SOUTH Bendigo captain Zac Hare believes the Bloods' past two wins are a sign of the growing maturity within the group in its pursuit of a long-awaited BFNL finals berth.
Two rounds ago the Bloods had been sitting in seventh position, but a pair of crucial wins over fellow finals aspirants Eaglehawk and Sandhurst have propelled South Bendigo a game clear in fifth position.
Not only were they must-win games for the Bloods - who last played finals in 2012 - but they did so having had to overcome deficits in both matches.
The Bloods had been 26 points down against Eaglehawk in the second quarter before winning by 22.
And last week the Bloods had been 16 points down against Sandhurst at the 26-minute mark of the third quarter before prevailing by nine points.
"We've had our backs up against the wall the past two games and to be honest, the South Bendigo of the past probably would have rolled over and lost by five or six goals," Hare said on Friday.
We've had our backs up against the wall the past two games and to be honest, the South Bendigo of the past probably would have rolled over and lost by five or six goals- Zac Hare - South Bendigo captain
"To be able to fight back the way we did in not just the last quarter or the last half, but to be able to do it within quarters is what we've been striving for. We haven't had to wait until quarter-time or half-time to get a rev-up, we've been able to respond as a playing group on the field and that has been really pleasing.
"We are still a young side, but I think it just comes down to having a bit more experience and that extra footy knowledge that comes with every game you play."
The Bloods continue a stretch of season-defining games on Saturday at the QEO when they host Kyneton in what's a crucial clash of 4th vs 5th where the winner potentially has the chance to build a two-game buffer inside the top five.
Both the Bloods and Tigers have 7-5 records and have developed a habit in recent years of playing thrillers against each other.
Seven of the past 10 meetings between the two sides have been decided by 10 points or less, including their round four clash that South Bendigo won by three points.
The Bloods have a pair of huge inclusions for the game that will give their midfield a significant boost.
After missing last week's game through COVID protocols coach Nathan Horbury is back, while reigning best and fairest Cooper Leon has also been named having missed the past six games (finger).
However, the Bloods have lost half-back Isaiah Miller to a broken hand in what is a major blow given the superb season he has been putting together in his return from Rochester.
Kyneton, which has lost its past two, also has a major out with star defender Frazer Driscoll sidelined following a one-game suspension this week for engaging in rough conduct against Strathfieldsaye's Jye Formosa.
Hare is one of the keys of a Bloods' defensive unit alongside Miller, Dylan Johnstone, Andrew van Heumen, Cameron Taggert, Braydan Torpey and co that he describes as a tight-knit group.
"Absolutely, we love our back seven," Hare said.
"Obviously, backs don't get the same amount of recognition as the forwards and mids do, so we absolutely love getting around each other and celebrating all those little things like spoils and the saved goals."
Hare will be swapping his usual number 21 on Saturday for number 0 as part of the TAC Road Safety Round across the region.
Football captains will wear a zero on their jumpers promoting the commitment to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on the roads, while all players will wear blue armbands in honour of every life lost on roads.
"Across the state we know that our players, coaches, volunteers and supporters are spending a huge amount of time driving to and from training and matches, often at night on country roads or after a long day at work. Road safety is something that is so acutely relevant to everyone in community football and netball," AFL Victoria chief executive officer Ben Kavenagh said.
Meanwhile, South Bendigo's 1963, 1964 and 1965 under-15 teams will be holding a past players reunion on Saturday, July 30.
The reunion will be held as part of the club's farewell game to the QEO against Gisborne before it makes the transition to Harry Trott Oval. Those wanting to attend the reunion are asked to contact 0429 964 481 or 0418 590 736 to assist with catering.
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