The more things change the more they stay the same
WHEN a revamped Fraser Coast League consisting of two new merged sides and a power-packed Gympie Diggers outfit was introduced at the start of the year, a changing of the guard at the top of the ladder was considered a possibility.
But by 7pm on Saturday, September 7, this year's grand final will have a familiar feel to it after United Warriors became the first team to qualify for the big dance.
The two-time defending champions sent a very clear message to their rivals with their 2-1 victory over Gympie Diggers on Saturday night. It provided the best indication yet that the Warriors' dynasty was not going to end at two.
This was the second time in as many weeks the Warriors have travelled and defeated this year's premiers, a team that rarely gets beaten at home.
Having found their form after a slow start to the season, Warriors coach Peter Guest has every reason to believe they can surge to a hat-trick of titles.
"The boys played like champions (against the Diggers)," he said.
"It's taken a while for the team to gel and to get to this position, but I couldn't be happier with how things are going."
After a scoreless first half, the Diggers drew first blood with Joachim Klein making no mistake with his spot kick.
Brad Mitchell equalised a short time later before Jakob Lee pounced on a fumbled ball from Gympie's goalkeeper to tuck home the winning goal with less 10 minutes remaining.
Guest said the Warriors' experience in big games proved decisive.
"Some of the guys we've had the last three or four years have come forward in their maturity," he said.
"Three years ago they would have said 'bugger it, we're not going to get on top of this team' but they've really matured and were good for us."
The Warriors' opponents in the grand final could be Doon Villa again after the Magpies halted Sunbury's charge with a come from behind 2-1 win in their elimination final at Federation Park.
The Blues had beaten Doon Villa in their past two encounters and looked on track to make it three in a row when Tyson Bedford opened the scoring.
But the Magpies came roaring back, with Tyler McKenna making it 1-1 at half-time before injuring his knee early in the second half.
Fortunately for the Magpies, his replacement Lachlan Kenny would tap in what would be the final goal of the game to end Sunbury's season.
Magpies player-coach Joel Neilsen said it was a character-building win as they look forward to next week's do-or-die showdown with Diggers.
"It's always a tough game against Sunbury," he said.
"They threw everything at us, but it sets us up well for next week because every time we play Sunbury the game seems lift to another level."