THE victorious and vanquished coaches saw many positive signs in and after Saturday night's Bendigo Football League elimination final between Golden Square and Eaglehawk.
A dual premiership-winning coach at Square, Nick Carter took charge again this year as the club pursues a sixth consecutive senior premiership.
The Bulldogs lived up to the "September Specialists" tag as they fought from six goals down midway through the first term to win by 25 points.
Despite the Hawks' flying start, there was no panic in the Bulldogs line-up.
It was not just the stars such as Corey Jones, Simon Rosa, Jack Geary who led the way.
Many of Golden Square's rising stars such as Jack Daley, Dale Lowry, Jacob Greenwood, Phil Ryan and more shone under the brighter glare in a final.
After the match, Carter praised the will of all players to compete.
"The way we fought back showed a lot of maturity, and it was not just our top-liners who did so.
"All week we spoke to the younger players about enjoying the challenge and experience of a final.
"Our start was not the greatest, but the confidence never dropped. Players like Jacob Greenwood just kept doing the things they do well."
Carter said Corey Jones was outstanding in his ability to win or influence so many contests.
"Full credit to Eaglehawk. Their speed is as good as any team in the league.
"This is another big step for us. The belief is well and truly there."
Although bitterly disappointed the season is over, Hawks' coach Luke Monaghan said the club was in a strong position to be a challenger next season and beyond.
He said the elimination final showed how well the Hawks could play, but also brought up the inconsistency which had been the downfall in a lot of games.
"Our first quarter was sensational. From a coaches and fans perspective you could not have asked for much better than that.
"The second quarter was the issue for us. We coughed up what was a sizeable lead in quick time.
"Golden Square won the centre clearances six-nil, so our defence was under enormous pressure," he said of the opposition's quick transition to attack.
"Corey Jones put on a clinic," Monaghan said.
"We tried to nullify him as best we could, but he just kept winning the ball."
Monaghan said Eaglehawk had discovered a lot of talent as the season went on.
"Because of injuries and unavailibility we used 48 players in the seniors this year.
"It's a young group that works hard and wants to learn and improve.
"Ryan Wellington and Sam Thompson have shown a lot of promise, and Kevin Archbold took his game to another level in the second half of the season."
On the recruiting front, Monaghan said the main targets would be a big, strong-marking player across half-forward and another key defender.