Royals coach Andrew Ruck says his club is hungry for premiership success as it looks to end a Great Southern Football League flag drought stretching back to 2011, when they face fierce rival Railways on Sunday.
The Lions will be out to protect their perfect home ground record at Centennial Stadium and in the process heap more grand final pain on the Tigers, who they have a dominant history against in grand finals.
Incorporating GSFL, Southern Districts Football League and Albany Football Association grand final history the Lions have lost only one grand final against the Tigers, and on that occasion in 1956 they still won the premiership by virtue of a best-of-two-finals method.
The Lions most recent flag came after downing the Tigers by 24 points and they also beat their crosstown rivals in 2001 and 2000.
Ruck admitted there is expectation from their supporters and past players to win this year’s decider but said his players weren’t feeling the pressure.
“We only have four or five guys that have won a premiership,” Ruck said. “There are 16-17 guys that are pretty hungry and there was no pressure on me coming in this year. The fact we are there and we are a chance is great, and we’ve had to reset our goals during the year.
“A few boys will be nervous in their first grand final and the expectation from our older guys and supporters will be there but I’ve been open and honest with our players and we don’t expect to just rock up and win.”
After their second semifinal win over the Tigers, Ruck said it is highly unlikely they will make any changes to the team which has won its past 13 games.
The Lions’ last grand final appearance, at the same venue, was a heartbreaking three-point loss to North Albany.
The Tigers will be in search of their first premiership since 2013 and despite having beaten their opponents only once this season, coach Troy Leo said his players have strong belief they can topple the favourites.
“It starts again at 0-0, they go in as raging favourites,” Leo said.
“But we are not there to roll over, we are there to win as well.
“They had us at arm’s reach for most of the second semi and we couldn’t sustain our good periods for long enough but you learn more from a loss and we’ve got a few things to get better at.”
Leo brushed away any suggestion captain Bodhi Stubber will miss the decider with a rib injury and said they could again make more changes to the team, which has been a regular occurrence this season.
“He’ll play (Stubber), he’s come up a lot better than what I thought,” Leo said.
“We just had to be careful with him last week but he could have come back on.”
The Lions could consider teenager Tyreice Brown while goal kicker Jaiden Alison and Shane Buss are waiting in the wings.
The Tigers will be tempted to recall youngster Sam Want after his strong display in the reserves preliminary final while tall defender Laurie Dowsett is an option to help out their defence.
Henrick Alforque appears ahead of Trent Bradshaw and Liam Park is set to keep his place in the side in front of Jayden Scott.
Royals v Railways Grand Final History
Great Southern Football League
2011 Royals 10.5 (65) def Railways 6.5 (41)
2001 Royals 10.12 (72) def Railways 9.7 (61)
2000 Royals 12.5 (77) def Railways 7.4 (46)
Southern Districts Football League
1990 Royals 24.16 (160) def Railways 7.13 (55)
1960 Royals 15.15 (105) def Railways 13.7 (85)
Albany Football Association
1956* Game 1 – Railways 7.6 (48) def Royals 5.15 (45)
Game 2 – Royals 8.10 (58) def Railways 8.4 (52)
1955 Royals 19.9 (123) def Railways 4.11 (35)
*Two grand finals were needed to decide the title holder in 1956 when Royals were defeated by Railways in the first encounter. Royals, being the minor premier, challenged for a second grand final and were successful.