JIMMY Bell says he has learnt more from the hardships and frustrations of this year than he did in Wodonga Diamonds’ cup and league wins last year.
The rot started for the defending champion before the season with trial games abandoned and injuries to key players.
It went from bad to worse when last year’s captain Dan Millynn had ankle surgery, while the cup final’s best player Jesse Stephens fractured a collarbone in a sickening clash at Jelbart Park.
“It was such a shock after last year when everything we did seemed right, Bell said.
“Every time we looked like going off course, the universe seemed to correct us.
“This year it has been the opposite — if it could go wrong, it has.
“Every time we looked on track we copped injuries or red cards.”
But Sunday’s 8-0 demolition of Wangaratta has the coach in a better mood.
“We are third and playing finals but, after last year, it seems to have been a long road,” he said.
“That’s a reflection on the strength of the club.
“On Sunday, we started to show what we could do.
“We played intelligently, with pace and stopped carrying the ball.
“We caught Wangaratta off guard and that’s not surprising because this year it is hard to know what you are going to get when you play Diamonds.
“At times I have pulled my hair out, thought about chucking it all in but we have all learned some valuable lessons.”
Yet Bell said Diamonds still had issues.
Last year’s runner-up in the golden boot Nagus Henry was re-signed mid-season but is now finished for the year with the recurrence of a knee injury.
Jesse Stephens, in just his second game back, hurt his hamstring after five minutes on Sunday and is now awaiting medical advice.
“On Sunday, some of our key players were near their best — Jarrod Herzina, Millynn, Mason Nhansana and Paul Brunec,” Bell said.
“But we have also added some talented younger players to the squad this year — guys like Dylan Nhansana, Jason Colomberas and Bailey Dexter.
“If it all comes together, we will have a run at the cup.”