BEARS Lagoon-Serpentine will be aiming tomorrow to complete a three-year transition from easybeats to Loddon Valley Football League premiers.
The Bears will face Bridgewater in tomorrow’s grand final at Marong.
Only three years ago the Bears were the cellar-dwellers of the LVFL, claiming back-to-back wooden spoons in 2009 and 2010, during which they won just two games.
But since the return of Damien Featherby as coach three years ago and some strong recruiting, the Bears finished sixth in 2011, fourth last year and now have a shot at a long overdue premiership.
“A lot of people have been involved in the turn around over the past few years,” Featherby said yesterday.
“I remember when I took over and started my recruiting trying to get Bendigo league-standard players... no-one wanted to listen to the dream back then, so I turned my focus to the young blokes.
“We’ve got a good group of guys and most of that first crop I recruited are still here, while there’s probably six or so still playing from those couple of years when they were copping beltings.”
And there were plenty of beltings during those difficult two years in 2009 and 2010, including 15 by more than 100 points.
However, in 2013 it has been the Bears dishing out the hidings.
The Bears finished on top of the ladder with a 15-1 record and massive percentage of 237.6.
Their 15 wins were by an average of 79 points.
The Bears’ sole home and away blemish was a one-point loss to Newbridge in round eight, while they also lost the second second-final to Bridgewater by one point a fortnight ago.
However, the Bears put the disappointment of the second semi-final – a game they had led by 35 points at three quarter-time – behind them to bounce back and defeat Pyramid Hill by 58 points in last week’s preliminary final.
While Featherby has coached the Bears into the grand final, he is quick to praise the work of assistant coach Mick Ring, who joined the Bears this year from Heathcote.
“Mick has played an enormous part in this and probably hasn’t got a lot of recognition,” Featherby said.
“He’s a quiet sort of a bloke, but he leads in his own way out on the field.
“He’s not the type of bloke who will wave his arms around after kicking a goal... he just puts his head down, does his bit and the players love him for it.
“It’s fantastic to have a great on-field leader like Mick.”
Ring playing on the wing was the best for the Bears in last week’s preliminary final.
While Ring has been a strong recruit for the Bears, athletic ruckman James Orr has been a sensation in his first year for the club.
The midfield trio of Adrian Alford, Nathan McNally and mid-season recruit Justin Wilson has been dominant in the engine room and Brayden Scott – who missed last week but is back tomorrow – has been super on the wing.
Cody Gunn (60), Josh Hutton (49), Josh Shaw (31), James Rippingale (30) and Nick Arthur (26) have all kicked at least 25 goals, while key defender Brodie Leonard-Shannon has had a consistent season.
Tomorrow’s grand final will be the Bears’ first since 2005 when they lost to Calivil United by 29 points.
However, the club’s premiership drought stretches back to 1995 when they beat Mitiamo by four points in a classic. That was the third of three flags in four years for the Bears.
Featherby played in all three of the Bears’ 1992, 1994 and 1995 premierships during a golden era for the club, while he also coached the losing 2005 grand final.
“Eighteen years since the last premiership is obviously a long time. Hopefully, the wait doesn’t last into another year,” Featherby said.