Inter-league all about taking opportunities

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: Action from the Bendigo v Geelong inter-league game at Skilled Stadium in 2011. Geelong won by 20 points and three years on is now ranked the No.1 league in country Victoria.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: Action from the Bendigo v Geelong inter-league game at Skilled Stadium in 2011. Geelong won by 20 points and three years on is now ranked the No.1 league in country Victoria.

LOOKING ahead to the Bendigo Football League's inter-league clash against Gippsland this Saturday, one word keeps springing to mind - opportunity.

Opportunity to climb the AFL Victoria Country rankings ladder, opportunities within the game, and opportunities for players to make names for themselves.

Bendigo only needs to look at the Geelong league to realise the importance of cashing in on an opportunity.

Three years ago, Bendigo travelled to Skilled Stadium to take on Geelong in what was then a clash of the fifth and sixth ranked leagues.

In what was a cracking game that Bendigo led by as many as 33 points, Geelong fought back to win by 20 points and three years on, is now the No.1 ranked league in Victoria.

Since that win over Bendigo, Geelong has defeated the Ballarat and Goulburn Valley leagues over the past two years to assume the No.1 mantle, while for Bendigo - currently at No.7 - the past two years have been one step forward, one step back with inter-league.

The opportunity to advance up the rankings comes from taking your opportunities in games.

And that's why there must still be some nightmares for those involved in last year's inter-league loss to fierce rivals Ballarat.

The biggest difference between the two teams was taking opportunities in front of goal. Ballarat had two less scoring shots, but won 13.10 (88) to 8.17 (65).

The goalkicking yips seemed to go through the team last year after Bendigo blew the opportunity - there's that word again - in the first quarter to put Ballarat to the sword when it kicked 2.7 with the wind.

Even going back to that loss to Geelong in 2011, Bendigo hit the post four times.

What Bendigo has been able to do in its two wins the past four years over this week's opponent, Gippsland, is convert well, kicking 15.11 (101) in 2010 and 18.12 (120) in 2012.

Meanwhile, last week's announcement that the BFL Hall of Fame later this year will coincide with a 25-year inter-league reunion highlights the opportunity the representative stage allows players to make their mark and leave a legacy.

Bendigo was last crowned the champion league of Victoria in 1989, with coach Neville Strauch and captain Brendan Hartney's victorious men that famous year now a revered part of Bendigo football history that will be duly recognised 25 years on at the Hall of Fame in August.

While Bendigo isn't playing for the state champion crown this weekend, the 23 players who represent the league at the QEO have an opportunity to kickstart Bendigo's path back to No.1 with victory over Gippsland - just like Geelong's 2011 players did against Bendigo three years ago.

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