Against all the odds, Deer Park has pulled off a remarkable feat in the Victorian Women’s Football League premier division.
The Lions were not given much hope externally of causing an upset in the grand final against Bendigo on Sunday, but came away from Coburg City Oval with a shock 13-point win.
You only have to look at the competition standings at the end of the home-and-away campaign to work out how unlikely this glory seemed at the start of the finals series.
Deer Park had a negative win-loss record on the season, squeezing into fourth spot with seven wins from 15 games.
The Lions entered the finals on the back of a humiliating loss on home soil to Melbourne University, in which they managed to kick just one goal in the round 15 game.
Bendigo were thought to be an unstoppable force, having finished on top of the ladder with a perfect 15-0 record.
The minor premiers were six games clear on top with a sky-high percentage of 291.51.
In the end, all that mattered was how the sides performed at the business end, and it was Deer Park who rose to the challenge on the biggest stage.
For all the variables against his team, Lions coach Lloyd Balshaw never entertained the thought that Bendigo was out of his team’s league.
“I had belief all the way through,” Balshaw said.
“It was then about them believing in themselves and believing in what I was trying to teach them.
“They stepped up today and they stepped up in the last quarter of the season.
“I knew if we could deliver it at any time, we’d be good enough to beat any side in the competition and we proved it.”
Deer Park arrived switched on and ready to cause an upset.
The Lions grabbed an early three goals to one lead at quarter time and kept their noses in front for remainder of the day.
It was a victory built on an unwavering attack on the ball on and the opposition player.
“Their tackling was great,” Balshaw said.
“They were so aggressive towards the pack and that was massive in the result.”
It all started out of the middle for Deer Park.
The ruck and centre combination of Belinda Hateley and Shannon McFerran was the driving force behind the win for the Lions.
The best-on-ground medal went to Brooke McKinley, who was resolute defensively all game, while Amy Catterall put the icing on the cake, presenting well in the forward line and finishing with two goals.
It was premiership win number six as a coach for Balshaw, but this was the most unlikely of the lot.
“This one is right up there with the others,” he said.
“We weren’t regarded, we’d come from division 3 to the premier division and won the premiership.
“I’m over the moon and so are they.”
VWFL Premier Division
Deer Park 6.7 (43) d Bendigo 4.6 (30)