Bears beaten, but 2017 a major step forward

WHEN clubs have been down in the doldrums for a long period it can become tough to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

BL-Serpentine coach Greg Gadsden.

BL-Serpentine coach Greg Gadsden.

Regular years at the bottom of the ladder inevitably take its toll as interest in players wane when wins are the exception rather than the norm, trying to recruit new players to a battling team becomes increasingly tougher and the cycle harder to break.

But every now and then a story comes along that should give hope to any struggling sporting team that even the poorest of seasons can be rebounded from strongly.

This year that story has been the purple and gold of Bears Lagoon-Serpentine.

A team can’t sink any lower than going through a season without winning a game.

That was the Bears last year when, after a mass exodus of 19 players from 2015, they finished 0-16 – among the losses a 111-point hiding off perennial battler Inglewood.

Yet 12 months on, the Bears were in action against Mitiamo on Sunday in the Loddon Valley league elimination final at Calivil.

While the result didn’t go the Bears way as they suffered a 35-point defeat, their surge up the ladder has been one of the key storylines of the Loddon Valley season.

It may well have happened previously in the Loddon Valley league that a team has risen from zero wins one season to playing finals the next, but from 1980 onwards the Bears are the first team to have done so.

The first sign of the Bears’ stunning improvement – centred around retaining the bulk of their list while adding 10 new senior players with plenty of room still left in their points allocation of 46 on a recruiting philosophy of developing a young group that could build for success over the next four years – came in the opening round.

The Bears could make no bigger statement than by beating the undefeated premier of the previous year, Bridgewater, in a result that was the first of what has been an enthralling season of Loddon Valley twists and turns that the league has been craving.

That first win in itself was already an improvement for the Bears, and proved no fluke as they added another eight throughout the home and away season to finish fifth, building a reputation for its speed.

The season is now over for the Bears, but what they have been able to achieve in getting back to the finals on the back of last year’s 0-16 record should be commended.

While the dust has barely settled on 2017, the challenge now is to continue the upward direction in 2018. – Luke West