NEWBRIDGE coach Phil Birchmore traces the resurgence of the Maroons back to one of the biggest hidings in their history last year.
Newbridge will this Saturday face off against Bridgewater in the Loddon Valley Football League grand final at Inglewood.
However, it was only 23 games ago that such was the rut it was in, Newbridge was on the end of an embarrassing 193-point flogging from Bridgewater.
That was round 15 last year when the Mean Machine won 37.17 (239) to 7.4 (46), forcing the Maroons players to look at what they stood for.
“We had a meeting about four games out from the end of the season last year after that loss against Bridgewater,” Birchmore said yesterday.
“We sat down as a club and spoke about that while we had some injuries, we couldn’t be going out there on a Saturday and getting beaten by hundreds of points.
“Newbridge had struggled since its last grand final (2007) and I wasn’t happy with what the club stood for.
“We didn’t want the floods or not having our home ground last year to be an excuse for us as a footy club, so from that point on after that meeting, we were much more competitive for the rest of the season.
“That’s where it turned around for us, probably that last month of last year.”
“To the boys’ credit, we started pre-season in December and we were getting 40 to 50 at training,” Birchmore said.
“The turnaround was very much player driven and that was the most pleasing aspect of it.”
The Maroons recovered from a slow start this season when they won just one of their first five games to win 10 of their last 11 and end the home and away season second.
Among those 10 wins was a 46-point victory over Bridgewater in round 13 – a 239-point turnaround on that grim day against the Mean Machine a year earlier.
After a 34-point qualifying final loss to Pyramid Hill, the Maroons have defeated Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the first semi-final, and the Bulldogs in last Saturday’s preliminary final, to earn Saturday’s chance to vie for their first premiership since 2000.
But it shapes as a tough challenge to dethrone the champions of the past two years, Bridgewater, which is gunning for a hat-trick of flags for the first time in its history and has won 48 of 53 games since 2010.