Greatness beckons for Deer Park

Ruckman Chris Stewart has a major role to play in Deer Park’s historic quest for a fourth successive premiership. Picture Damian Visentini

There’s vulnerability in every football dynasty.

As flawless as Deer Park has been for nearly four seasons, even their supremacy is questioned sometimes.

On the eve of last year’s finals, the Lions lost to Hoppers Crossing by 73 points, leaving some tipping it was the beginning of the end.

But this was a mere blip on the radar for the Lions when they sauntered to a premiership three-peat with the 136-point annihilation of Werribee Districts in the grand final.

This season though, Deer Park once again showed it was beatable. The Lions lost twice in a month to Albion and Altona – after being unbackable favourites going into both games.

But never write off a champion team. It invariably comes back to bite you on the backside.

This was the wake-up call Deer Park needed and the defending champions responded in the best way possible, reeling off 10 consecutive wins to get that air of invincibility back.

“Our last 10 weeks has been first class,” Lions player-coach Marc Bullen told

Star Weekly.

“The way we’ve turned things around has been very good. We’re training our backsides off and our commitment level has been really good.

“Most guys, whether they’re going for their first, second, third or fourth premiership, are keen to try and win it. That’s the goal and ambition of the footy club.”

History shows that the fourth successive flag is hardest to achieve. It has never been done in the first division, dating back to 1931.

Seven times a three-peat has been achieved, so that is not all that rare, but the elusive fourth flag is the one that drives Deer Park on.

“We had a vision when I got appointed coach back in 2013 to try and stop Spotswood’s dominance,” Bullen said, alluding to the Woodsmen’s four premierships in five years from 2007-11.

“We reassessed our goals at the end of last year and put a real onus on trying to get that fourth flag in a row.

“If we can do that, we can really put ourselves down as a dominant football side in the modern era.”

Deer Park has waited patiently to take its first steps in the 2016 finals. The Lions watched on as Spotswood became the first to be vanquished after an elimination final loss to Altona, a day after Hoppers Crossing edged out Werribee Districts in a close-fought qualifying final.

This means Deer Park will do battle with Hoppers Crossing for the right to move straight through to the grand final.

Even the great teams feel the nerves … Deer Park’s butterflies will be even worse knowing the weight of history is against them. They also have three other hungry finals contenders wanting to deny them their place in history.

“There’s certainly nervous apprehension about what we could be about to achieve,” Bullen said. “Touch wood, we’re tracking alright at the moment … but anything can change overnight.

“We’re certainly confident in our program and the way we’ve been able to put some hard yards into the legs over the course of the last month.

“We’re confident in our playing list and our game style, but you’ve just got to be able to control the controllables.”

With the minor premiership under their belt, a tried and tested pre-finals training program, a 10-game winning streak, finals know-how like no other side, and a mental edge over their opposition, the Lions could not be better prepared for a tilt at history.

Can they do what ICI/Deer Park (1939-41, 2013-15), Braybrook (1944-46, 1954-56, 1973-75), F & Y Socials (1959-61) and Spotswood (2007-09) were not be able to do and capture that elusive four-peat? Let’s see.