On a day where Rochester farewelled three of its favourite sons, Shepparton heralded the arrival of a large number of its ‘‘Baby Bears’’ on the big stage.
With a huge number of players in the under-23 age bracket, the Bears have one of the most powerful weapons on the football field at their disposal every weekend — youth.
A lack of fear, scintillating pace and the ability to go again and again are just some of the benefits of the youthful exuberance oozing from Shepparton’s list.
But its youth could also be a prime suspect for form swings and inconsistency during the season.
Against Rochester though, it was all positive.
Players such as Luke Smith, Harry Boyd, James Lloyd, Lachlan Ash, Jonty Wardle and Liam Duguid stood up to be counted in the big moments against the Tigers, showcasing to the large crowd their credentials to be stars of the Goulburn Valley for years to come.
Even towering forward John Bradaric is only 22, while co-captain Ted Lindon is younger than 25.
It is a group that should — and does — excite the Bears’ faithful.
‘‘Our supporters like that, I think most clubs do that these days they give their kids an opportunity and that’s all we’re doing too, but it’s good to see the young guys standing up to the pressure of finals footy and it’s exciting when they do that,’’ Shepparton coach Brad Campbell said.
Harnessing Shepparton’s fountain of youth has been a cornerstone of Campbell’s reign at the club, but he knows the fruits of his labours will be massive — even if he is not in charge to see them.
‘‘I think it’s important, when you’re young you can only get better, so wherever they are now they’re going to be better next week, they’re going to be better the week after, they’re going to be better next year, so that’s exciting that there’s growth there,’’ he said.
‘‘You get to a certain age and you know once you hit your peak you’re probably going to come down the other side, so at least that’s one thing we’ve got in our group.
‘‘We’ve got the right age demographic, we’ve still got the experienced players which is important, but the bulk of our group is getting better and better and are on the upward trend.’’
Fans will hope that upward trend continues next week against Seymour, but even if the ride ends there the Bears are crafting a squad that could easily kickstart a dynasty in the years to come.