Murray Bushrangers could not overturn a run of poor form to extend their TAC Cup season for another round.
The Bushrangers were bundled out of finals by a much stronger Sandringham Dragons, their fifth defeat in a row to finish the year.
After winning the first term at Ballarat’s Mars Stadium, the young Murray troops could not compete with the bigger-bodied Dragons, conceding 13 goals to five in the middle two quarters of the match.
‘‘They really got a hold of us in the second part of that second term,’’ Murray coach Leon Higgins said.
‘‘I thought the pressure was excellent before then, but we just had too many bottom age players in the end and dropped off.’’
The fade out has been common for the Bushrangers in the latter stages of the year, with Higgins citing a large number of injuries as the driving factor.
‘‘We got smashed with injuries late in the year,’’ he said.
‘‘But the highlight is the fact that we got more games than we thought we would into our bottom age players.
‘‘That was the blessing of having multiple injuries to our top age players and hopefully they’ll be better for it next year.’’
North Albury duo Ben Paton and Doulton Langlands impressed once more on Sunday, while local boys Laitham Vandermeer (Mooroopna) and Zane Barzen (Shepparton United) caught the eye of Higgins.
‘‘Laitham has been really strong for us recently and I thought Zane Barzen has been really good for a few weeks as well,’’ he said.
Barzen’s two goals provided the Bushrangers with some potency in attack, but no other player was able to manage multiple majors in the heavy defeat.
Higgins was hopeful a number of his squad would find their way onto an AFL list in the next couple of months, but could not be sure.
‘‘There are certainly a few on the radar, but it’s definitely an inexact science,’’ he said.
The Bushrangers were well on track to go one better than last year’s grand final defeat this season after winning 10 of their first 14 matches, but could not find a way to remain in contention.
Sandringham Dragons 2.2, 9.6, 15.8, 19.11 (125)
Murray Bushrangers 3.3, 6.4, 8.5, 11.8 (74)
Murray Bushrangers: Ben Paton, Doulton Langlands, Will Donaghey, Nick Murray, Laitham Vandermeer, Matt Walker.
Murray Bushrangers: Zane Barzen 2, Hudson Garoni, Nathan Oakes, Will Donaghey, Doulton Langlands, Jessy Wilson, Matt Walker, Angus Hicks, Riley Bice, Pat Warner.