BY NATHAN DOLE
AFTER climbing from the bottom rungs of the ladder at the end of the ’22 season, Ultima or Hay will be the Golden Rivers FNL’s senior footy premiers by this Saturday night.
It’s been an incredible revival by the Kangaroos and Ultima who had win-loss records of 2-14 and 3-13 to be seventh and eighth last year.
Now they will fight for the league’s ultimate prize at Murrabit.
The showdown between the Kangaroos and Lions starts at 2.30pm.
A 15-1 run by Ultima in the home-and-away series meant it finished on top of the ladder.
The Kangaroos won the second semi-final against Moulamein, last season’s runner-up, by 44 points.
Kade Benfield and Jake Foster led Ultima’s attack on three goals as Mitch Makepeace, Caillum Brady, Mitchell Seton-Stewart and Darcy Farrell were best.
Hay has made it’s way to that one day in September from a first semi-final.
The Lions ended the home-and-away series in third place on a 10-6 record.
In the first semi the Lions roared to a 15-goal win against Macorna.
Hay then outplayed Moulamein in last Saturday’s preliminary final to record a 79-44 victory.
Will Clark kicked four goals in a best afield performance as Jack and Fergus Cattanach, Clint Brunnenmeyer and Brad Pocock starred.
The grand finalists have met four times this season.
Ultima triumphed in rounds one, seven and 16 by margins of six points, 34 points, and six points.
An 83-62 win by Hay in the Lions’ den in the 11th round broke Ultima’s unbeaten run.
Key match-ups in the grand final include Ultima’s Jack Fletcher at centre half-back against Lions’ co-captain Kenneth Jubb, and Jake Foster in the centre against Fergus Cattanach.
Ultima’s defence led by Martyn Cooper, Caillum Brady and Mitch Makepeace is up against Declan Watson, Cooper Scott and Dean Aylett.
A talented Ultima attack includes Kyle Symons, Kade Benfield, Ryan Devereux and Tyler Makepeace.
Huge challenge for Hay defenders such as co-captain Brad Pocock, Luke Arnadt, James Eddy and Clint Brunnenmeyer.
In the on-ball duels the Roos have Luke Doolan, Thomas Bull and Mitchell Seton-Stewart to take on James Moran, Dom Booth and Will Clark.
In the reserves it’s Ultima against Macorna from 12.15pm.
These teams met in the second semi on Ultima’s turf where the Roos won 68-33.
Best for Ultima in that match were Sam Hinton, Riley Haberman, Reece Harberger and Stuart Polkinghorne.
Macorna hit back to win the preliminary final against Wandella by eight points.
Jordan Simpson, Josh Berryman, Anthony Free and Peter Wishart played well as the Tigers earned a crack at Ultima for premiership glory.
This season’s meetings between Ultima and Macorna have all gone the Roos’ way by margins of 59, two, and 29 points.
It’s a showdown between Ultima and Macorna for the under-17 ½ premiership from 10.15am.
Most recent meeting between the Roos and Tigers was the second semi where Ultima marked a 64-29 victory.
Sam Miller kicked eight goals in that match and looms as a huge threat to Macorna’s chances.
Other players to watch for the Kangaroos include Parker and Ryder Condely, Riley Hender, Ed Kuchel, Jack Miller and Zac O’Brien.
Macorna won the preliminary final against Moulamein by 14 points as Will Canham, Blake Forster, Will Meharry, Jack Warren, Rivers Webb and Sam Whinfield were among the best for the yellow and black.
In their three meetings in the home-and-away series, Ultima won in rounds eight and 13 by 14 and 30 points.
Their first meeting in the ’23 season was round three where the Tigers won 74-15 on the Kangaroos’ ground.
Grand final day kicks off at 8.55am when Wandella takes on Macorna in the under-14 ½ match.
In the second semi-final the Wandella Bombers beat Macorna by a goal.
After finishing the home-and-away series in third place on an 8-8 record, Wandella was underdog against Macorna which had a 12-4 record and held top spot.
Since a 62-point loss to the Tigers in round one, Wandella had worked hard to finish within nine points and a point of Macorna.
In round 16 the match was 27-all on Wandella’s turf.
Players to watch for Wandella include Jaspa Chamberlain, Charlie and Oscar Greenwood, and Seth Rowe.
Taylor Lacy, Jaxon O’Rourke, Will Longstaff and Cooper Carmichael were Macorna’s best in an 11-point victory against Ultima in the preliminary final.