BRIDGEWATER is back on the familiar stage of Loddon Valley Football League grand final day tomorrow.
The Mean Machine will take on Bears Lagoon-Serpentine at Marong tomorrow in what is the club’s fourth grand final in a row.
Bridgewater has won the past three flags in emphatic style, defeating arch-rival Newbridge last year by 65 points, Pyramid Hill by 99 points in 2011 and Calivil United by 115 points in 2010.
The first two of those flags were coached by Troy Auld; Zac East and Brad Wickham co-coached last year’s triumph; while East has solely coached the side this season.
“It’s a fantastic effort by the club to get back to the grand final,” East said yesterday.
“Even if you have a side good enough to make a grand final, you don’t always get there, but we’ve been fortunate enough to do so four years in a row.
“It’s the people behind the scenes who make the club what it is.”
While Bridgewater has been the powerhouse of the LVFL since 2010 – during which the Mean Machine has won 64 of 72 games – it had been in the wilderness for the best part of two decades before its dominance.
Between its 1992 grand final loss to Newbridge and its 2010 premiership, the Mean Machine made the finals just five times.
“Bridgewater had the core players out there,” East said.
“Guys like Darren Clutton and Daniel Nalder had been out there a lot longer than those who came out in 2010.
“The players were there... they just needed a bit of a top-up to even out the side a bit more.
“What makes it successful is the fact the players want to stay there. It’s such a good club that is very well run to the point where you have the Fergusons cooking tea on a Thursday night... most of the blokes eat better there than they do at home.”
Bridgewater was the first team through to the grand final a fortnight ago, but unlike the past three years when they’ve been the raging flag favourites, this season the Mean Machine have spent much of 2013 in the shadow of tomorrow’s opponent, Bears Lagoon-Serpentine.
The Mean Machine finished second on the ladder behind the Bears, and also lost to them twice during the home and away season, before turning the tables in the second semi-final two weeks ago when they won by one point.
“It has been a lot more frustrating this year with the injuries; we couldn’t take a trick on the injury front,” said East, who returns to the side for the first time since July 13 after overcoming a hamstring tear.
“We haven’t been able to field our full side all year, but we’ll go into this week with probably the strongest side we’ve had.
“The injuries have been frustrating, but overall, it has been a very enjoyable year.
“We’ve got a great group of guys who all get along very well, and with the tightness of the group, it would be so much more sweeter this year if we could bring it home.”
The Mean Machine have suffered a tribunal blow ahead of the grand final, with ruckman David Harrison to miss through a two-game suspension for striking the Bears’ Andrew Gladman in the second semi-final.
“It’s a loss for us, but we’ve still got plenty of talls in the side like Taylor Strachan, Jack Hickey, Angus Parry, Daniel Nalder and Jayden Exell to give us rucking options,” East said.
The Mean Machine are an even team across the ground, but their standout player has been midfielder Adam Parry, who won the Harding Medal last Sunday.
Bridgewater also boasts the LVFL’s leading goalkicker in Alex Collins (102), while it has a dangerous second forward target in Brad Rohde (45 goals).
Tomorrow’s team includes East, Darren Clutton, Deon Jones, Luke Scoble, Daniel Nalder and Rohde who have played in the past three flags.