It took a little while for Thurgoona to warm-up this season, but the Bulldogs had started gaining momentum when it mattered most.
While their round 14 upset against Yackandandah turned heads, it was their last round victory against Chiltern which saw the Bulldogs slide into the top five.
Goal attack Mardi Nicholson assisted A-grade in their late surge, and while she admits it's unfortunate they don't get the chance to proceed to finals, she said it was rewarding to see how far they had come.
"We lost a few players in Ash Jacobs and Kristen Andrews coming into the season and had some people come up from B and C grade," she said.
"It took us the first half of the season to really gel, but I think we proved ourselves with the wins against Yack and Chiltern.
"It was a bit disappointing to not be able to step up and take on those finals games."
This season marked Nicholson's fourth year at the club after joining them in 2017.
Starting out in B-grade, Nicholson won a premiership in her first season as a Bulldog.
However, she's still yet to reach the feat in A-grade after playing in the 2019 decider against Kiewa-Sandy Creek.
Thurgoona have been a powerhouse in the Tallangatta and District Netball Association over the years, claiming consecutive A-grade flags from 2013 to 2016.
Nicholson hopes to one day achieve the same.
"It's definitely the aim," she said.
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The 27-year-old joined the TDNA from Ovens and Murray club Lavington, having five years off in-between.
Having lived in Melbourne for a year and working weekends as a hairdresser, she was forced to put her netball career on the back-burner.
"It wasn't until I was qualified and could change my hours around a bit that I could play again," she said.
She's recently had a change of career path and is now studying at univeristy.
While the last two seasons have been tough in the midst of the COVID pandemic, Nicholson has also battled through challenging seasons due to injuries.
"In my second year in A-grade I broke my elbow," she said.
"Then in the last season I fractured my finger.
"Prior to playing netball I had torn both meniscus'.
"During a game it's not really on my mind though."
Although her partner and former Thurgoona footballer Mark Haydon has now joined Hume League side Rand-Walbundrie-Walla, Nicholson said she's content with the Bulldogs.
She's now waiting to see what 2022 has in store for the club.
Thurgoona's B and C grades were minor premiers this season.
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