A broken jaw late in the season spoiled Michael Rampal’s premiership aspirations with Thurgoona last year.
The tenacious Bulldog is now hungrier than ever to experience ultimate success with his teammates.
Rampal hadn’t planned to play football at all last season after relocating from Melbourne to the Border with his family.
But he quickly “got the bug back” and was hitting form at the right time of the year before disaster struck.
Rampal admitted he was disappointed to miss the Bulldogs’ commanding premiership victory against Kiewa-Sandy Creek – their opponent once again in Saturday’s grand final at Sandy Creek.
The classy midfielder has managed 15 senior games in 2018, but missed the last month of football with a leg complaint.
Rampal was in doubt for last weekend’s thrilling preliminary final victory against Barnawartha, but managed to get through the game and put his name up for selection for the decider.
“It’s a bit of a different side to last year in regards to some talented youth coming through,” Rampal said.
“Knowing that, if you stand still, you’re probably going to get overtaken this year.
“We had to change some things early in the season which came at a cost of some losses, but at the same time it really developed us to be in the position we are now.
“The people on the outside don’t really get to see what the coaches do, but what we sacrificed earlier in the year and to get to a grand final is a fairly big achievement from where we started.”
Rampal had what’s known as a ‘floating jaw' last year where he had to push his jaw forward to line up his lower teeth with the upper teeth.
If he took another hit he would have required substantial surgery, including plates – a risk he wasn’t willing to take.
“You end up with some other decent breaks and the surgery is not so straightforward, so you’ve got to believe what the surgeon says and go with that,” Rampal said.
“If you go in and don’t perform, you’re taking the spot of somebody else.
“I know it sounds a bit cheap and it’s country footy, but that’s how you build good teams.
“I was able to put my hand up last weekend.
“I wasn’t there in terms of my legs and my running and probably didn’t play my normal game, but I’d rather go into this week having that run than not
“It gives me the confidence to play my game this week.”
Rampal is expecting a fierce contest from the Hawks in the grand final.
“They finished minor premiers, but you wouldn’t want to play anybody else,” he said.
“You want to play against the best in the big dance, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
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