THERE are always moments in a footballer’s career that shape their beliefs and the way they play the game in future years.
Ballarat’s 2008 grand final triumph over Darley has certainly given Gordon coach Corey Grills a message to drill home to his charges ahead of the Eagles’ return to the Central Highlands Football League finals.
Never give in.
Grills played in the Swans’ historic premiership, when they came from sixth on the ladder to topple Darley in the decider with a goal after the final siren.
It’s this backs-against-the-wall success that has provided part of his motivation for the Gordon playing group, which will tackle the finals from seventh position this year.
“You are a chance if you are in the finals and you are there. You have just got to put your best foot forward,” Grills, a former North Ballarat Rebel and Roosters’ reserves player, said.
“I’ve told my players that. I believe it.”
Grills is in his first season as senior coach at the club, which he first joined for a stint in 2011.
“I was looking to just have a break from footy, have a year off, and (former coach) Rob Fuller rang me up and I went out there,” Grills, 28, recalls.
“The club really drew me in. I loved my time out there. The difference from the BFL and VFL to country footy out in the Central Highlands was amazing. It’s all community and the players were playing for each other.
“You could see the potential ... but I feel like the penny has dropped now and the players expect more from each other.”
It was in his first year at the club that the Eagles broke a mammoth finals drought, spanning back to 1992. Gordon won its elimination final before being bundled out of the premiership race the following weekend.
Grills then had a season away from the game to focus on other things.
But the love of the club and a chance to coach a talented group of players drew him back.
“The opportunity came up and seeing first-hand what sort of group and list I could take on, I thought it was a good opportunity for myself,” Grills said.
“From my first training session, the perception of Gordon was nowhere near the quality and potential of what we had. I knew the players that were there, we just needed to get continuity in the way they played. The belief wasn’t there. That year (2011) was a breakthrough. They just needed to have success to be able to see it.
“The club itself is really starting to expect more than just being competitive. They expect to win games now.”
The Eagles take on Daylesford in an elimination final on Sunday following a win over the reigning premiers during the home-and-away campaign.
Grills returns from a hamstring injury in time for the match, but the fitness of ruck/forward Luke Gunnell (shoulder) and leading goal-kicker Daniel King (leg) remains up in the air.
The Bulldogs, which finished sixth, welcome back seasoned onballers Luke and Joel Adams from last weekend’s loss to Waubra.
PREDICTION: Daylesford by two goals.