Braybrook took one too many blows early in the season and is paying the price for it now in the Western Region Football League division 3.
The Brookers have looked every bit a finals contender over the past six weeks, but one mis-step has seen it reach a critical juncture in their campaign.
An untimely 34-point loss to Sunshine Heights at Pennell Reserve on Saturday snapped a five-week unbeaten run for the Brookers and has them at the crossroads.
The Brookers are a game and a half outside the top four with six games to play as their slow start to the season has come back to bite them.
Braybrook coach Jason Hamilton knew finals would be a long shot when they slumped to 2-4 in the first six games, but it did not deter his players from striving to reach their goal.
When you start behind the eight ball though, you need to make every post a winner and the defeat to Sunshine Heights hurt the Brookers big time.
“It’s hard to get up every week after a bad start,” Hamilton said.
“The last five weeks we’ve been on top of our game and I was hoping we could continue on with that, but this was just a bad day for us.
“I’m not taking anything away from Sunshine Heights because they were too good on the day.
“We still can play finals if we can string more games together, but it’s getting more difficult by the week now.”
Try as they might, Braybrook just could not get up for defender Luke Fox’s 250th game.
That is what disappoints Hamilton the most that the Brookers could not give Fox, one of the Brookers top clubmen, a day to remember.
“He gives you everything that he has in his body,” Hamilton said.
“He’s been really good for us this year, not only with what he does on the field, but he does a lot off the field for the club as well.
“Since I’ve come to the club, he’s one of the guys who has stood out how he gives and very rarely takes.”
Braybrook was in striking distance at half time, trailing by 14 points.
After the main break, Sunshine Heights took over, kicking five of the last eight goals of the game to run out convincing winners.
The Heights were just a little more energised, while the Brookers were a bit flat, perhaps a byproduct of their bruising encounter seven days earlier in the wet against Albanvale, which finished in a draw.
“I just think Sunshine Heights wanted it more to be honest,” Hamilton said.
“They played good physical footy, good running footy and our players probably didn’t stick to the game plan and the game structure that we put in place.
“Every time we tried to get back into it, they had an answer.”
Braybrook had some players win their position battles, but just not enough.
Nick Gregson played one of his best games of the year, swinging back and forth between forward and defence.
Fox was reliable deep in defence in his milestone game.
It is approaching a must-win stage of the season for Braybrook.
The Brookers are keen to make amends for their earlier loss to Glen Orden when they square off at Heathdale Oval on Saturday.
“Glen Orden absolutely toweled us up last time,” Hamilton said. “They got us verbally, physically and everything else in a game of footy, they dished it up to us.
“We’re pretty keen to try and make amends on that.”
Meanwhile, Laverton fought hard against Albanvale, but ultimately went down by 29 points. In division 1, Altona won the match of the day over Werribee Districts by 14 points to keep hold of second.
Spotswood is still the top dog after a 126-point thrashing of Albion.
In division 2, Yarraville Seddon enjoyed a solid 32-point victory over West Footscray, but there were losses for North Footscray and Parkside.
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