North Ballarat coach Brendan McCartney fears players will miss an important development opportunity in their careers after the Ballarat Football Netball League finals were abandoned.
McCartney led the Roosters to the top of the table in his first season of a three-year deal with the club.
His charges only lost one game but missed the chance to push for a premiership after Melbourne's extended lockdown forced the season's cancellation.
"It's part of your football journey that you partake in finals series at the highest level of footy you can, and for a lot of our players, this is their level, and they aspire to be the best they can," McCartney told The Courier.
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"Invariably, once you get into finals, teams want to win for each other. They're close, they bond, and they want to do things for each other and with each other.
"We were doing a couple of sessions a week as far back as November, and the core group have worked extremely hard and become really close.
"The positive is there's a great foundation for future years, and I think a lot of the older players in the competition will play longer now that their bodies aren't as worn out."
This season marked a return to the grassroots level for McCartney, who spent nearly two decades in the AFL system - first as an assistant with Richmond and Geelong before becoming senior coach at the Western Bulldogs and later taking on a development role with Melbourne.
McCartney is no stranger to community football-netball clubs, though, having guided Ocean Grove to four consecutive Bellarine Football League premierships from 1994 to 1997.
"I've loved the year," he said.
"I've really enjoyed the camaraderie between the clubs. There is a genuine respect there and an understanding that we're all at different levels.
"All the coaches I've met each week have been terrific, and the standard of football has been great.
"It's good level football played the right way - just good intensity and competitiveness without the silly stuff."
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