Fremantle Mariners will take their first step towards a possible eighth national men's water polo league title when they clash with minor premiers UNSW Wests Magpies in a qualifying final at the Valley Pool in Brisbane today.
The Mariners have dominated the league since joining in the late 1990s, claiming grand final wins in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Runners-up in 1997, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, Fremantle made the season decider for 10 consecutive seasons, start- ing with a loss to Cronulla in 1997.
The Mariners completed their preparation for the finals with a convincing 11-4 win over cross-town rivals UWA Torpedoes last Friday night. Both teams had already qualified for the finals.
Star Fremantle recruits Aaron Younger and Joe Kayes will be called on for big efforts, having played vital roles in the team's strong finish to the season.
Kayes blasted in four goals against the Torpedoes last Friday. Mariners captain and Aussie Sharks star Younger finished with two. Younger said he was confident of his side's chances in the finals, which finish with the gold medal game on Sunday.
"We've been training for this all year," he said.
"We've had Eddie Slade and Daniel Lawrence come back into the team and they've added great experience to the group.
"We had a good game against UWA to finish the season and had the chance to move from third to second on the ladder. We stuck to our guns in attack and scored quite a few goals, so we were able to finish the season well and are now looking good for the finals."
The Torpedoes, out to go one better after losing last year's grand final to Victorian Tigers, will clash with Sydney University Lions.
Fremantle Marlins, winner of four of the first five women's grand finals, will square off against unbeaten minor premiers Brisbane Barracudas in a qualifying final.
The Marlins clinched the national crown in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 and were bronze medallists in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
Gemma Beadsworth will be a key player for Fremantle. The Olympic bronze medallist scored 39 goals in 11 qualifying games.