THIS time last year, Tim Hill was waking up to the devastating realisation he had been dropped from Sunbury’s grand ﬁnal side.
At the age of 18, he had played 15 home-and-away games for the season as well as Sunbury’s two ﬁnals, only to learn on Thursday night training that his name was not on the team whiteboard.
It was a “heartbreaking” experience, but rather than shy away from the club and sulk, Hill developed more resolve.
Watching his beloved Lions tear arch rival Redan apart by 57 points and claim the Ballarat Football League premiership was not easy, but only made him love the club even more.
“Training was everything as normal during the week and on Thursday it was the same,” Hill said.
“I knew I hadn’t played that well (against East Point) to get into the grand ﬁnal so I had a bit of a feeling my name might not be called out.
“It was still heartbreaking when I found out, though.
“You don’t know how to feel about it until it happens to you.”
As a young 18-year-old, it would have been easy for Hill to lose faith and question how somebody who played 17 senior games for the season could not earn in a spot in the biggest match for the year.
But the youngster, who had played all his junior footy at Sunbury, sucked up the pain and took the positives out of it.
“My dad really helped. He said there was always someone who had to miss out on the grand ﬁnal, not everyone could play,” Hill said.
“It helped put everything in perspective. If anything it made me love the club even more; the support from everyone was amazing.
“I was getting messages from everyone telling me to keep my head up.
“It was grouse seeing the boys win but a bit tough at the same time. It gave me that taste of what it would be like to win.”
That taste of the ultimate success is what has continued to drive Hill this year.
Admitting he was somewhat tired of football after also ﬁnishing with the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup, the slightly built teenager had a light summer before launching a strict ﬁtness regime on the eve of the 2013 season.
After a somewhat slow start to the season, Hill recorded an exceptionally strong back end of the year, culminating in a best-onground performance against Redan in the second semi-ﬁnal.
“I started running and getting a lot ﬁ tter and I think that helped a lot with my footy,” he said.
“After the Redan game I thought I played all right but probably didn’t really realise until we reviewed the game later.
“Cheepy (captain Jay Cheep) said to me after the game that when young players have their breakout game then they are set.
“Hopefully I can start to play like that all the time now.”
Although he has known all week that he will be in the senior side tomorrow, Hill says the feeling around Clarke Oval is very much the same as it was last year.
Like 2012, the Eastern Lions have the advantage of the week off before the grand ﬁnal, a formula that saw them have the result virtually secured by quarter-time last year.
“It’s really exciting, everyone’s up and about at the club,” Hill said.
“Everyone trained last Saturday and it was just really fun, like nothing else.
“It would be a dream come true if we could get up.
“I’m close mates with Matty Medcraft and have seen him run around in grand ﬁnals and seen him win one.
“To win one next to him would be amazing.”
The youngest player in the Sunbury side, Hill admitted to a bout of nerves heading into the match – not that nerves are unexpected.
“I’m a little bit nervous, I don’t
know if that’s a good or bad thing,” he said.
“I suppose there could be something wrong if there weren’t nerves, though.”
Coach Rick Horwood said it was a great moment telling Hill straight after their win against Redan that he would be in the grand ﬁnal team.
“It was a bit emotional for him. It was a great part of coaching to tell him he’s got a game,” Horwood said.
“I told our boys all year ‘you don’t want to be the Timmy Hill this year’ to motivate our young blokes.”
Now that the heartbreak of not playing in a grand ﬁnal is gone, it is the elation of lifting the premiership cup that Hill hopes will ﬂow through his body tomorrow afternoon.