By Russell Bennett
Catani has always been more than the little community that ‘could’.
Its football club has long been the kind of club that actually ‘does’.
Through thick and thin, better or worse, and against all the odds, the Blues stick together and it’s what keeps their players coming back – time and time, and time again.
This Saturday at Western Park in Warragul, Paul Alger’s side gets the chance to write another incredible chapter into their club’s already storied history.
They’ll march out to face the Warragul Industrials in the Ellinbank and District Football League grand final with the unwavering belief that their best is good enough.
The Dusties haven’t won a senior grand final in 21 years, but are carrying some brilliant form into this Saturday’s game on their home ground.
Since losing to Catani by 25 points back in Round 8, they won 11 of their next 12 games – including the qualifying final by 16 points over the Blues.
They toppled the ladder-leading Neerim Neerim South by 15 points in the second semi-final, and on Saturday at Longwarry the Blues finished the job the Dusties started – knocking the Cats out in straight sets by just two points, 6.6 (42) to 5.10 (40).
“It was just a shit fight – like footy was 30 years ago,” Catani coach Alger said.
“They really scrapped hard. I reckon in the last 10 minutes of the game it was in their forward line for eight.
“But we had our chances too and we were confident we could beat them.”
Alger said his whole side stood up on Saturday, but he specifically highlighted the performances of Paul Pattison, Mitch Davey and Luke McFarlane.
The Blues’ stirring win at Longwarry was their second over the Cats this season, but their focus has already well and truly turned to this week against the Dusties.
“We’re a 50-50 chance now but they’ve won 11 of their past 12 games,” Alger said.
“Hopefully we bring it on Saturday. They beat us twice in the past five weeks.
“They’ve beaten all the good sides this year, whereas in previous seasons they probably haven’t.”
McFarlane and spearhead Owen Fitzpatrick are the only remaining players from the Blues’ 2004 and 2005 premiership wins and could yet have a decisive role to play on Saturday.
Alger’s message to his boys in the meantime is a simple one – “to just enjoy the experience and make the most of it,” he said.
“Whatever happens they’ll be better for it.”
Blues club president Peter Duff said this week’s grand final appearance marked “the culmination of all the hard work our players, the committee, and our community have put in”.
They won’t settle with just making it. Not now.
“We think our best is good enough,” he said.
“We still have great respect for our opposition teams for sure, but we don’t see why we’re not a big chance.
“Our little community’s weakness is that we’re small and we don’t have a lot of people to draw on, but that’s also our strength – the people who do get involved with the club are so passionate and committed.
“We want to win this for a lot of people – the players put in a fantastic pre-season and you just couldn’t fault Paul’s way of going about it.”
Paul Pattison’s superb individual 2017 season was recognised on Monday night at the EDFL’s league presentation night with the Alf Walton Medal as the league’s best and fairest player.
He finished on a whopping 35 votes – 12 clear of runner-up Tyson Bale from the Dusties. Pattison was also named joint-winner of the MVP award with Dusties gun Shane Brewster – voted on by the timekeepers each week.