FOR the second time in three seasons, North Bendigo gets its crack at trying to end one of the region’s longest premiership droughts on Saturday.
The Bulldogs haven’t won a senior flag since 1977 when they defeated Northern United by 31 points in the Golden City Football League grand final.
They had a chance to finally end the drought in the 2012 Heathcote District Football League grand final.
But a challenging finals series in which they came from the elimination final finally caught up with the Bulldogs and they were belted by 94 points by Lockington-Bamawm United.
On Saturday the Bulldogs again face the Cats in the HDFL grand final at Huntly.
However, unlike 2012 when the Bulldogs were spent come grand final day, they are fresh after only playing one final courtesy of their top of the ladder finish to earn Saturday’s flag shot.
“Back in 2012 we limped into that grand final and took in blokes with injuries, of which I was one,” Bulldogs co-coach Rob Bennett said this week.
“Whereas this year we have none of those concerns at all and have probably got ourselves in the best possible position.”
As for the pressure of trying to end a 37-year premiership drought, Bennett says the playing group isn’t feeling any extra burden of expectation.
“It is a long time, but it hasn’t been spoken about this year,” Bennett said.
“Being around the club in 2012 it probably weighed a little bit more because we used it in the build-up, but this year it hasn’t been mentioned.”
The Bulldogs were the standout team of the home and away season, finishing two games clear on top, with their only blemish a 29-point loss to White Hills.
Since then they’ve won their past 15 games by an average of 59 points, with Bennett believing the club’s depth has been vital in building the 16-1 record.
“Even though our reserves didn’t make the finals, we still had that depth of 27 or 28 really good players,” said Bennett, who has co-coached the side with 1974 Bulldogs premiership player Neville Massina.
“Come this weekend there’s going to be two or three players who are really stiff to miss out on a game.
“We lost Michael Leech and Ben Carboon to knees early in the season, and Elliott Massina (ankle) late, but we’ve had guys come in and fill those roles, so that depth has been really important.
“We’ve based a lot of what we’ve done on what Lockington has been able to do in that they have guys who can play numerous positions and there’s a good spread of goalkickers.”
That spread of goalkickers has been a constant all season, with there nine games where the Bulldogs have had at least 10 goalkickers.
“Over the past few years the footy club was reliant on the likes of those big forwards in Aaron James, Damien Houlihan and Michael Spooner to kick a winning score,” Bennett said.
“This year we wanted to have options and that has worked well for us.”
Among the North Bendigo leading goalkickers has been Tyson Findlay (36), who got the Bulldogs’ grand final week off on the right foot last Sunday by polling 26 votes to win the HDFL Cheatley Medal.
Rd 2: D HUNTLY BY 30.
Best: C. Lomas, D. Richards, Ash Craig, T. Findlay, T. Metherell, M. Leech.
Rd 3: LT WHITE HILLS BY 29.
Best: Ash Craig, J. Ford, D. Richards, C. Lomas, R. Alford, D. Webb.
Rd 4: D COLBINABBIN BY 2.
Best: C. Lomas, Ash Craig, T. Findlay, J. Ford, S. Kellow, D. Richards.
Rd 5: D HEATHCOTE BY 108.
Best: T. Plim, M. Sawyer, B. Jennings, S. Kellow, R. Alford, C. Moore.
Rd 6: D ELMORE BY 72.
Best: T. Findlay, J. Ford, Aarryn Craig, E. Massina, B. Jennings, D. Sipthorp.
Rd 7: D LBU BY 16.
Best: T. Findlay, C. Lomas, B. Jennings, J. Ford, D. Sipthorp, Ash Craig.
Rd 8: D L’VILLE-GUNBOWER BY 76.
Best: T. Findlay, D. Sipthorp, C. Lomas, Ash Craig, M. Sawyer, T. Plim.
Rd 9: D MOUNT PLEASANT BY 77.
Best: T. Findlay, D. Sipthorp, Ash Craig, A. Shipard, C. Lomas, T. Plim.
Rd 11: D HUNTLY BY 68.
Best: D. Webb, T. Plim, J. Mills, Ash Craig, Aarryn Craig, E. Massina.
Rd 12: D WHITE HILLS BY 77.
Best: D. Sipthorp, T. Findlay, C. Lomas, R. Alford, T. Plim, A. Shipard.
Rd 13: D COLBINABBIN BY 28.
Best: D. Sipthorp, T. Plim, R. Alford, B. Jennings, T. Findlay, T. Metherell.
Rd 14: D HEATHCOTE BY 121.
Best: D. Webb, J. Mills, R. Alford, S. Kellow, C. Moore, D. Richards.
Rd 15: D ELMORE BY 169.
Best: J. Mills, T. Findlay, J. Coppock, B. Jennings, R. Alford, C. Bravo.
Rd 16: D LBU BY 1.
Best: R. Alford, J. Mills, J. Evans, S. Kellow, C. Lomas, T. Findlay.
Rd 17: D L’VILLE-GUNBOWER BY 48.
Best: R. Alford, T. Plim, R. Gow, J. Mills, Aarryn Craig, C. Lomas.
Rd 18: D MOUNT PLEASANT BY 26.
Best: D. Sipthorp, M. Sawyer, S. Kellow, R. Alford, Aarryn Craig, T. Metherell.
2ND SEMI: d L’VILLE-GUNBOWER BY 22.
Best: C. Lomas, T. Plim, D. Sipthorp, A. Shipard, Ash Craig, M. Sawyer.
TALE OF THE TAPE:
Won: 16 Lost: 1
Average for: 115.7 Against: 62.1
Quarters won: 49/68
Average win: 57.4 Loss: 29.0
Time in front: 91.2%