On April 3, 2011, the Bendigo Thunder hosted La Trobe University at Dower Park in its first ever match in the Victorian Women’s Football League North West Conference.
The Thunder lost that game by four points, and it came as a surprise to most that the fledgling team came so close in its first outing.
This Sunday, 505 days on from that game, in quite the twist of irony, the Thunder will face La Trobe in another first for the club – its first grand final.
Bendigo Thunder coach Russel Jeffrey said he is surprised at how quickly the team has risen to prominence in the Victorian Women’s Football League.
“When we started it was a matter of getting the right players and the support,” he said.
“We knew if we did that we would have success, but what has surprised me is how quickly that success has come.”
The Thunder will take to the field on Sunday in the Victorian Women’s Football League North West Conference grand final, taking on La Trobe University.
A 67-point win over North Ballarat last Sunday gave the Thunder their first grand final berth, dominating the Eagles to win 11.13.79 to 2.0.12.
The inter-city rivalry with North Ballarat is substantial, but it isn’t as close to the heart of the Thunder as the rivalry with La Trobe, who knocked the Thunder out of finals last year.
Maddie Kindellan, who was the winner of the Debbie Lee Medal for best first-year player in the VWFL in 2011, said there is a big rivalry between the two sides, but it is a healthy one.
“We have been in a lot of big games against them, and we certainly respect them and know they are a really good side,” she said.
The Thunder went down to La Trobe two weeks ago, and Kindellan, who plays in the ruck, said the team has learnt a lot since that game.
“We’ve learnt to stick to our game, and block out all the distractions that go with being a highly rated team come finals time,” she said.
“We’d never been in that position before, and just didn’t play the same brand of footy we had all year in the first final.”
Jeffrey says the side should be at full strength for the clash.
“We rested Brea Hards and Faith Bentley who had a few injury concerns last week, as we felt we had a side strong enough to allow us to do so,” he said.
“Emma Grant will also be available for selection, so we should have our best team on the park.”
The monumental clash takes place at Coburg City Oval on Sunday at noon. Audio of the game will also be streamed on the VWFL website at www.vwfl.org.au.