IT will be looked back on as the one that got away.
Eaglehawk – the best team of the home and away season – led Strathfieldsaye by 20 points at three quarter-time of Saturday’s BFNL grand final at the QEO.
And with the Hawks having had the benefit of the week off leading into the grand final to freshen up, a 27th premiership was seemingly there for the taking.
But in the heat of a grand final that tipped over the 30-degree mark, the Hawks ran out of steam in the last quarter as the Storm booted nine unanswered goals to win 13.10 (88) to 7.14 (56).
“It’s just devastating… we put everything into this year to give ourselves the best chance by finishing on top and then winning the second semi-final,” Eaglehawk coach Josh Bowe said.
“But how do you prepare for 30-odd degrees and a roaring wind?
“It’s obviously the same for both teams, but Strath played well and just cracked us at the end. The heat was certainly a massive factor.”
The grand final lasted 120 minutes, of which the Hawks spent 97 minutes in front, but they ultimately didn’t make enough use of the strong breeze to the city end with their two turns with it.
The Hawks kicked five goals with the breeze across the first and third quarters, while the Storm booted 11.
Accuracy in front of goal that had been one of the Hawks’ strong traits throughout their 14-game winning streak leading into the game also deserted them with their return of 7.14.
It’s just devastating… we put everything into this year to give ourselves the best chance.Josh Bowe
Admittedly the wind was tricky, but the Storm were still good enough to put their yips from earlier in the finals behind them to kick 13.10.
“In big games, if you don’t take your chances, unfortunately, you don’t win,” said Bowe, who did a power of work through the midfield to be one of his team’s best.
Recent history in the BFNL suggests that you’ve got to lose a grand final before you win one.
Strathfieldsaye lost in 2013 before winning in 2014 and 2015; Sandhurst lost in 2014 and 2015 before winning the premiership last year.
“There’s no guarantees in footy. We saw today as a really good opportunity to win a flag,” said Bowe, who has now played in three grand final losses with the Hawks.
“We’ll certainly use it to spur us on next year, but there’s obviously a lot of hard work that needs to go into that.”