For the fourth time in history, Gunnedah’s premier rugby league and AFL teams will vie for premiership glory in the same year, as the drought-ravaged area gets a lift from grand final fever.
But if they both win, it would be a first.
The two Bulldogs sides also made the grand final in 1978, 1979 and 1987, with the AFL boys winning and the league boys losing on those occasions.
On Saturday, Gunnedah will attempt to win back-to-back premierships for the third time in the AFL club’s history when they travel to Inverell to take on the Saints at Varley Oval. The feat was achieved in 1978-79 and 1986-87.
To do that, they must reverse a run of three consecutive losses to the minor premiers.
The following day, Gunnedah will attempt to snap North Tamworth’s four-year dominance when they travel to Jack Woolaston Oval. To stop North Tamworth from winning five straight premierships, they must also end the Bears’ run of 34 consecutive home wins.
David McCann has overseen a Bulldogs resurgence since becoming president of the Gunnedah Rugby League Football Club two seasons ago, with the side into the grand final for the first time since 2014, when they lost to Norths.
McCann also revealed this week that the club would pay the players win bonuses this season – a surprise move based on what he described as the club’s good financial position.
He has noticed a definite change in the mood of locals this week, in anticipation of the mega sports weekend. “It’s great for the town that we’ve managed to have two sides in the grand final for the various codes,” he said.
“Gunnedah’s a town where there’s a very healthy respect between the Aussie Rules and rugby league and the rugby union. They all mingle and support one another when they can.
“It’s great. There’s a lot of activity [in town], a lot of guernseys getting around.”
Andy Mack, a Bulldogs AFL player, said he had received a lot of well-wishes. He believes that the grand finals have provided some mental relief from the drought.
“It takes people’s minds off what might be happening in their personal lives, where they can find a bit of joy,” he said. “Come Saturday and Sunday those clubs can bring that to a climate.”