Macquarie Raiders co-coach Steve McLellan never feared his side would not be able to put it all together this season.
It was a new-look Raiders which began the Group 11 2017 season and it took some time for the outfit to click on the field.
Finals football was only secured in the second last round of the year but after finishing in fifth spot, 11 points behind minor premiers CYMS, McLellan and his side are adamant they’re not just their to make up the numbers.
“We’ve spoken about how we were a fairly new team and it was always going to take awhile so we acknowledged that,” he said.
“But to play at these end of season matches was what we wanted and it’s happened.”
The Raiders face sudden death on Saturday when they travel to Parkes to take on the Spacemen in the elimination final.
The men in sky blue were unable to beat the Spacemen in either match during the regular season but McLellan said there is a different feel around his side now compared to those two occassions.
For him, things changed in round 11 when his side was defeated 14-4 by CYMS in a tough derby battle.
The Raiders won the final three games of the regular season after that, racking up 176 points and conceding 54 points in the process.
“The biggest thing for us in first grade is now there’s more self belief,” he said.
“We’re stepping up and we have been since the CYMS game … we took a lot of positives from that and the biggest one was belief.”
McLellan said the 2017 Parkes outfit, guided by Dennis Moran and Chad Porter, throws the ball around more than Spacemen sides he’s been used to in the past and added because of that his side can’t give away too many chances.
For Parkes, this marks the second consecutive year the side has played in the elimination final.
Last year the Spacemen were bundled out of the competition in the first week at the hands of eventual premiers Forbes.
“That one still hurts,” flying fullback Sam Dwyer said.
“We were all pretty disappointed to bow out of last season so early. We don’t want that to happen again this season.”
The elimination finals action begins from 2pm at Parkes’ Pioneer Oval with first grade expected to kick off from 5.30pm.