THE Bendigo Thunder could step up to the Victorian Women’s Football League’s premier division next season.
The move will be put on the table after the Thunder claimed back-to-back north west division flags with a 21-point win over North Geelong at Coburg City Oval on Saturday.
Bendigo outclassed the gutsy Magpies 7.6 (48) to 4.3 (27) to finish its dominant 2013 division one campaign undefeated.
In its three-year history the Thunder has now won 37 of 45 games and has played finals every season.
Dual-premiership coach Russell Jeffrey confirmed premier division is on the the Thunder’s radar.
“The next couple of weeks we’ll start looking at that, talking to the league, talking to other people around Bendigo,” Jeffrey said.
“Obviously we’re going to need more sponsorship, we’re going to need more support, we’re going to need more players.
“If we do go up we’re going to need two teams, so we’re going to have to lift our squad from 32 to 60 – so it’s a look of work to do before we get there.”
Next year was the last thing on the Thunder players’ minds as they celebrated a hard-earned premiership at the weekend.
Most pundits expected Bendigo would cruise to the flag – especially after a 106-point flogging of Sunbury in the second semi-final.
But North Geelong made the Thunder earn its victory, fighting back from 28 points down at half-time to get within eight points in the final term.
The game should have been over at half-time but, in the end, Bendigo’s class shone through.
The Thunder was all over North Geelong early - despite kicking into the breeze - and opened a 12-point lead at quarter-time.
Bendigo’s midfield brigade - led by best player Abbey Hay, Michelle Barkla, Millie Hipwell and Jess Kennedy - ran the ball forward and had a strong target in Alana Wearne.
Wearne marked everything and booted both of Bendigo’s goals to quarter-time.
The Thunder was working like a well-oiled machine, with Mel Krause marshalling the defensive effort.
North Geelong was held to a solitary point with the wind and went scoreless in the second term as Bendigo attacked in waves.
The Thunder couldn’t take full toll of a lopsided 18-2 inside 50m count, though, only booting 2.4.
Alana McNabb slotted the first of those goals, before Wearne kicked the goal of the day - a checkside volley from the top of the goalsquare that Harry Kewell would have been proud of.
It gave the Thunder a half-time lead that seemed to be a launching pad for another big win.
But the Magpies had other ideas.
North lifted in the third term, perhaps fired-up by a yellow card shown to captain Jaime Woollett on the stroke of half-time.
Bendigo briefly blew the margin out to a game-high 34 points through Cherie O’Neill’s major, but from then it was all the ‘Pies. Riding the back of a best-on-ground performnace by ruck Maddie Boyd, North booted the next four goals.
The margin stood at just 15 at the final change and Boyd goaled early in the fourth to bring the Magpies to within eight points.
Bendigo lost its cool and kept bombing the ball forward without thought, but Wearne’s fourth goal calmed the Thunder and ended North’s resistance.
Fittingly, Thunder skipper Emma Wolters whipped the vocal crowd into a frenzy with the match-sealing major minutes later.
Coach Jeffrey heaped praise on his players for standing up under pressure on the biggest stage.
“It couldn’t be any better. It’s just sensational,” he said.
“We’ve worked so hard this year, everybody knows we’ve been the outstanding team during the home-and-away (season) but it counts for nothing when you get to the granny.
“North Geelong today were just ruthless really, they were so desperate; they really took it up to us. To get over the line when they really challenged us in that third quarter was something special – I’ll never forget it.”
Bendigo 2.1 4.5 5.5 7.6 (48).
North Geelong 0.1 0.1 3.2 4.3 (27).
Goals Bendigo - A. Wearne 4, A. McNabb, C. O’Neill, E. Wolters 1.
Best Bendigo - A. Hay, M. Barkla, M. Krause, J. Kennedy, B. Surgeon, A. Wearne.