For Westbourne Grammarians it’s been a glass half-full year in Victorian Amateur Football Association division 3.
As a promoted side with a number of injury setbacks, no one would have expected the Warriors to be there at the pointy end of the season battling for promotion.
Yet at half-time in Saturday’s 42-point preliminary final loss to Power House at Garvey Oval, the Warriors led by 19 points, had one foot in a grand final and a loose grip on promotion.
But they could not complete the task as the minor premier came roaring back to win.
In his last game in charge of Westbourne, revered coach Roger Hand could only tip his hat to Warriors who gave him blood, sweat and tears on the day and during the season as a whole.
“No one really expected Westbourne Grammarians to be a serious contender in 2017, except the people at Westbourne,” Hand said. “The playing group has been unbelievable … but I guess those who know the quality of this playing group would expect nothing else.”
After trailing by seven points at quarter-time, Westbourne put the foot on the accelerator.
The Warriors piled on 5.5 to 1.3 in the second quarter on the back of three goals to Jaxon Cooke and some dynamic midfield play from Michael Culliver.
An upset looked to be on the cards, but half-time was a momentum killer, as was the Warriors’ inefficiency in front of goal in the second term.
The break allowed Power House to reset and find a way back into the contest.
While the likes of Chris Hudson, Patrick O’Brien and Jacob Russell fought hard to stem the tide for the Warriors, Power House had a bit more class in the second half, piling on 11 goals to two.
That brought an end to Hand’s coaching career.
He will pass the baton to his playing assistant coach Justin Johns next season.
But Hand, who will remain at the club as football manager, can take comfort from Westbourne being in much better shape than when he took over in 2010 and the club was struggling to fill a team and 100-point beltings were a regular occurrence.
He kept the faith when few others would have and set about rebuilding the club.
After finals appearances in 2014 and 2015, he delivered a premiership last year.
Hand will look forward to seeing the development of some of the younger players he blooded into the senior team this season.
“We were able to lower our average age again this year and debut eight players, so we feel that experience and opportunity will be invaluable next season,” Hand said.