Tears flowed as Shepparton dealt with the heartache of losing another preliminary final.
Leading for almost the entire match against Shepparton United, the Bears gave up the lead early in the fourth quarter.
Missing out on making just the club’s second A-grade grand final in its history left players devastated.
Following the final whistle coach veteran coach Tracey Brereton brought her shattered side into the meeting room under the grandstand at Deakin Reserve.
Having coached the side for a decade, Brereton as well as all her players were visibly upset.
Brereton said it was particularly difficult for those that have been long term fixtures of the side.
‘‘(Players are) gutted, absolutely gutted,’’ she said.
‘‘They know how hard it is to get these chances, this is my 10th year here and I’ve been to a grand final once and six prelim finals.
‘‘We’re just devastated and probably more so the older girls like Toddy (Jacinta Todd) and Morgan (Gibson) that have been a group for a long time with me, they know that it doesn’t come around often.
‘‘It’s not fair, but that’s just the way sport is, somebody has to lose.’’
As Melbourne Vixen goaler Kim Commane succumbed to a calf injury in the third quarter, it challenged the depth of the side, which already has had to contend without defender Ash Bradley.
‘‘Ash Bradley goes down with a knee a couple of weeks ago (in the qualifying final) and you’ve got enough to cover that, but it makes it harder when halfway through the second quarter (yesterday) Toddy starts to struggle with a foot, no-one would have known,’’ Brereton said.
‘‘Then Kim goes down with a calf, it makes it very difficult and it’s too many injuries to try and cover.’’
Down by as much as five goals in the final quarter, the Bears moved back to within two goals in the dying minutes.
But Brereton said the perception her side was still in the game had been lost.
‘‘Even in the last minute we had a chance to pinch it, but it just didn’t look like we understood we were still in it... I think they were a bit shocked that all of a sudden in the last minute we were only down by a goal or two,’’ Brereton said.
In her 10 years coaching the side, Brereton’s side has won just one preliminary final before losing the grand final against Shepparton Swans the following week in 2013.