CHRIS Vickery’s memories of the 2013 Warrnambool and District league finals series aren’t exactly fond.
The Dennington defender broke his right hand against Russells Creek in round 18 and missed the first three weeks of the post-season.
“It went all numb, my hand. I went off and talked to the trainer. She said it was pretty much broken,” he recalled yesterday.
“She said she could either strap it or I could stay off. I said ‘strap it’. I went back on and did more damage to it.”
The extra damage was a blessing in disguise — it meant Vickery, 29, had to have surgery, speeding up the healing process and cutting his recovery time.
He missed the preliminary final upset win against Kolora-Noorat but found himself going through a fitness test days later under the watchful eye of coach Darcy Lewis.
“The doctor said it was up to me if I risked it or not. I trained on the Thursday night and Darcy tested me to my limits,” he said.
“I was punching balls and smothering balls. It was fine then. And it was fine on that Saturday.
But the race against time didn’t have a fairytale ending. Dennington, battered after three knockout finals in three weeks, lost to Panmure by 50 points.
The sides meet again in the 2014 preliminary final at Reid Oval on Saturday, with the winner to take on Merrivale in the grand final in a fortnight.
Vickery is injury-free this time and is relieved that is the case as soft-tissue injuries have overshadowed his three seasons with Dennington.
He said he sensed a steely resolve within the playing group to make amends for the grand final heartbreak to the Bulldogs 12 months ago.
The Dogs’ road to the preliminary final started with a thrashing at the hands of Merrivale in the qualifying final a fortnight ago.
But they bounced back to beat Old Collegians in the first semi-final last Sunday, with Vickery named best afield alongside.
“The first final we took for granted, we had the second chance. Now it’s cut-throat, we don’t want to lose,” he said.
“We didn’t want to be a team that goes out in straight sets. We gave it our all last week in the conditions and so did Old Collegians, they played pretty good.
“But our bigger bodies were pretty good in the wet conditions.”
Vickery played his junior football at Merrivale before crossing to North Warrnambool Eagles, where he played a handful of senior games out of under 18s.
He returned to Merrivale and was a member of the Tigers’ premiership side in 2006, secured with a win against Dennington. Port Fairy was his next football home, in 2009.
Good mate Scott Kelly lured Vickery to Gardens Oval, where he stayed for three seasons.
He crossed to Dennington in 2012 on the encouragement of Lewis and has been there since, playing finals in all three seasons.
“After the last couple of years of losing before the grand final and making the grand final, it’s fuelled us a bit more to go that one step further and get success,” he said.