HUNGER, physical pressure and work rate.
The three themes have been at the forefront of Dennington’s preparation for today’s Warrnambool and District league grand final at Reid Oval.
The Dogs have enjoyed a charmed run in finals, improving with every outing and transforming from outside chance to legitimate flag contender.
But whether their stunning momentum can carry them past reigning premier Panmure remains the biggest question heading into the decider. Coach Darcy Lewis is confident. The respected key forward is adamant his players have one more big-game performance in them.
“Among the playing group there is this humongous hunger,” he said.
“What they’re willing to do for each other and their work rate has been brilliant.’’
Dennington barely looked like a worthy finalist, let alone a grand finalist, when it copped a 136-point hiding from Panmure in round 10.
But Lewis’ men lost just twice in the run towards finals, building momentum with every win.
When the final siren signalled a narrow triumph over Kolora-Noorat in the preliminary final, the Dogs seriously started to believe.
“We had an up-and-down year but at the start of the finals we said ‘we’ve got eight hours of football left and we’re still there with two hours to go,” Lewis said.
Their preparation for today has been far from ideal.
They have nursed sore bodies and have endured the distraction of whether suspended onballer Jono Nevill would be free to play. Nevill copped a two-match ban for striking at the tribunal on Wednesday night but won an appeal in Melbourne last night.
Panmure, by contrast, has enjoyed a near-perfect build-up — no injury concerns and a 14-day break after beating Kolora-Noorat in the second semi-final.
The Bulldogs have produced their best football late in the season and deservedly start favourites today.
They also have the benefit of having been here before.
The memories of 12 months ago, when they won their first premiership in 10 years, remain fresh.
It was amid those celebrations that the group sowed the seeds of this latest campaign.
“Everyone just seemed to enjoy last year, from pre-season right through to winning the flag,” coach Simon O’Keefe said.
“After we won the flag we had a week of celebrations and everyone enjoyed it. We made a pact we’d all stick together and play another season together and see where it could take us.
“It’s taken us to a grand final.
‘‘The destiny is in our own hands.”