BENDIGO'S indigenous football team has fallen just short of a premiership at the Murrun Dhelk Football Netball Carnival.
The team, coached by Peter Natoli, lost its division two grand final to Ballarat Wanderers 9.9 (63) to 4.4 (28) at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve
Bendigo started the carnival confidently by winning two of its three qualifying round matches on Saturday against Lake Condah Wanderers and Gippsland.
The host side set up a grand final berth with a semi-final win over Bunurerong 10.2 (62) to 2.3 (15).
Thirteen-year-old Jordan Hynes was the star for Bendigo with four goals.
Bendigo was able to match it with Ballarat in the grand final for three quarters, but were overrun in the final term by a slick and well-drilled Wanderers.
Coach Natoli said he was proud of his players' efforts across the two days.
"Although we lost our first game on Saturday, it was like watching a different team out there in the grand final," he said.
"They were passionate, the intensity was through the roof and the boys played a lot more for each other.
"It was amazing and great to watch."
Western Bulldogs star Jake Stringer took on the unfamiliar role of water boy for the Bendigo team.
Among the side’s best players at the carnival were their two non-indigenous players Koe Ngwati and Blake Natoli, Hynes and Jacob Greenwood.
This year was only the second time Bendigo has entered a football team in the carnival, which has been running for about 30 years.
Meanwhile, Gippsland Eagles capped a dominant carnival by defeating Fitzroy Stars in the division one grand final. The Eagles won 13.3 (81) to 8.3 (51).
Gippsland coach Bernie Wells, whose three sons Casey, Jay and Danny were part of the winning team, said he was rapt with his players’ grand final performance after going undefeated through the carnival.
“We’ve been trying for about 10 or 15 years and this was our first year in division one,” he said.
“We stepped up with a lot of young kids and brought it home.”
In netball action, Gina's Dream Team scored wins in division one and three.
The Ballarat-based team defeated Rumbulara 28-14 in the top grade and beat Team Beyond Blue 24-21 in divison three.
Echuca team Woomeras defeated Mallee Tigers 22-212 after extra time to claim the division two title.
Gina's Dream Team was named in honour of Gina Kickett, a talented Ballarat netballer, who died in 2008 as the results of an undiagnosed blood clot.