STRATHFIELDSAYE’S meteoric rise in the Bendigo Football League will continue on Saturday when it plays in its first senior grand final.
The Storm will meet four-time defending premiers Golden Square in the grand final at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Storm - a brand new senior club built from scratch – are in just their fifth season in the competition, with Saturday’s grand final to be game number 94 for the new kids on the block.
Who could have envisaged back in June 2008 when the Storm committee took the bold gamble of moving straight into a major league competition that in just five seasons the club would be vying for the BFL premiership?
But while the club is still in its infancy, it’s no surprise to see it in the grand final when tracking the Storm’s development.
All clubs aim for improvement from year to year and that has been a feature of the Storm.
They finished ninth in their debut season in 2009, 7th in 2010, 6th in 2011 and third last year when they made the finals for the first time, but bowed out in the preliminary final to Gisborne.
This year, they’ve gone the next step and into a grand final.
The Storm ended the home and away season six points clear at the top of the ladder, but faltered in the second semi-final, blowing a 34-point half-time lead against Golden Square and losing by eight points.
They bounced back in the preliminary final last week, coming from a goal down at three quarter-time to defeat Eaglehawk by 19 points.
The Storm this year went down the co-coaching model.
Darryl Wilson led the club the past two years, before the Storm landed a recruiting coup during the off-season when they secured Wayne Schultz as co-coach.
Schultz has been one of the stars for the Storm off half-back and through the midfield, with his season recognised last Sunday when he was the Michelsen Medal runner-up.
Schultz is a key member of a damaging brigade of running players for the Storm.
Recruit Shaun Everington joined the Storm with big wraps and has a solid season.
Matthew Ladson simply doesn’t know how to play a bad game, Vinnie Flood has had an exceptional debut senior year, while Nicholas Smith, Jake Hall, Kellan Smith captain Shannon Geary and co have also played well through the middle in 2013.
In attack, the Storm were ranked No.1 during the home and away season and the only team to average more than 100 points per game.
Is there a better opportunist forward in the BFL at the moment than Lachlan Sharp? He’s kicked 51 goals – despite missing five games - including five in the preliminary final last week.
Sam Mildren has kicked 40 goals, despite his continued back issues, while Geary has chipped in with 26 and Tom Bartholemew, who missed seven games, has added 24.
Their forward line also includes Kris Lea (15 goals), who was one of the first players recruited to the club, while athletic ruckman Michael Pilcher has added 10 goals.
Just like Golden Square, the Storm backline has only conceded one score above 100, while in 12 of their 18 games, they’ve had less than 10 goals kicked against them.
However, as well as defending well, the Storm launch many of their attacks from half-back.
Defender Ashley Trollop has been one of the Storm’s best players this season. Leigh Prior, Jake Dickens, Lachlan Bonney and Jayden Donaldson have also played their backlines roles well.
Five years into their existence, it would be a fairyale if the Storm could win their first premiership.
They’ve been the best side this year, but their biggest hurdle is they are playing a club that has won every premiership since they joined the competition.