LUKE WEST takes a glance at the seven teams who will be onlookers at Saturday’s Bendigo Football League grand final.
3rd Eaglehawk, 12-7.
The Hawks got themselves back in the finals after their downer last season.
Played some super football during the season, particularly their seven-game winning streak between rounds seven and 14 when they climbed to the top of the ladder and looked the real deal.
But they will be rueing a missed September opportunity.
Kicked themselves out of the qualifying final against Golden Square, hit back strongly in the first semi-final against Gisborne, but then squandered a three quarter-time preliminary final lead against Strathfieldsaye last week.
4th Gisborne, 11-7.
Big expectations on the Bulldogs after last year’s narrow grand final loss, but did someone at the club walk under a ladder or cross paths with a black cat?
Nothing seemed to go right for the Bulldogs the moment star ruckman Tom Waters broke his leg in their opening match of the season.
Battled injury woes all year, but overcame the setbacks to make the second week of the finals after it had been a struggle for much of the second half of the season just to get to September.
5th Sandhurst, 10-7.
The Dragons talked up a big game pre-season, but didn’t deliver on the expectations.
Were chasing their tails once they made a 0-4 start to the season, but defied history to make the finals from that position.
Despite finishing fourth on the ladder, the football they displayed in their last 12 home and aways games had many still rating them a genuine flag threat.
However, were bundled out without a whimper in a 41-point elimination final loss to Gisborne. Since their 2004 flag, the Dragons’ finals record is now 2-8.
6th South Bendigo, 9-6-1.
Believe it or not, South Bendigo sat on top of the ladder at the halfway mark of the season.
But they continued their trend of the previous two seasons of starting the year well and then fading, ultimately missing the finals for the first time since 2004.
Did get knocked around with injury, using 48 players.
They had the chance in the final round to finish third, but were hammered by Eaglehawk by 103 points in a spiritless performance that brought to an end Rick Coburn’s seven-year tenure as coach.
7th Castlemaine, 3-13.
Went through the turmoil of sacking coach Rod Keogh after two games, with Brett Fitzpatrick taking over the reins.
They won three games – their most since 2009, including a victory over minor premier Strathfieldsaye – while they lost four others by 15 points or less, including two by one point.
On the back of the previous three years, this season has been one of improvement for the Magpies that they now need to build on for 2014.
8th Maryborough, 3-13.
Disappointing season for the Magpies. They won just three games, including two by margins of two and one point.
The two-point win was against finalist Eaglehawk in one of the biggest upsets of the season and showed what the Magpies were capable of.
The worrying sign for the Magpies is that since 2010, their tally of wins have decreased from 10 to nine to five to three, and with no under-18 side this year, they’ve certainly got their work cut out moving forward.
9th Kangaroo Flat, 2-14
Just two wins for the Roos – both against Maryborough by 33 and 19 points.
Played plenty of young players, but had a heavy reliance on the trio of coach Tyrone Downie (52 goals), Mitch Hough and Luke Lougoon.
Jason Stevens has been appointed the new coach for their 150th year and has a big job considering since they made the preliminary final in 2009, the Roos have won just 23 of 70 games.