The 2022 football season gave us plenty of highs and lows.
In what was clubs' first full season back on the field since 2019, there was an abundance of storylines beginning from pre-season through to finals to follow.
The Victoria Oval-based club has dominated the Hampden league for close to decade, with this year no different.
Making their 2022 senior flag - and seventh straight - all the more impressive was the fact it came after two seasons lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. That enforced-break could have acted as a circuit breaker for others to step up and take over, however the Saints' impeccable standards remained.
August 28 was a day of unbridled celebration for Portland, which won its first Hampden league finals match.
After 10 seasons in the league, and missing out on a sure finals berth because of the abandoned 2021 season, the Tigers' 27-point victory against Warrnambool in an elimination final was just reward for players and those behind the scenes.
Despite their finals run coming to an end a week later against South Warrnambool, there is little doubt what that first finals win meant and what it could spur in future seasons.
The laws of football say that for every premiership there must be a wooden spoon. For Port Fairy, who finished 2022 without a senior win, it was a difficult year. An unprecedented senior forfeit in round 16 due to a long injury list was the cherry on top of a tough campaign.
On a brighter note, the Seagulls pulled together in the final two rounds to get a senior team on the park. And while it ended with the club and senior coach Winis Imbi parting ways, there has been positive signs through recruiting in the off-season under new coach Dustin McCorkell.
There was arguably no Warrnambool and District league club stronger than Nirranda in 2022.
Along with an A-grade netball flag, the Blues went on to win both reserve and senior premiership flags in dominant fashion.
The lead-up was not without its hard luck story in Luke Irving, who missed senior selection after featuring in all but one match for the year. But at the end of the day, the two flags brought back to the Blues' clubroom was everything the tight-knit farming community was striving for.
There was no greater rivalry in the Hampden league's first finals series since 2019 than North Warrnambool Eagles and South Warrnambool. Meeting in a qualifying final, the instant classic went into overtime before Adam Dowie's Eagles edged out the Roosters in a seven-point win.
Two weeks later the two teams met again in a preliminary final. Leading by 15 points heading into the final change, the Roosters were left with their heads in their hands as the Eagles staged a late comeback to book their spot in the grand final. A worthy celebration in the locker rooms followed.
In a city-first, Warrnambool played host to the AFL Women's competition as Essendon and Geelong went head-to-head at Reid Oval in October.
While it was a homecoming for inaugural Bombers coach, Natalie Wood, who grew up in the south-west, it was the Cats' day after forward Chloe Scheer (three goals) led her team to a 15-point victory.
Fan engagement was key to the occasion, with both clubs participating in female football clinics before and after the round.
It's the biggest signing of the latest pre-season thus far, with Lewis Taylor committing to his junior club Terang Mortlake earlier this month ahead of the 2023 Hampden league season.
The midfielder, who played 124 AFL games for Brisbane and Sydney and won the 2014 NAB League Rising Star award, is sure to attract plenty of eyeballs to the Bloods' fortunes next season, in a similar vein to Nathan Vardy's recruitment at North Warrnambool Eagles ahead of the 2022 season.
Hamilton Kangaroos' women's and under 18.5 teams made history for its club in 2022.
The former won the club's first senior premiership since Hamilton Magpies and the Hamilton Imperials Bulldogs merged in 2012 in the Western Victoria Female Football League decider in July. Two months later the Kangaroos' under 18.5s went on to secure the club's first men's premiership by defeating Koroit in a grand final.
A season subplot that added great intrigue to the Hampden league competition, the race for the 2022 leading goal kicker went down to the wire.
With Portland's Tom Sharp and Warrnambool's Jason Rowan leading the count at times, it was Koroit's Sam Dobson who came out on top following a six-goal performance in round 18. Saints' fullback Tim McPherson's stellar job to keep Rowan goalless in the same game also helped seal the accolade for his teammate.
Russells Creek's decade-long finals drought came to an end in 2022.
The fifth-placed Creekers, led by co-coaches Dylan Herbertson and Danny Chatfield, met Merrivale in an elimination final and while the outcome was defeat, it arguably was a monkey off the back for the club.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.