The Lions know there are nine other Western Region Football League division 1 clubs that want to see the end of their dynasty, so they are not about to let their guard down as they strive to create league history with a never-before-seen fifth consecutive top-flight premiership in their sights.
Lions coach Marc Bullen warned the opposition his players came into their own at finals time.
“If you want to step up in September, you’ve got to bring your A-game,” Bullen warned the other finalists.
The biggest challenges for the four-time defending premier naturally come in the finals when it is pitted against the best of the rest.
But those challenges seem to bring out the best in the Lions as they click into first gear when spring arrives.
The finals invincibles did it again on Saturday, crushing credible contenders, the Sunshine Kangaroos, by 77 points in their semi-final at Hogans Road Reserve.
“I’m proud of the guys, the way they’ve applied themselves and turned a 52-point loss in round 18 to a 77-point win in the semi-final,” Bullen said.
Save for the opening 10 minutes, it was all one-way traffic in this one.
Deer Park had 90 per cent of the match on its own terms in general play and on the scoreboard.
“An underlying trait of all of our players is they’re just competitors – they just hate losing,” Bullen said.
“From the outset today, the mindset of the players and the coaching staff was driven and we made sure we left no stone unturned.
“That’s why we’ve got ourselves into another grand final and we’re trying to create some history.”
Deer Park kicked with the aid of the wind in the first quarter, but did not take full advantage.
The Lions led by 30 points at the first break after missing many opportunities.
It was their work into the breeze in the early part of the second quarter that confirmed to all that Sunshine would not be getting back into the contest.
The Lions bullied the Kangaroos in the key area of the ground, the battle in the centre.
When Deer Park wins the midfield battle – led by ruckman Chris Stewart and onballers Jack Purton-Smith, David Gallagher and Rodney Van Riet, along with a host of pinch hitters – they are nigh on unstoppable.
Quick transition to forwards Jase Perkins and James Condos made it hard to keep the Lions off the scoreboard. Perkins kicked six goals from 11 scoring shots, while Condos contributed four.
Former AFL players Shannon Byrnes and Ryan Houlihan were superb leaders for the Lions.
Deer Park will get a week’s rest before the grand final, while Sunshine will square off with Hoppers Crossing in the preliminary final at Burbank Oval on Saturday.
In division 2, top two sides Yarraville-Seddon and North Footscray will contest the grand
final at Burbank Oval on Sunday, while the division 3 decider will be contested by Parkside and Tarneit at Hogans Road Reserve on Saturday.