In many respects, Boisdale-Briagolong has already won the East Gippsland senior football season.

Whether they have a premiership cup to show for it by 5pm tomorrow or not, the fact they have made it this far deserves to be praised as much as any premiership team.

This time last year, the mere thought of Boisdale-Briagolong making finals, let alone a Grand Final, would have been dismissed outright.

The Bombers were wooden spooners in 2022, holding up the ladder from the very bottom.

Now they are one win away from holding up a premiership cup.

What a difference a year makes.

Tom Jolly will be wanting to add a premiership medal to his collection after winning Boisdale-Briagolong’s best-and-fairest. Photos: Zoe Askew

A well-publicised offseason led to Boisdale-Briagolong finishing the 2023 home-and-away season second on the ladder.

The Bombers hit their straps in the middle of the season, and went into finals with eight consecutive wins under their belt.

Competition pacesetters Wy Yung finished three games clear on top, and took the shortest route to the Grand Final after accounting for the Bombers in the semi-final by 35 points.

Boisdale-Briagolong then made it nine wins from 10 games, with victory over Stratford in last week’s preliminary final.

That win, which came courtesy of a 16.11 (107) to 11.16 (82) win, will give the Bombers confidence heading into tomorrow’s clash, having knocked the reigning premier out of the flag race.

While Wy Yung will go in favourites, there is enough working for the Bombers to keep the Tigers worried.

Had it not been for a last quarter fadeout in the semi-final, Boisdale-Briagolong may well have been the team going straight through to the Grand Final.

The Bombers’ winning streak started in Round 9, and people really stood up and took notice when they beat Wy Yung on their home deck by 18 points the next week.

Boisdale-Briagolong captain James ‘Jimmy’ Reeves has the honour of leading the side in the Grand Final tomorrow.

A Grand Final won’t be a totally foreign environment to those in red and black. The Bombers made the Grand Final as recently as 2019, and with players such as Andrew Quirk and Kel Porter in the line-up, both bring no shortage of ‘big game’ experience having played in Gippsland League deciders for Sale and Maffra respectively.

In 2019, the Bombers went straight from the semi-final to the Grand Final and lost heavily. Upon reflection, it is possible Boisdale-Briagolong played their Grand Final two weeks early, and with the role reversed this time, those close to the action might be hoping Wy Yung has done the same thing.

With 2019 looking like it was going to be ‘the year’, part of the Bombers will be out to avenge what was one of those days in football where absolutely nothing went right. Every team has those days where the ball, for whatever reason, doesn’t bounce favourably – unfortunately for Boisdale-Briagolong, that happened to be Grand Final day 2019.

By the same token, Wy Yung will hold similar feelings of righting a previous wrong. The Tigers lost the Grand Final last year after being the most dominant team in the competition, and will want to see some natural justice served.

Whether or not the weight of history becomes too big a burden for Boisdale-Briagolong remains to be seen.

The last time the Bombers won a senior flag was in 2001. That was so long ago, the league they were playing in no longer exists (Riviera), nor do a number of senior clubs (West Bairnsdale, Nambrok, Newry).

The Bombers’ coach then was Wayne Butcher – who was in the midst of serving the last of a nine-season apprenticeship that would see him go on to coach Maffra to five senior flags.

Maffra could yet form part of a story after this Grand Final.

If Boisdale-Briagolong happens to win, does that make the Eagles’ job talking to potential recruits or past players now with the Bombers easier for next year?

The football world never stops turning.

Boisdale-Briagolong’s Ben Wilkinson.

As well as sentimentality, experience could prove another advantage for the Bombers.

Wy Yung will take a more youthful side into the Grand Final, which could open the door for Boisdale-Briagolong to incite panic out on the ground.

Whatever happens, the Bombers will see tomorrow as an opportunity to make a statement.

The beforementioned much publicised offseason perhaps generated more attention than it warranted.

Granted new recruits such as best-and-fairest winner Tom Jolly and leading goal-kicker Caleb Calwyn have helped, they have perhaps only done just that – helped, rather than been the reason Boisdale-Briagolong finds itself playing in a Grand Final.

After hardly getting on the park last year, players such as Rhys Johnson, Jarrad Neilson and Brendon Rathnow have enjoyed more consistency this season, which coupled with the inclusions, has generated greater depth.

As horrendous as last year was, the Bombers still defeated Wy Yung during the season.

If this season ends up proving anything, it might well be that Boisdale-Briagolong was never actually that far off.

The Bombers have already won in a lot of people’s eyes.

If they end up winning the flag, they will well and truly be winners in everybody’s eyes.