Top level has a place

IT will be a strange feeling when I wind up covering sport for the Addy at the end of this week.

It's been an eventful two-and-a-bit years following the performances of central Victoria's sporting heroes.

For a regional city, Bendigo punches well above its weight in many sporting fields.

In my time at the Addy, there's two stories that I've really enjoyed watching develop.

One is a true sporting fairytale, the other has the potential to be something special.

You can probably guess the fairytale - it's the Bendigo Spirit.

Last season's WNBL championship win was simply extraordinary.

When I arrived in Bendigo in October 2011, the Spirit was on the slide.

The club missed finals for the first time in four seasons and was in danger of folding.

Two-time MVP Tess Madgen walked out and Kristi Harrower was battling injuries that threatened her stellar career.

A new board took over after the season and a revitalised squad produced a stunning turnaround in 2012/13 as the Spirit delivered a national title.

All involved deserve credit, particularly coach Bernie Harrower.

Not one to pump his own tyres, the veteran coach sometimes goes unnoticed when the plaudits are handed out.

Bernie not only has the ability to mould successful teams on a shoestring budget, he's also a fantastic promoter of the club.

Whoever replaces him when he eventually calls time on his coaching days will have huge shoes to fill.

Like Bernie, Aussie Jones is the figurehead at the Bendigo Football Club.

His leadership is a key reason why the Gold is still afloat.

Aussie probably didn't realise how dire the situation was when he first took on the job.

But instead of throwing in the towel, he and chairman Tim Dickson have set about rebuilding from the ground up and have thrown the club wide-open to the community and media.

Imagine what we would have missed out on if the Spirit gave up

Bendigo sports should always dare to dream

The Gold is a work in progress that might take five years of blood, sweat and tears before the club is secure.

But Aussie, Tim, the players, staff and the Gold's supporters are up for the fight.

Imagine what we would have missed out on if the Spirit gave up and folded because the going got tough.

Hopefully the Gold can prove the doubters wrong and VFL football can thrive in Bendigo - alongside the local leagues.

And while I'm at it, good luck to everyone in the local soccer community as they try to get a National Premier League club off the ground.

Having a clear pathway to the top would be invaluable for Bendigo's future soccer stars.

Wouldn't it be great if Bendigo cricket and netball could provide the same opportunity.

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