2019 Group 3 grand final: Wauchope Blues to host Macleay Valley Mustangs

Score to settle: Mat Bird will be Wauchope's forwards leader when the Blues clash with Macleay Valley on Sunday. Photo: Paul Jobber
Score to settle: Mat Bird will be Wauchope's forwards leader when the Blues clash with Macleay Valley on Sunday. Photo: Paul Jobber

THE last grand final Mat Bird played in started in the worst possible fashion.

He lasted less than the opening half of the 2014 decider - ironically against Macleay Valley - after a head clash from the opening tackle of the game required surgery before full-time.

"I fractured my eye socket in three spots," Bird said.

"I played on for about 15 minutes after the tackle, but don't remember a thing about it and ended up at hospital by halftime and rang the boys to see how we went."

Unfortunately, Wauchope were beaten in extra-time and on Sunday they have the chance to exact revenge five years later.

Bird sees it as a score to settle. Unfinished business.

"We'd like to peg one back on them; getting beaten in your home grand final isn't a real good way to finish the year," he said.

After a less than successful previous four or five years, the Blues have finally come out the other side.

Bird said while it was difficult to remain motivated in those unsuccessful seasons, he did what he had to do and stuck around the club for the talented juniors coming through the ranks.

"You always have a bit of a slump after you win a few grand finals and you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

"It is hard to stay motivated; but when you look at the young fellas coming through ... I know when I played I had those older heads there.

"You want to stick around for the young fellas so then it keeps them around the club and keeps them motivated."

The Blues second-rower will appear in his fourth grand final - after playing in three-straight deciders in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

But he says this weekend will be different with Wauchope going in as underdogs against the Mustangs who finished as minor premiers.

"The last few grand finals we have played in we rocked up knowing we were going to win," he said.

"We had that self-belief, but this year has been a bit up and down and we've had to work to where we are."

He was looking forward to the challenge of harnessing the excitement and energy from the home crowd, but knew the Mustangs would be hard to beat.

"We've got to control their flamboyancy, try and grind them out and contain that spark that they can get," he said.

The second-rower didn't feel there was any pressure that came with the expectation of winning from the home community.

Instead, he embraced it.

"I haven't played a grand final anywhere else; to have the home grand final is massive for us and massive for the community," he said.

First grade kicks off at 3pm on Sunday at Lank Bain Sporting Complex.