It has been a long time coming for Rowan Hiscock and Nick Allan.
Which is why Shepparton’s appearance in Sunday’s Goulburn Valley League grand final will be extra special.
Hiscock and Allan have grown up at the club and stuck around during an era where success had been hard to come by for the Bears.
While they have seen many players come and go, their loyalty to Shepparton has never wavered.
Hiscock first played senior football in 2006, but had to wait until last year to experience his first final as the Bears broke an 11-year drought without September action.
The Bears have taken another few steps this season to finish second on the ladder behind all-conquering Kyabram, who enter the decider after winning 41 straight games.
The classy left-footer played his 200th game in round 10 this season and his finals tally will be up to six come Sunday.
‘‘It probably hasn’t sunk in just yet that we’re playing in a grand final,’’ Hiscock said on Tuesday.
‘‘Once the week comes around properly it will get a bit more serious and I’m sure it will kick in, but it’s definitely a nice reward at this stage.’’
The Bears finished on the bottom of the ladder and did not win a game during the 2010 and 2013 seasons.
Hiscock said they were tough times and the thought of playing elsewhere crossed his mind, but it never came close to reality.
‘‘There were times when you thought about it (leaving),’’ Hiscock said.
‘‘You go to training and there weren’t many guys on the track and you think yourself, ‘what am I doing?’, but enduring those years and sticking together makes it pretty special now.
‘‘It was really an easy decision to stick around, I’ve got a lot of good mates here.’’
Allan is a couple of years older than Hiscock, making his senior debut in 2002 aged 17.
He played with some greats of Shepparton’s last flag in 2000 in the twilight of their careers.
Names like Jason Wells, Stephen Ash and Matt Byers, whose name Allan is right up there with in the celebrated history of the club.
Allan seriously considered switching clubs before the start of last season, with former Bears skipper Rhys O’Sullivan transferring to Ovens and Murray club Yarrawonga.
But Allan stayed, had an outstanding year to claim his fifth club best-and-fairest and was rewarded with another finals appearance.
‘‘Nick was there when I came to the club and he was someone I looked up to when I was coming through the thirds,’’ Hiscock said.
‘‘He’s stuck around despite the offers he’s always got from elsewhere, so it’s a credit to him for what he’s done and achieved at the club.’’
Allan is trying to not to get too caught up in the hype of a first grand final, but said it was impossible not to with the buzz in Shepparton’s rooms after last Sunday’s preliminary final win against Seymour.
One Bears stalwart commented he had not seen scenes like it since legendary coach Tom Hafey led Shepparton during the 1960s.
‘‘You could tell there were a lot of supporters outside in the grandstands, but you didn’t know how to react and once we came into the rooms it was pretty special,’’ Allan said.
‘‘We want to keep it pretty low key towards the weekend because you don’t want the game to play out in your head too much, but we’ll soak it up and take it in.
‘‘A couple of good mates like Jason Wells and Brendan Bicknell have been in grand finals and experienced it, so they give you a ring during the week.
‘‘You get told you deserve it as much as anyone else does, but it’s not about me and I’m so happy the club is able to be in a good position again.’’
Shepparton coach Brad Campbell took charge at the club following a winless season in 2013.
Before taking on the role, he felt for guys Allan and Hiscock and desperately wanted to help them play finals.
‘‘I listened to a radio interview with Nick before I came to the club and talking about playing finals footy again,’’ Campbell said.
‘‘I thought wouldn’t it be great for guys like that to have some fun in their footy and finals footy is where the enjoyment comes.
‘‘It’s going to be mean a lot to Nick and Row and they’re the main ones who have had it tough.
‘‘They both have a lot of footy left in them and they’re still contributing very well, despite their roles changing a lot over the years.’’