Two years running, Leitchville Gunbower have fallen at the final hurdle.
Top of the table in both seasons, the Bombers have gone down in consecutive grand finals, both to North Bendigo.
Coach Matt Hawken said Leitchville Gunbower were determined to get back to the top in 2017.
‘‘People ask me a lot about losing those grand finals but you’d certainly rather be there than not,’’ he said.
‘‘The results haven’t gone our way, but there’s a real resolve and hunger in the group to get back there. There have been quite a few changes to our team, and we enter the season with enthusiasm, youth and with some leadership through big inclusions.’’
Matthew Pollock and Joel Donoghue both return to the club from Echuca, bringing class to an already strong lineup.
‘‘They’re both local boys with great leadership skills,’’ Hawken said.
‘‘Matt Pollock has been away for eight or nice years and it’s terrific to have him back.
‘‘He’s in great shape and it’s not the end of his career, he’s in great shape and he’s ready to go.’’
The Bombers were the best defensive side in the Heathcote District Football League, but would have been disappointed to give away 102 points to North Bendigo in their grand final defeat.
But Hawken said his defence had done a great job in the game and remained a strength of the side headed into the new season.
‘‘North Bendigo got on top of us through the midfield and our defence relies on us getting pressure in the rest of the ground,’’ he said.
‘‘We probably should have been six to eight goals down, we really did do a good job to hang on as long as we did and we even had a chance to steal the game which we didn’t really deserve.’
‘‘Ryan Prendergast will be organising things down there, our defence should be really sound again and create a lot of run.’’
The young players coming through for the Bombers seem to have excited their coach, who said building depth and junior development were key goals for 2017.
Hawken said he expected North Bendigo to be near the top of the ladder again, as well as Huntly after strong off-season recruiting.
He added his side would have to play consistent football to find themselves back in the mix.
‘‘We’ve kept working on being really hard, on our defence and on working for each other,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re trying to really build that depth, and with some changes to personnel and a few tweaks to the game plan, we think we will still be progressing well and right up there.’’