North Ballarat Rebels are one of three teams charging towards its second TAC Cup premiership, but the lid is firmly on, despite a strong start in season 2015.
The Rebels only blemish this year was an unlucky two-point loss to Geelong Falcons at Simonds Stadium.
That result that could have gone either way, especially considering the Rebels lost a couple players to injury that day including forward Tom Schnerring who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
There are a number of reasons the Rebels could win the flag, but first and foremost, the pack the best 1-2 midfield punch in the league, with Jacob Hopper and Darcy Tucker.
Both players can find space, move well, drop forward and kick goals, but also inspire their teammates with in-and-under work or outside running.
Both could arguably go top five on an open market, but Jacob Hopper has already been affiliated with Greater Western Sydney through their academy.
Behind Hopper and Tucker, the Rebels have the experienced and footy smart Tom Templeton across half back and Josh Webster flying under the radar.
Up forward they don’t have a power forward like other clubs, but Ezeikiel Frank is doing the job along with a number of other forwards and the midfielders who drift down.
Their defence works as a team and likes to move the ball quick in transition, which often causes havoc among opposition midfielders who can often find themselves running the wrong way with pace that the Rebels use the football.
In saying that, the Rebels have also used the football well, not rushing unnecessarily, but taking chances when called upon to do so.
The last time North Ballarat Rebels won a premiership, their team consisted of Adam Goodes, Shane O’Bree, James Walker, Shannon Watt, Marcus Picken and Sam Cranage who all got drafted on the back of their Under 18s efforts.
Goodes was also best on ground in the Grand Final, when they triumphed over the Dandenong Stingrays.
Fast forward to 2015 and the North Ballarat Rebels are expected to be up there when the whips are cracking.
They will have stiff competition from the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers, the latter of which they defeated last week by 28 points at Warrawee Park.
What was more impressive was they did that with no Jacob Hopper and Darcy Tucker largely being held to just 16 disposals, three marks and five tackles.
Tucker’s previous two matches saw the classy midfielder pick up 26 and 43 disposals, kick three goals and average six marks and 5.5 tackles per game.
To indicate their ability to share it around, in five games, 22 Rebels have kicked a goal, with only 13 yet to register a major.
Of those 13, six have played two games or less.
It is a phenomenal effort for a team that does not rely on a power forward, or even a forward six, but a team attack to match the team defense.
While in finals Country teams have notoriously choked or been overwhelmed with the additions of private school players who have not featured often in the regular season, this year it could be a Country team that salutes.
In the past, Dandenong Stingrays and Gippsland Power have fallen at the last hurdle to Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Charges respectively.
While Oakleigh and Eastern will give it their best crack once again, North Ballarat Rebels should take home this year’s flag.