THE Bendigo Thunder are one win away from completing a perfect season.
The undefeated Thunder will clash with Deer Park in Sunday’s Victorian Women’s Football League premier division grand final at the Coburg City Oval.
It has been a stellar campaign from the Thunder after a messy start in which the club lost both its coach Craig Riddiford and president Chris Coughlan on the eve of the season.
In stepped Cherie O’Neill as the new coach and Bryan Coghlan as president and on-field, the Thunder has proven to be the benchmark side of the competition.
They head into the grand final 16-0 and with an average winning margin of 39 points.
Defensively, the Thunder has been superb in restricting the opposition to an average of only 21 points per game, while the most goals they have conceded has been just six.
Down the other end the Thunder boasts one of women’s footy’s rising stars in young gun Isabella Ayre.
The strong-marking Ayre has only played nine games, but has been the competition’s most dominant forward with 36 goals, which includes four hauls of at least five.
Team-mates Erin Ross (22) and captain Emma Grant (18) also both rank among the top four goalkickers in the competition.
The Thunder have been able to keep a consistent team on the park this season with 20 of Sunday’s 25 having played at least 12 of the 16 games.
The Thunder and Deer Park have met three times this season, and while the ledger is 3-0 in favour of Bendigo, the gap has closed each time from 29 points, to 12 to nine.
Deer Park has fought its way into the grand final from fourth position, having won a pair of knockout finals against Melbourne Uni and Port Melbourne Colts.
The Thunder won their way into the grand final with an 11-point win over Melbourne Uni at the QEO, but has since had to endure an extended break, with 21 days between the second semi-final and Sunday’s grand final.
Since forming in 2011 the Thunder have won two previous premierships in 2012 and 2013 under coach Russell Jeffrey, and have an overall win-loss record of 62-27-1.
B: H. Perry, C. Blakeway, S. Baldwin
Hb: R. Hicks, S. Last, R. Daley
C: A. Hay, E. Grant, A. Glanville
Hf: H. Trevean, I. Ayre, P. Conder
F: E. Strachan, E. Ross, L. Flanagan
Foll: J. Louttit, J. Kennedy, L. French
Inter: A. Long, E. Findlay, S. Moerke, R. Pay, S. Beavis, E. Doran, C. Mawby