Tony Micale has downplayed the significance of the contest between a master and his apprentice as he confronts his one-time protege Steve Malaxos in the first semifinal today.
The pair have a relationship going back two decades and it gives Micale some level of satisfaction that the man he appointed as his reserves coach in 1998 will now confront him on equal terms.
Micale was in charge of the Sharks in the late 1990s, taking the club to a flag in 1998, in what was the last season of Malaxos' glittering 20-year playing career.
They had worked closely together for several years before that and East Fremantle's 1994 premiership team photo shows them, as captain and senior assistant, sitting on either side of winning coach Ken Judge.
Today Malaxos will coach his first league final against a man who has won four flags, and he has no illusions about the challenge.
"Tony is hard-working, diligent, always looking for an edge and for ways to get better," he said. "His teams are always well prepared."
Though Micale has no doubt that his former apprentice's skills and leadership will make him a successful league coach, he reminded his rival that their success ultimately depended on the players in their charge."Stav (Malaxos) was one of the best leaders I have ever coached," he said. "But at the end of the day it is all about the players."