THE Gunnedah Bulldogs will compete in their third-consecutive AFL North West grand final after upsetting the Inverell Saints at Varley Oval on Saturday.
It was the second time in as many years the two clubs battled it out in a second semi final, with the winner earning the right to host the grand final in a fortnight's time.
The Saints had the better of the Dogs in the opening term, but were unable to capitalise in front of goal, to lead by just four points.
In the second term, both sides traded blows on the scoreboard, as the Dogs cut back the margin to be all tied up at 32 points apiece at the main break.
However, the premiership quarter was where the game was decided, as the Dogs piled on five goals and four behinds to the Saints one behind, to lead by 27 points at the final change.
Determined to not let the opportunity pass them by, the Bulldogs continued the strong defensive effort to keep the Saints to just two behinds in the final term.
Meanwhile, Gunnedah added three more goals to their tally to run out 12-8-80 to 4-11-35 winners.
Bulldogs captain Ben Maher said the side's experienced campaigners helped lead the side to victory.
"We had a strict plan going into the game and we all had individual jobs to do," Maher told the Namoi Valley Independent.
"Jasper Thomas, Andrew George, Sam Proudfoot and Mark Barrow all played really well.
"Alistair Hillard was great for us, rucking all day unchanged.
"All up, everyone played really well and it feels bloody good to have earned a home grand final."
"Our coach Doug Meagher, had really thought our game plan through," Maher said. "When it was tied up at half-time, we knew we needed to put the burners on.
"From there, it all just clicked for us really."
The win means the Bulldogs will host their second AFL North West grand final in three seasons, with the last grand final at Wolseley Oval in 2017 resulting in a premiership.
"It's big, it means a lot to the boys to have another shot at a premiership," Maher said.
"These next two weeks will be very exciting and it's exactly why we play footy."
For the Saints, they will have one more chance to earn a grand final berth when they take on the New England Nomads in next week's preliminary final.
"We're not sugar coating it, they are two very good teams in that preliminary final," Maher said.
"We will have to work really hard if we want to get the job done."