BEARS Lagoon Serpentine might have missed clinching a LVFNL finals berth, but the Bears' sharp improvement certainly won them plenty of admirers this season.
The Bears ended their 2019 commitments with five wins and were ultra-competitive in a bunch more games, to finish the season as the top-ranked team outside finals.
It was an improvement of five wins, after the Bears went winless in 2018.
Reflecting after the Bears' final round loss by 12 goals to Maiden Gully YCW, coach Sally Sheahan spoke proudly of the strides her new-look side took this season.
"I was a little bit disappointed we didn't make top five, but I probably set the goal a bit high in my first year," she said.
"But I do think the progression this year was definitely there, the girls have improved so much.
"I was very happy with the team. The biggest thing was the girls just gelled.
"There's a lot of young girls in this team, who have a lot of netball and progression ahead of them. If they all stick together, I think we will see them up there."
Sheahan believes last Saturday's 43-55 defeat to the Eagles provided a fair and accurate gauge of exactly how far the Bears were away from potentially being a finals qualifier.
"The girls didn't have any pressure on them on Saturday, so they went out there and played some nice netball and really enjoyed it," she said.
"It was nice to watch."
Among their most promising performances were a pair of losses - by 10 and 11 goals - to minor premiers Bridgewater, which lost just one game during the home and away season.
An improved season, with some fine individual performances looks set culminate with an intriguing three-way battle for the club's best and fairest award between centre Emily Streeter, Ellen McRae and Courtney Matthews.
Emerging goal shooter Matthews regularly scored mentions from opposing coaches for her work in attack and has a definite supporter in her own coach.
"She has come a long way and she has a real bright future ahead of her, Sheahan said.
"Nine times out of 10 she would shoot the goal - she was a real target up forward for the team.
"If she gets on top of her confidence, she will be very hard to beat."
Streeter provided leadership and drive at centre, after starting the season in defence, while McRae won plaudits for her hard work and consistency.
Sheahan, who has indicated she won't seek reappointment due to work commitments, was in doubt as to what the Bears required to take the next step in their development.
"We probably need one or two more senior players in there .... Sarah Perry was on and off with injuries during the year, but is awesome when she is on the court," she said.
"And I think our younger players up forward need an older head up there.
"I think with one or two more older heads we might have been right up there with (the finalists)."
Asked for her premiership prediction, Sheahan believed the premiership trophy was headed to Mitiamo for the first time since 2012.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.