IT WASN'T exactly the grand final result they had hoped for, but in a year when so many netballers went without, Harcourt's 14-and-under players were both grateful and proud to be a part of the Golden City Netball Association (GCNA) action on Saturday.
The young Lions, like several of the clubs competing on grand final day, were thrown a lifeline when their usual league's season - in this case the Maryborough Castlemaine District Football Netball League (MCDFNL) - was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They certainly made the most of it by qualifying for the premiership decider against one of the GCNA's standout existing teams, Boomerangs Pink.
Harcourt's coach Kirrily McKay said her players had thoroughly enjoyed what was a season like no other before, which kicked off in July, but was put on hold after three rounds before starting back up again in October for eight-weeks.
"It was a blend of two age groups we ended up with - we were able to combine our 13-and-under side with a couple from our 15-and-under side to make this team," she said.
"We've got some younger girls, who are 12-year-olds playing up against 14-year-olds, but they've come together nicely.
"I think our players, like all children, were disappointed when their season shut down, so the fact Golden City has done such a great job to get them on the court, not just once, but the second time around, we're really grateful."
While there was natural disappointment when the season was put on hold in late-July when Victoria went into lockdown for the second time, McKay said her players' enthusiasm had never waned.
She predicted a bright future for her Lions squad.
"We have a couple of girls, who have just been selected into AFL Central Vic academies for next season - Tegan McKay and Rosie Jarvis," McKay said.
"They will certainly go on to strong competition, hopefully in the MCDFNL next year."
McKay praised the GCNA for its support throughout the year and efforts in doing what few netball associations could manage during coronavirus by getting a season up and running.
"They have been great and very welcoming. Obviously, it's great for them to see some extra teams come into the competition," she said.
A second MCDFNL team Carisbrook took out the 17-and-under title.
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.