By JESS WEBSTER
The pain of past NEAFL Grand Final losses will be used as motivation for Sydney to finally clinch a history-making flag against Brisbane in Saturday’s season decider at the SCG.
The Swans are statistically the best team in NEAFL history with an overall winning record of 79 per cent, but are yet to taste the ultimate glory, losing three of the past four NEAFL Grand Finals by eight points or less.
Sydney captain Brandon Jack has been there since the very start. The Westbrook and Pennant Hills junior played his first match as a Swans Academy player in the NEAFL’s inaugural 2011 season.
Now 23, Jack will have the honour of captaining the Swans’ in the season decider, and said they’ve never been more determined to claim the premiership.
“It’s exciting to be seen as a leader amongst that group, because we’ve had a lot of strong players and a lot of guys who I consider strong leaders aswell,” he said.
“I’ve personally lost two (Grand Finals) since I’ve been here and we’ve lost three as a team. Looking back on last year there is a fair few guys who played in that same team and it did hurt.
“Regardless of what level you are playing at, to lose a Grand Final it really hurts, especially in the fashion we did late in the game.
“We’re using it as motivation, because as a group of guys who have been together for a couple of years, we’d really like to walk away with that premiership.”
On the other side of the ledger, Brisbane have rose to the top of the competition twice, in 2012 against Queanbeyan and made it back-to-back flags against Sydney a year later.
The Lions will make it a double act on Saturday with AFL captain Dayne Beams’ younger brother, Claye, appointed captaincy duties for the NEAFL final.
The 26-year-old said he is honoured to lead the side, but for the Lions there is one focus – to be the only NEAFL team to go from wooden spooners to premiership winners in one season.
In fact, they’ve already done it twice, winning just four games in 2011 before their flag triumph in 2012.
“The boys are upbeat and there is a lot of positivity in the air,” Beams said.
“It’s obviously exciting and humbling to captain the club, but we’ve got a job to do tomorrow so we’re solely focused on that.
“We’ve been process driven all year, we’ve just taken it week-by-week and controlled what we can control.
“As the year went on, we realised finals was a chance and as we got closer it became more of a reality. We’ve stuck at our processes and that’s what has got us to this point.”
Adding to the intrigue of the 2017 NEAFL Grand Final is the fact Sydney has only dropped two games in the regular season, but both have come at the hands of Brisbane.
Their last encounter back in Round 19 saw the Lions jump out of the blocks and hold off a fast-finishing Swans outfit to win by 19 points at the Gabba.
Jack said the side learned plenty from the thrilling clash, and said he is looking forward to putting on a show for their fans in a massive AFL/NEAFL double header at the SCG on Saturday night.
For him personally, to win a premiership for his beloved club will be a dream come true.
“I remember my first game back in 2011. You see a lot of the young guys coming through today and it makes me reminisce a little bit,” he said.
“I’m very grateful to have been at the club for the time that I have, and I think winning a premiership at any level will feel pretty special.
“It’s something that’s never happened since I’ve been here – the amount of buzz for both grades.
“Hopefully the fans stay around for the NEAFL because regardless of who’s playing, we play a pretty exciting brand of football and they’ll see some young stars coming through aswell.”
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