the most important to Ararat’s fortunes on Sunday.
“Anyone who can kick eight goals in a game is obviously pretty dangerous, so if Brady can keep him quiet it is going to go a long way to winning us the game,” he said.
“What it is also going to come down to is how well they restrict our delivery into the forwards and how well we restrict their ability to deliver it into their forwards.
“Whichever team has a midfield that is able and prepared to work hard defensively will have the advantage.”
Ararat and Minyip/Murtoa share one win each for the two previous encounters this season.
The Rats claimed the first scalp in round four with a 19-point win, before the Burras turned the tables seven rounds later with a 58-point victory.
Missing from the round 11 clash was Cavanagh and Beau Cosson to VicCountry duties, while injury/illness struck Mick Fratin and Batchelor early in the contest.
Three out of those four players are fit and firing for Sunday’s match.
“I’m not sure the result would have been different in the second game, but it certainly would have been closer if we had have had all those guys available,” Hosking said.
“I take some comfort from the fact that I know we can beat them, we have done that this season and you hang your hat on that a little bit. We were certainly minus a few key players in the second encounter, so that didn’t help our cause, but we didn’t help it either by kicking ourselves out of the match early with six behinds.”
Hosking said he and Andrew Louder have spent this week drumming into their players the need for intensity from the opening bounce.
If the Rats can replicate their early season form and produce a four quarter effort there is no reason the side can’t progress into week two of the finals.
“Expect the same, but at a higher intensity — that is the point we have made to them during the week, that the basics remain the same,” Hosking said.
“To win in finals you have to be at your best for longer.
“They have just got to go out there and play footy the way Andrew and I know they can.
“They’ve got to be true to themselves, that’s it. Don’t try to be anything you’re not.”
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