For the third year in a row the Solomontown Cats will square off with the South Augusta Bulldogs as the Pirie side looks to stop the run of South Augusta at three in a row.
South will start as a solid favourite as for the fifth year in a row the grand final is in Port Augusta. The last two grand final results have both had South win by 61 points in 2018 and 22 points in 2017. In 2019 the teams have met four times with wins to South in round seven by 46 points and round 16 by 56 points whilst Sollies came up trumps in round two by two points and in round 12 by 52 points leaving the 2019 scorecard at two all.
For the reigning premiers, they have skill and experience across all lines. Their coach Jamie Boles is in his fourth season at the helm and has won three premierships already. South have five players that have scored over 20 goals with McKenzie leading the way with 44 and Gary Warren equally damaging with 26 from 10 games. It all starts with big man Downey in the ruck who will be up against a battery of Cat rucks. They have a fleet of runners with dual Madigan Medallist Kildea, Thompson, Stuart, Fuschtei and Milera. They have solid defence with Kerin, Shirley, swingman Ritter and great depth all the way to their 22nd man.
Sollies on the other hand will need everything to go well to get it done but have shown their best is good enough. They will try to counter the dominance of Downey with the Munzberg brothers and Bernhardt to jump against him all day. Their midfield motors are Davey, the Hayes cousins, Francis, Joe Caputo, Saracino and Bearman. They will need plenty from Sciangalepore and the returning Redman and they will be desperate for Knibbs to return from injury as their major goal scorer for the year and may come in for McIntyre who didn't impact against Lions. Other routes to goal also come via their resting onballers with Riley Hayes and Davey scoring 50 plus between them. There may be as many as 3 Head boys playing on Saturday and they fall under the tutelage of their father Joel as coach. He is very level-headed, very experienced and has tasted victory at this level on multiple occasions before for Crystal Brook.
Sollies will be long and direct and look to mix it up in the contested balls whilst South will want to use their pace and skills and throw the ball out to play with flair. South will be heavily favoured and if their Aboriginal players can get going with their skills and flair, they will be nearly unstoppable and fabulous to watch, worth the admission alone. The Cats must hang in there early and try to finish as hard as they can - they may just steal it.
Most will tip the Bulldogs for four in a row, but we will look through our Pirie coloured glasses and tip the Cats in a cliffhanger!
The lead up games
There will be four games on Saturday commencing with the 15s at 9am and each game has it has Pirie v Augusta! In the 15s Central Augusta haven't lost a game and come up against Port who have only lost to them. The 18s are always hard to pick as players return from senior duties and this game sees Port take on West Augusta who knocked out the previously top placed Central last week to make it from fourth. The Reserves see the two top sides in West and Lions square off.
The favourites for these games will be 15s Centrals, 18s Port and the Reserves West based on the second semis comfortable victories but again we will be looking for parochial Pirie team victories all around.
The SGL season
Many people have wondered how the system is worked that leaves the grand final to be at Port Augusta five years in a row and why the SGL season is usually later than most, especially for a six team competition.
In short, the grand finals have historically been odd years in Augusta and even years in Pirie if there is one team from that city in the grand final. That means that 2015, 2017 and 2019 were meant to be in Augusta and were with Central, South and South qualifying them. In 2016 it was meant to be in Pirie but South and West Augusta qualified.
In 2018, Memorial Oval was still under construction, so the South v Sollies final was shifted to Port Augusta as opposed to the smaller capacity Port Oval. This occurred in reverse in 2013 when West and Central played in Pirie when Central Oval was redeveloped.
Some thought that given the last four were in Augusta it may be changed to Pirie but with the Port v Adel AFL, the Port v Adel SANFL and the country carnival all being held in Pirie, there was no shortage of marquee games. Another idea has been floated moving forward that wherever the grand final is one year it automatically defaults to the opposite city the following year if one from that city qualifies.
Port Lincoln is the only the competition with no less than six teams to hold their grand final as late as the SGL in country SA. It has always traditionally been the latest in the region and some of the reasons have been reinforced due to situations beyond the SGL's control. If the grand final falls in Augusta and their netball is still competing, then it comes as a huge financial hit to the league having to lower the gate price to compensate the netball followers who also use the complex. This is the reason the 2019 second semi was played on Sunday, not Saturday, in Augusta this year so not to compete or share crowds with the netball finals. Also, the NAFA grand finals draws immense crowds as well as Pirie netball and hockey finals. If these events all fall the same day as the SGL it will cost the crowds 500 at least, particularly in Pirie. It's fair to say the SGL is still working through issues with regards to the clubs, the grounds and the management between the ovals but all of that gets put on the back burner this Saturday as all six clubs have teams representing them over the four grades which is the perfect outcome for the league's future.