AMONG the banter and mind games over underdog status and edge in experience, Maitland coach Mick Bolch and Edgeworth counterpart Damian Zane agree on two things heading into the NNSW NPL grand final.
Sunday's decider at Magic Park will be close and each side have their own reasons to be hungry for success.
Edgeworth started their amazing run under Zane in 2015 when they won the premiership then beat Bolch's Hamilton side 2-0 in the decider at Magic Park.
They completed the double again in 2016, beating Broadmeadow at the ground, but have since fallen short on grand final day at McDonald Jones Stadium against Jaffas and Magic after winning the regular-season race.
The Magpies soared this season to deny the Eagles a record-breaking 13th top-division premiership and fifth in a row, leaving Edgeworth facing the prospect of a trophy-less campaign for the first time under Zane.
The coach believed the situation would help the Eagles turn their grand final fortunes around in a record fifth consecutive appearance.
"When you've won the premiership, you probably put less pressure on yourself," Zane said. "You get to the grand final, you hope you have a good day, and an enjoyable week, but this year I find even myself, I'm more hungry than last year to actually win something."
He also welcomed the return to a suburban ground after believing his young players were overawed in the past two deciders.
"Experience probably shows when you play at McDonald Jones and it feels, for young boys especially, a big occasion," he said.
"The crowd is big at Magic Park, but they are familiar surroundings. We play well at Magic Park, the field, for whatever reason, suits us, but Maitland have won 7-0 there ... you can look at it every way, I think everything is fairly even."
For Bolch, and Maitland, the game is a chance to break new ground. The Magpies are into their first top-division decider, and claiming their maiden premiership. Bolch is out to break his own hoodoo after two grand final losses in first division at Hamilton and one with Phoenix.
Bolch, who coached Zane at Phoenix, said Maitland were up against "the best coached team in the comp".
"They are the benchmark," Bolch said. "He's professional in what he does, his squad is always good, it doesn't matter what players he's got in or out.
"Before the FFA Cup game they rested about five players against us. They brought [Daniel] McBreen and Oliver Smith off the bench, who won the game for them [3-1], but he brings in the young kids who do a job for him.
"I don't think you can worry about favourites tags, we're both in it to win it and on the day it comes down to one-percenters.
"Experience is on their side. I think we've got one player, Joel Wood, who's won a [NNSW] grand final. Zaney probably has 42."
The line brought a laugh from Zane, who admitted a drought-breaking grand final win for his former boss would be "more bearable" than defeats the past two years.
"They are the champions, they've been the best side this year," Zane said.
"In my eyes they are the champions, and we are playing for a bit of silverware in the grand final."
Zane, though, believed his side were in better shape than last year after a comfortable second-leg 1-0 win over Jaffas last week in the semi-finals when already 4-1 ahead.
In 2018, they scraped into the decider with an epic extra-time second-leg win over the Jaffas before a 3-0 loss to Magic in the big one.
"I knew we were limping in last year, but we lifted again in the semis, and you hope."
He said Maitland's semi-final thriller over Magic was similar to the Eagles' path to the decider last year "in terms of the energy consumed and pure elation of getting through".
However, he believed the experienced Maitland line-up would handle the occasion.
"Whether you've been in a grand final or not, it's whether you're an experienced player and you've played in big matches before," he said.
"The only difference from the semi-finals is there are a few more people and if you're concentrating on the game, you probably block them out anyway.
"They've lost one game in 14 coming in. That's a decent record and I don't our form is that good, but in the semi-finals and in spurts before that it's been pretty good.
"I think it all points to a pretty even game."
Bolch believed Edgeworth's grand final experience "will hold them in good stead on the weekend".
His side have also come through a tough run of catch-up games and Cup matches in the second-half of the season but they have lifted consistently to stay in front.
They have Mat Swan away for the decider, paving the way for Ryan Broadley to return.
"We're probably not in as good a shape as we were five or six weeks ago, but there's no excuses," Bolch said.
"We've got a squad of 15 and whoever goes on the field on the weekend will break their neck for their teammates and that's the biggest thing.
"Everyone has really busted their arse for one another and there's a real team culture there this year, which is probably a bit better than it was last year.
"We've got a stronger group this year, our bench is a lot stronger than what it was last year ... they've won us a lot of games this year."