IT seemed fitting on Friday night that as the Bendigo Gold players took their final steps off the Queen Elizabeth Oval, it was to the sounds of Green Day’s iconic Time of Your Life.
As well as Time of Your Life being a throwback to the 1998 Seinfeld finale, when those who have been part of the Gold for either the past two seasons or just this year reflect on their time at the club, it won’t be the scorelines they remember, but the new mates.
What started out as a group of young players brought together from all parts of the country to have a crack for the stand-alone club that was always going to be up against it in a competition that is heading more towards the AFL reserves every year will have fostered into life-long friendships, with the tougher the hardships, the stronger the bond.
The emotional post-match scenes after Friday night’s final game against Collingwood showed a tight-knit group of players who gave their all for the club and for each other and those moments in the QEO changerooms will no doubt be memories they will long cherish - the same goes for all the club’s support staff and volunteers.
It has been a character-building experience for the playing group to continually front up week after week with the odds stacked against them and only those within the Gold can truly understand the challenges the club has faced, both on and off the field.
It could have been easy for the players to throw in the towel over the last eight games once the decision had been made in late-June that the Gold VFL licence wouldn’t be renewed and beyond this year there would be no future for the club and just let the season peter out.
But right up until the final siren of Friday night’s finale against Collingwood when they kicked three of the last four goals of the match, the Gold players were still throwing themselves at every contest like the result was on the line.
The players will now all go their separate ways - some to other VFL clubs, some will head interstate and others will filter back into local footy - but they should all look back on their stint at the Gold with pride in that they gave it their all until the final siren in search of that elusive first win.
It looked as though the footy gods just might smile on Bendigo when a Tyrone Downie goal put the Gold nine points up nine minutes into the third term against the Magpies.
But when the Magpies lifted a cog in reply to the challenge, the Gold couldn’t stem the flow as Collingwood kicked nine goals to one over the last 20 minutes of the third term to break the game open and end Bendigo’s hopes of a fairytale win in its last game.
The Cinderella story didn’t eventuate, but coach Aussie Jones, chairman Tim Dickson and all 23 Gold players walked off the QEO with their heads held high.
For two years the Gold fought against the odds, but all involved will be better people for the experience.