For the past three years Pt Chevalier and Mt Albert have met in gruelling battles on the final day of the season, to decide who can call themselves the kings of Auckland league.
In 2016 the fight comes a week earlier, with the winners of Saturday’s semi-final booking a spot in the grand final against Papakura, and the loser bring resigned to planning early mad Monday celebrations.
It signals the end – or perhaps just the pause – of what has become the rivalry of the decade in the Fox Memorial Premiership, with Pt Chevalier winning the last three titles and Mt Albert being runner-up on each occasion.
“It will be a little bit weird this weekend, it’s been us two in the grand final for the last three years so it is a bit strange playing them in the game to see who makes it,” Pt Chevalier playmaker Jonathan Carl told kiwileaguecentral.com.
“But we know we have hurt them the last three years by beating them in those finals, so we know they are not going to back away on Saturday.
“They have some new faces but even with that they are still a quality side, they are quite a young side but from what I have seen they have a similar game plan to what they have always had.
“I think they play a bit more free now, it is a bit more of an unorthodox style.”
The Pirates and Lions couldn’t be split in a 14-all draw in Round 1, while in Round 10 Mt Albert got home 26-22 in a thriller at Fowlds Park.
Both sides have lost some of the key antagonists from the rivalry – Herman Retzlaff is gone for Pt Chevalier, while former Mt Albert enforcer Tulson Card is playing for Glenora now – but there is no doubting Saturday’s match at Mt Smart Stadium #2 will be a bruising and entertaining one.
Lions centre Willie Peace said his side head into the game with plenty of confidence following a 54-6 victory over Glenora in last week’s elimination final.
“I think overall we had a good game against Glenora, there is plenty to work on and some patches in the game where we sort of clocked off for a bit in the second half,” Peace said.
“Overall the feeling is good, we don’t have too many injuries and everyone is feeling the buzz.
“Against Pt Chevalier the game is going to be won in the middle, they have a really strong forward pack – one of the best in the comp – and that has been what has been working for us all year, and if we can dominate in the middle we usually end up on top.
“A lot of the boys in the two teams are mates outside of footy and friends off the field, and it is always good getting out there and giving it to each other, especially when the big boys get in and have a go.”
Pt Chevalier v Mt Albert kicks off at 2pm on Saturday, August 27 at Mt Smart Stadium #2.