by Nick Brown
IN the year of 1984, Medicare and the one dollar coin were introduced in Australia, Prince Harry was born and the Forest Hill Football Club won its last premiership flag.
That 29-year-long premiership drought is currently the second longest in the Eastern Football League.
But it will take more than a history-making drought to dampen the spirits of the Forest Hill Zebras, who head into the 2013 Division 4 ‘Choose Tap’ Grand Final against the undefeated South Belgrave with buoyancy.
Just ask Forest Hill coach Brett Shalders.
‘We’re feeling good. We’re confident and we feel we have both the belief and the momentum heading into the Grand Final,’ a poised Shalders said.
‘We believe we are a good finals side, as does any coach and side.’
Shalders and his players have the opportunity to give the club its first premiership flag since 1984, but he said it won’t be a huge motivating factor for his side.
He believes the chance to win a premiership is enough motivation.
‘The premiership drought was mentioned after our first final, but that’s about it. The players weren’t playing or involved with the club back then so it’s not really a motivator,’ he said.
‘Some of the vets around the club mention it, so the boys know about it. But I think we just want to win a flag for the club and the group.’
What the Zebras do take into football’s biggest day is momentum – and plenty of it.
Rewind to July 13 – coincidently it was Round 13 – and Forest Hill found itself sitting seventh on the ladder with just three weeks to get itself into the finals.
But Shalders and his troops successfully completed that mission.
Since then, the Zebras have won their past seven matches, including three finals – an incredible achievement in any sport.
This momentum is Forest Hill’s biggest advantage, according to its coach, who says it has already helped.
‘It’s all been a bit surreal, considering where we were sitting eight weeks ago. Because we have had all the momentum, it’s probably helped us, because we didn’t have time to think about it too much,’ Shalders said,
‘The last four games of the season were basically elimination finals for us, so that helped in the first couple of finals with nerves and the pressure. So has having the reserves in the Grand Final.’
While there is no doubt the Zebras go in with momentum on their side, Shalders is aware of the lack of finals experience in his side.
He is confident his personal finals experience as both a coach and player will make up for that.
And Shalders half-jokingly admits he isn’t an extremely superstitious person, but is this week.
‘The guys in this side haven’t played in a lot of finals, so it was good to get some finals into the boys this year,’ he said.
‘I think their rawness has certainly helped them get this far, they are just so eager to get out there and win.
‘But I have played in two flags as a senior player and this is my 13th finals series as a player or coach, so I hope that’s helped the boys out in some way.
‘One of those flags I won with Ringwood in 2005 at Mitcham and this week we are playing at Mitcham, so I hope that’s an omen for us.’
While some things are working in favour of the Zebras and some aren’t, Shalders is more than happy for his side to go in with the underdog tag.