Power teams set the pace again in BDCA
THEN there were four.
And in the case of the Bendigo District Cricket Association, it's a familiar four that will contest the finals following an exhilarating end to the home and away season on Saturday.
The 13th and final round started last weekend with only the ladder-leading Golden Square assured of a finals berth.
But after an absorbing final two days that had the BDCA on the edge of its seat, Golden Square will be joined by Bendigo United, Strathdale-Maristians (pictured after last season's premiership) and Eaglehawk in the finals.
It's the same four teams that played in the finals last year and the same four teams that nine out of 10 BDCA followers would have predicted at the start of the season to finish in the top four.
For the record, my pre-season finishing order was: Strathdale, Bendigo United, Golden Square and Eaglehawk.
At least Huntly-North Epsom and the season's major surprise packets White Hills - you've got to feel for the Demons getting so close to ending their finals drought - kept the finals race interesting right up until the death knock on Saturday afternoon.
But as well as being the same finalists as last season, Square, the Redbacks, the Suns and Hawks are the same four teams of which every premiership has come from since 2006.
Of the past eight grand finals, Strathdale has won three (2011, 2012 and 2013), Bendigo United has won three (2007, 2008 and 2010) and Eaglehawk (2006) and Golden Square (2009) have won one each.
Outside those four power sides, the only other team to have played in one of the past eight grand finals was Kangaroo Flat when it was beaten by Bendigo United by six wickets in 2008.
But the dominance of the Suns, Redbacks, Square and Hawks doesn't stretch back over just the past eight years, it goes a hell of a long way further back.
Since 1980, the four clubs have combined to win 26 of the 34 first XI premierships.
Eaglehawk leads the tally with 11 of those flags, followed by Golden Square, Bendigo United and Strathdale, who have all won five each since 1980.
White Hills (three - 1985, 1992, 1993), Kangaroo Flat (two - 2004, 2005), Strathfieldsaye (one - 2001), North Bendigo (one - 1991) and Bendigo (one - 1994) bucked the trend to win the other eight premierships since 1980.
At least three of either Golden Square, Bendigo United, Strathdale or Eaglehawk have finished in the top four each season in 16 of the past 19 years.
And the last grand final not to feature one of the four power clubs was way back in 1978 when Sandhurst defeated Bendigo.
I'm sure the BDCA would love to see some new blood in the finals, but you have to admire Golden Square, Bendigo United, Strathdale and Eaglehawk for their ability to consistently perform at a high level.
The challenge is for the other six clubs to get better and take it up to the big boys of the BDCA next season.
• BDCA wins since 2000:
Strathdale - 123
Bendigo United - 118
Eaglehawk - 107
Golden Square - 97
Kangaroo Flat - 89
Strathfieldsaye - 69
Bendigo - 62
White Hills - 56
Sandhurst - 54
Huntly-North Epsom - 31