THREE consecutive grand final losses drove Jesse Flannery to Sunbury.
The Lions’ culture kept him there.
Flannery, 17, has flourished as one of coach Rick Horwood’s new breed of Lion cubs at Clarke Oval this season, playing every match of the home and away season.
Now, he has the opportunity to play in his first senior final in Sunbury’s elimination clash against Ballarat on Sunday.
A former junior with the Sunbury Kangaroos, in the Riddell District Football League, Flannery suffered the heartbreak of losing three grand finals in a row – one in the under-14s and two in the under-16s.
At that point, the decision was made that his time with the Kangaroos would come to an end, lured to the Ballarat Football League by current Lions’ reserves player and close friend Tyler Boyle.
“It was devastating to lose those three grand finals in a row and there was the feeling that was getting impossible at Sunbury Kangaroos because we had come close so many times. It was like it wasn’t going to happen,” Flannery said.
“One of the grand finals was actually on dad’s birthday, so that was even worse, it was like I had disappointed him.”
Now in his second year at the Lions, the year 12 Gisborne Secondary College student has not even played an uner-18.5s game. It has been senior football all year.
Remarkably, he was even offered a senior match last year despite Sunbury’s star-studded line-up in 2013, but did not feel he was ready for senior footy at the age of 16.
This year, however, it has been a different story, with Flannery thrust into the senior side from day dot, debuting alongside the close friends Dylan Tarczon, Mitch Conn and Nathan Wood.
“I thought I probably wasn’t ready for it last year, but I knew I would be all right this year,” the small midfielder/goalsneak said.
“It was pretty nerve racking (my first game), not knowing what to expect with the speed of the footy. I didn’t expect to play all the games I have now.”
Beating previously undefeated North Ballarat City in round 11 undoubtedly goes down as his greatest footy moment to date, but that would all be trumped by an elimination final victory on Sunday.
“On the day we beat North, it was incredible. We had a function that night and I was talking with dad and we were wondering why they had a function that night when we were just going to lose,” Flannery said.
“But we came out and won. It was amazing. It made the celebrations that much sweeter.
“Everyone’s very excited at the moment though. They just want to know what’s going to happen next.”
Regardless of what happens, Flannery can see himself remaining a Lion for some time yet.
“It’s a great club. The people are so much better than where I used to play,” he said.
“My dream is to win a flag and I want to do that with Sunbury.”