A MAIDEN premiership beckoning, Riverina Lions captain Julie McLean insists the time has finally come to dash Eastlake for the elusive title.
Falling at the final hurdle to the arch-rivals last year, the Lions are on the hunt for redemption in the Canberra Women’s Australian Football League grand final at Manuka Oval tomorrow.
For the second year in a row the Lions will challenge Eastlake for the premiership, and McLean believes the tide has turned.
“We lost to them last year, but we’ll be looking to turn the tables (tomorrow),” she told The Daily Advertiser yesterday.
“We’re very evenly matched this year.
“It’s our turn.”
With no love lost, Eastlake has been a cause of heartache for the Lions for years, defeating them in last year’s decider and also in 2005.
However, McLean insists there is more than redemption at stake for the Lions, who have blossomed despite intense pressure this season.
McLean believes a maiden premiership would be the perfect reward for a year of ups and downs surviving the North Wagga floods in March that washed out their home ground while celebrating their 10-year anniversary this season.
Without a premiership, the Lions’ spirit has been in full force as they clocked upwards of 50,000km in travel to compete over the past 10 years.
“We’ve had a lot thrown at us since losing the grand final last year,” McLean said.
“This would be great reward for everyone’s hard work and determination.”
Although the odds were stacked against them, the Lions shot straight through to the decider after defeating Eastlake in the major semi-final a fortnight ago.
The Lions are determined to take the premiership cup out of the ACT for the first time in its 14-year history.
“It’s been a long two weeks waiting,” she said.
“The girls have been training well and are nice and relaxed and pumped.
“We’re just ready for (tomorrow) to roll on now.
“Eastlake has been the most successful team in the comp’s history.
“We’re out to make our own piece of history come (tomorrow).”
The Lions will field their strongest team of the year for the grand final, welcoming back veteran Mel Hyland and young gun Claire Donoghue from injury.
However, McLean said the Lions are not getting carried away with the occasion and will treat tomorrow’s clash as any other.
“We’ll have 24 to pick from, which is great news,” she said.
“We’ll be preparing the way we have been all year, the same way we’ve been winning games to make it this far.
“It’s just another game but this one has a nice big prize at the end of it.”
The Lions will celebrate another milestone tomorrow with respected fullback Carlie Byrne to play her final game.
“She’s been a massive part of our team, ever reliable at fullback for the past 80-plus games,” McLean said.
“We hope to send her out on the winning note she deserves.”
HISTORY BECKONS: Riverina Lions captain Julie McLean and players Sophie Casey and Kristin Ireland were getting some last-minute practice in yesterday at McPherson Oval ahead of tomorrow’s AFL Canberra Women’s grand final. Picture: Michael Frogley
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