Ash Hayllar and Rebecca Ives are both leading from the front.
The captains of Newcastle City and Wyong Lakes respectively are providing inspiration for their teams in their own way ahead of the Black Diamond AFL Women’s grand final at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday.
Hayllar, fresh from her joint best-and-fairest award at last week’s league-wide presentation, and Ives, two matches back from an almost year-ending broken ankle suffered in a pre-season trial.
It marks one of many contrasting showdowns that will help decide the fourth premiership for this competition.
Hayllar, who joined City last year after moving to Newcastle from Wagga Wagga, polled 24 votes to share the individual honour in 2018 and has been outstanding for the Blues throughout the entire campaign.
“It wasn’t something I was ever expecting, but It was really special to receive that award,” she said.
“I love playing with Newcastle and all these girls. Now I just can’t wait to get out there on the weekend.”
Ives, however, has been waiting patiently on the sidelines for up to five months before making her long-awaited return a fortnight ago in the first round of finals.
“It’s been tough. Being out all year to start with and then trying to get my skills and fitness back to where I want them to be,” she said.
“But I’ve been working hard and I’m really pumped for Saturday. It’s a grand final and I wasn’t missing that.”
Wyong Lakes have come from fourth place to qualify for the club’s maiden women’s grand final, upsetting minor premiers and 2016 champions Nelson Bay for the first time on Saturday to reach the upcoming fixture.
They were massive achievements,” Ives said.
“The vibe at training has been phenomenal and we’ve had the most numbers we’ve had all year. Everyone is really up and hopefully the momentum can carry through.”
Ives praised the Magpies’ defensive line, which kept Nelson Bay to one point in the preliminary final.
“Our entire backline are just unstoppable at the moment,” she said.
City, who comfortably accounted for Killarney Vale on Sunday, are the defending champions and have featured in all three previous grand finals.
This year they arrive at the same spot despite having two sides entered in the same competition, with the Stars finishing equal first on points but second on percentages. The Novas were fifth.
“We split the teams up this year and still managed to have quite a successful year, Hayllar said. “I’m really lucky to be apart of it and heading to another grand final which is always special.”
Kick-off is 12pm.