Purists can’t be disappointed by who is playing in the North Gippsland Football-Netball League Grand Final tomorrow.

The two best teams in this year’s competition, Traralgon Tyers United and Woodside, are both just one win away from etching their name onto a long-awaited premiership cup.

There will be a lengthy drought broken one way or another.

TTU has not won a senior flag since 2004.

Woodside has never won a senior flag in its current incarnation (as Woodside District).

For the last ‘Woodside’ flag of any type, the date goes back almost as far as TTU, when Woodside won the Alberton Football-Netball League premiership in 2003 as Devon-Welshpool-Won Wron-Woodside.

While Gordon Street Reserve, Heyfield is usually packed with people wearing the blue and white of the Kangaroos for home games, expect to see similar tomorrow – just in a different shade of blue.

With Woodside having not only its senior football team but also all four senior netball sides playing in the Grand Final, the navy blue and white of the Wildcats will be out in full force.

Those Woodside rugby jumpers have almost become a fashion item.

The Wildcats entered the decider after beating Heyfield in the preliminary final.

A six goal to one opening term virtually decided the game, as Woodside was able to keep the Kangaroos at bay from there.

The Wildcats qualified for the double-chance a long way out from the end of the regular season.

The Bombers did as well, in fact going through the home-and-away campaign unbeaten, and kept victory coming in the first semi-final.

In that final, TTU got over Woodside by three goals, meaning they will go into the Grand Final undefeated.

Will this be a blessing or a curse?

The Bombers will surely be fresh having played one final in three weeks, but by the same token, will be cautious of the fact unbeaten teams in Grand Finals often get rolled.

Heyfield went into the 2014 Grand Final unbeaten, and sure enough, lost when it mattered most.

Woodside captain Ryan Foat will be looking to lead from the front in the North Gippsland Football-Netball League Grand Final tomorrow. It will be a huge day for the Wildcats, who have senior football and all four senior netball teams taking part. Photo: Zoe Askew

Interestingly, since 2016, the only team to win the premiership after bypassing the preliminary final is Yarram in 2018.

Those who have taken the long way in the same time have won the North Gippy flag: Sale City (2016-17), Churchill (2019) and Yallourn Yallourn North (2022).

Woodside has surely referenced this, and will take some confidence from the fact most of the pressure is on TTU.

Although they are 0-3 in matches against the Bombers this year, the Wildcats haven’t been blown out of the water in head-to-head battles.

In Round 2 the margin was just 11 points and in Round 13, a respectable 23.

Woodside’s only two losses this season have been against TTU, while the percentage between the two was pretty much the same when the final ladder was decided (TTU 324.69 to Woodside’s 316.91).

Wildcats coach Michael Duncan said there was reason to believe heading into the match.

“Coming up against a side that hasn’t lost, you don’t get much more of a free hit expectation wise in a Grand Final,” he said.

“We played Tyers three times, it actually gets harder to keep beating a team, the more you play against a team and the more you lose, I think the more the losing team looks at the opposition and the more they work things out, whereas the winners don’t necessarily evolve as much.”

In preparing for the big game, Duncan identified a few key players in the opposition.

“They set up their attack from deep in defence, guys like (Michael) Jacobsen, (Mitch) Mustoe, (Liam) Willaton, they like to run in waves and link up and can play some really exciting footy at times and have got some good targets up forward,” he said.

“There is a reason they haven’t lost a game all year, we’ve had a good look at them, the way they have played against us and the way they have played against some other sides as well, we’ll give them our best shake we can.”

Woodside has equally strong targets inside 50, with Dan Farmer taking out the league goal-kicking this year, and Michael O’Sullivan coming third.

As Duncan explained, this Grand Final has been some years in the making for the Wildcats.

“We’ve worked years for this opportunity. We had that cancelled season in 2021 (where Woodside finished minor premier), fell short last year by a couple of goals against Yallourn North (in the preliminary final) who won the Grand Final easy, so we’ve been there abouts for a while, so why not take the opportunity while it’s there,” he said.

Having played in two premierships for Morwell in the Gippsland League, Duncan said it was important to embrace Grand Final day for what it was.

“Naturally everyone feels a bit nervous but you just have to go out and enjoy every bit of the day, soak it in,” he said.

“You just have to enjoy it. We work all year to get to this point, sometimes you work your whole career to get to this point.

“It’s not about being the best side, it’s about not being the worst in Grand Finals.”

TTU will have no shortage of motivation either, after running second in last year’s decider.