Lions sneak into finals

Sunbury Lions coach Travis Hodgson is hopeful his side will get an opportunity to play finals this year. (Damian Visentini)

Oliver Lees

The Sunbury Lions have snuck into finals by less than three percentage points after lockdown restrictions forced a restructured conclusion to the Ballarat Football League season.

The BFL announced earlier this month that the remainder of the regular season will be scrapped, meaning the top six teams on the ladder automatically qualified for finals after just ten matches played.

A BFL spokesperson said this approach will “provide a true reflection of the competition given all clubs have played each other once”.

The Lions sit in sixth position equal on 20 points with four other clubs.

Thanks to a surge of form that saw them win four of their last five games before play was halted on July 31, the Lions (100.62 per cent) pipped Bacchus Marsh (97.92) to earn their place in an elimination final.

Lions coach Travis Hodgson said the league had made the best of a difficult situation.

“The BFL is doing everything they can to give everyone an opportunity, with the BFL having three of 11 clubs in metro areas, it makes it pretty tough,” Hodgson said.

“We have a small group of five senior guys living in regional Victoria that can train together. For the rest, we’ve developed a strength and conditioning program to keep up their fitness at home.

“We have a young group that is very enthusiastic so they follow that program closely.

“We have to prepare to play, we know there’s a possibility we won’t, but we have to prepare regardless.”

The BFL has pushed the date of the grand final back to October 2 and prepared four separate contingency plans that can be actioned depending on when metro Melbourne is released from lockdown.

If competition is able to resume by September 18, the Lions will have an opportunity to compete in finals.

Any later, and the finals series will be shortened and the Lions won’t qualify.

Sunbury will face third place finishers and reigning premiers East Point in an elimination final if play resumes.

The Lions’ 2019 finals campaign ended after losing to Melton by two goals in the first elimination final.

The Bloods piled on six goals in the final term of that contest to run over the top of the Lions, who led by 20 points at the final change.

But with just six active players that lined up in that finals defeat, Hodgson said his young side will approach this postseason with a positive mindset.

“I honestly think it’ll serve us well,” he said.

“This group is going to stay together, a majority of the players have already recommitted for next year so it’s a solid group.

“Honestly if we get to play, that’ll be a win in itself.”

Hodgson also confirmed he would be staying on as senior coach of the Lions for the 2022 season.